Performing the Job, Not the Title
By Chad Beam
Many times in the fire service and EMS we see people that want to move up the ladder and into different leadership roles. We see people that have a burning desire for certain positions and we welcome growth in our profession but we have to validate one thing before we make that promotion ... do they want it for the title or the job? Promoting someone means generally more money, more responsibility, more duties, and the list goes on. But it also means that those within the department will be looking up to these individuals for guidance and for “how to” moments. Validating that the person wants to do the job for its true meaning and not just for the title will ensure we’re putting people who need to be in those positions there and not the ones who want the new gold badge or the title. If we put the wrong individuals in these positions, we’ve then set our departments up for failure.
When a promotional opportunity becomes available the rumors start to fly speculating who will get the position. With any public service agency, it’s much like a political election sometimes. However, if management has been doing their homework, they already have a list of contenders. When I say, “validating” the individual for the position, it sounds like a process. However, this is what’s done while he or she is working the current job. You can look around and see your natural leaders, look to see who the new and younger guys are going to and asking for assistance, and who takes lead in situations to ensure things are done effectively and safe. When an employee is “validated,” he or she has already been noticed by upper management as a potential candidate for the promotion and a successful one at that.
Any role in the fire service or EMS is undoubtedly important. We don’t work an ordinary job. When our services are requested, it’s generally because someone is having a bad day. The fact that these promotions are within a profession that has such an important role on local property and life itself means the employee will have to function at the best of his or her ability all of the time. If we have an off day as command or pump operator on a structure fire with entrapment, we may have just cost a citizen their life. If we have an off day while being the lead medic on an arrest or an EMS supervisor on a multi patient triage situation, we may have just cost a life. The fact that someone wants to do the job, this is why we must ensure they want to do the job for the job and not just for the title.
Looking to carry a title and only a title is a sure fire way to make for a dangerous operation and setting a shift or department up for failure. When someone wants a gold badge or a white helmet, you’re better off buying them one and letting them go play in the corner. When we promote these people, we’ve created a monster and once the promotion is made, it’s difficult to reverse the decision. These people promoted aren’t necessarily a bad thing, they may just need some grooming and it’s important that it’s provided and not neglected. The title carriers are fairly easy to spot unfortunately, and the public spots them as well. Ensuring that we put the correct people into place is the job of the department’s administration, however it’s important they remember as well that the person that will do the job and not the person that “deserves” the job gets it.
Promoting the person that will do the job and not the title will show itself before the promotion is ever made. The person that is a go getter, a leader, and most importantly, a student of the job will make for a great promotion candidate. When you promote the individual that wants to do the job and could really care less about their title, you see professionalism as well as respect. The person that does it for the job will gain and keep respect from his or her employees because it will be evident that they want to lead them for the right reasons. It’s easy to see through a fake leader, it shows when it’s game time and the title quickly becomes a joke of their actions. However, a true leader will rise and shine in a time of operations and the employees will see how well an incident is directed and how quick and precise decisions are made. A sense of comfort will blanket the scene and even though the incident is severe and lives and property are at stake, everyone will follow that leader. This leader is not leading with the title on his or her shirt or helmet front, this leader is leading an army of soldiers into a fire, a bad medical call, or whatever emergency you respond to. Promoting is done to ensure the growth of the department, not to make friends. Make sure you’re leading for the right reason and not just leading your title.
Chad Beam has over 10 years in Fire/EMS. He feels fortunate to have grown up in the business watching his dad. Now he’s enjoying the same great profession in both fire and EMS, employed by the City of Fountain Inn Fire Dept. where he serves as a Firefighter/Paramedic. He is also employed with Greenville County EMS as a part-time paramedic. Beam currently teaches for the South Carolina Fire Academy as well as Greenville Technical College Continuing Medical Education program. He can be reached at [email protected]
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