Showing Vulnerability As a New Company Officer in the Fire Service is the Key to Success

Once firefighters get promoted after months of firefighter promotional exam prep and testing, they tend to want to prove themselves to get their team to trust them and respect them. I am here to tell you there is a better way to gain your crew's respect, be vulnerable. 

What Does Showing Vulnerability Mean

The definition of vulnerability, “the quality of being easily hurt or attacked,” can come across as very off putting. However, when we talk about vulnerability in the workplace, vulnerability means putting your walls down and opening up to those around you, and “having the courage to be yourself.”

Why Showing Vulnerability Works

Showing vulnerability in the fire house brings the human connection back into the workplace. This is because vulnerability increases trust among groups of people which results in happier employees, more productive employees, and employees that truly care about each other, not just getting a job done.  

What Showing Vulnerability Looks Like

  • Show Emotions

One of the easiest ways to show vulnerability to your crew is by showing them your emotional side. Showing emotion can be challenging, especially when you work in a profession dominated by masculinity and the idea that you must be strong all the time, but it is so important to do so if you want to create a strong relationship with the people you work with. After a tough call, sit everyone down and talk about it, don’t just dismiss it and move on. Show your firefighters that it is normal to have big feelings after a tough call. 

  • Make Mistakes

Another way to show vulnerability is to admit when you make mistakes. No one is perfect, and showing your crew that you aren’t either is critical to forming strong relationships. Making mistakes openly shows your crew you are human too and you are there to help them learn and grow in their profession from those mistakes, not demean them. 

  • Ask For Help

When you see a crew member that seems to be having a hard time connecting with you or other members of your team ask them for help.  Asking your team members for help on something, or their opinion on something is a great way to connect with your team. It shows them that you trust them enough to ask them for their help, which would make anyone feel good. 

  • Get Personal

When you are at the fire station don’t just talk about surface level stuff. Talk about your family and life outside of the fire station and ask your team members questions about their lives outside the fire station. Remember, not everyone is able to be vulnerable immediately and some members of your crew may not like these conversations at first but the more open you are, the more comfortable they will become over time, strengthening your relationship as a team. It is your job as a leader to create a space where they feel comfortable to be themselves. 

  • Be Present

Lastly, you need to be present and be there for the members of your fire crew when they need to open up and be vulnerable with you. Being a nonjudgmental, safe space for your team members to come to will create a feeling of safety for them, which is critical to having a successful team. 

The Takeaway

Showing vulnerability can be very nerve-wracking, especially for someone in a newly promoted position of power, but I assure you the benefits to your relationship with your crew far outweigh the risks. If you want to create a strong, happy team of individuals you must get deeper than the surface and get personal, ask questions, truly get to know your people and let them be their true authentic selves.