Is there a difference between being goal-oriented and growth-oriented? I believe there is and I believe there is an answer to this question without throwing out one or the other.
The goal-oriented person
All of us need to have goals in life: personal and professional. However, there are people who are so goal-oriented that they start fast-tracking through life. Let’s look at someone new to the fire service: the Certificate Collector or CC.
CC graduated from the fire academy with certifications and entered a probationary period. Soon afterwards, CC’s goals and desires were to obtain every certification available in the fastest possible manner. CC may or may not work for an organization that tempers the fast-track approach. Unfortunately, there are fire departments that encourage this type of behavior.
CC met his goal and obtained multiple certifications, and they are the bricks needed to build a structure. But do bricks alone make a complete building? No.
Firefighters and officers like this have bricks that are stacked one upon another, but that weak wall will not withstand the demands of the job or the test of time. The pile of bricks eventually topples over because there is nothing to hold them together.
The growth-oriented person
Let’s look at another individual, Balanced Firefighter or BF. BF graduated from the same academy as CC, but their career growth plan is completely different. BF believes that it is necessary and proper to gain experience before racing after every certification available to the fire service.
BF also realizes there is a lot to learn for a well-rounded career. This person understands that the bricks of certifications are necessary and required, but there is something else that must be present to make a wall and have it become part of a sound structure. That something is mortar. Unless there is mortar between the bricks, the wall is going to fall over.
BF has goals, but they rest within a growth-oriented mindset. BF is a mature person who grasps the fact that there are multiple elements in a career beyond obtaining certifications and qualifications. I am referring to mortar.
What is the mortar that holds the bricks of certification together? This is the continuing training related to each certification. However, there is much more to the mortar.
What training does CC and BF receive regarding leadership, communication skills, conflict resolution, report writing, program management, etc.? These subjects and more are the mortar that hold the bricks together. In other words, personal and professional development.
In the last six months, I have had conversations with firefighters and fire officers in seven different states. A chief officer on the East Coast described a robust leadership development program his department has in place for their officers and that is great.
On the other hand, I hear more stories about firefighters and officers being left to their own devices when it comes to leadership training. One individual told me that it had been three years since his department conducted any type of leadership training. In a Midwest department, I was the first person ever brought in to teach leadership to their organization. In another example, I had a battalion chief tell me that when he was promoted, his boss told him that he was on his own for development. Frankly, that is a dereliction of duty on the part of his boss.
There are a lot of bricks in the fire service, but unfortunately, the mortar is missing. Is it any wonder that on a weekly basis I read about leadership failures, ethical challenges, and moral problems in fire departments? Why? Because there are bricks, but no mortar. There is a goal-oriented mindset, but not a growth-oriented mindset.
What about you?
Are you stacking bricks or building a wall using mortar? Are you goal-oriented or growth-oriented?
Write to me at email@example.com and learn more about how I can help you. Also ask me about Tailboard Talks, an online service where fire officers have the option of a monthly or annual membership to grow and develop as a leader.
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