Archive for February, 2015

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: 3 Fire Ground Disciplines that Can Enable Business Success

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

3 Fire Ground Disciplines that
Can Enable Business Success

Alignment solution: Three disciplines that keep firefighters safe – trust, focus, and situational awareness – also are enablers of business success.

Last Saturday the Long Beach (CA) Fire Department held a graduation ceremony for its newest recruit class. Before they received their badges and were sworn in as firefighters, the recruits engaged in a number of drills to display to their families and other attendees what they had learned during twenty weeks of intense training. As I watched them participate in those demonstrations, I could see parallels between their newly learned disciplines and success in the workplace. Here is how three of the disciplines that help keep firefighters safe on the fire ground also can drive business success.


Trust is the foundation of safety for fire and rescue personnel. They must be willing and able to develop and place their trust in themselves, their co-workers, their training, and their leaders. Because they often work with public safety professionals they don’t know, they must trust that those individuals bring the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to keep themselves and their team members safe. Every day, firefighters experience situations that require them to put their lives in others’ hands. Without being able to trust that they will be safe, they cannot do their jobs effectively.

Workplaces with high levels of trust enable people to solve problems creatively, leverage opportunities, take appropriate risks, and forge ahead even when they don’t know what’s around the bend. When the trust is mutual, people feel confident that their leaders and co-workers will do whatever is necessary to support them. Such organizations can maximize their success.


For firefighters, being fully present in the moment can mean the difference between life and death – theirs as well as others’. Whether extricating someone from a mangled vehicle, providing medical care, or cutting a hole in the roof of a structure that is burning below their feet, firefighters must have the discipline to focus 100% on the task at hand.

Without focus in the workplace, leaders and employees become distracted. They may fail to observe important information or signals, make inaccurate decisions, and/or be unable to evaluate information correctly or in a timely manner. Especially in high stress/high stakes situations, individuals must be 100% present if they are to be successful. Those who are able to let go of everything other than what’s in front of them when necessary are those who can operate most effectively.

Situational awareness

From day one, fire and rescue recruits are taught to be alert to every aspect of their environment, and to anticipate what elements might be, or become, problematic. They must know at every moment where they are, what the mission is, and what role(s) they play in achieving it safely.

In the workplace, being aware of the environment means not only being attentive to problems and challenges that exist, but anticipating those that may arise. It also signifies seeking the opportunities that may present themselves. People must be able to process and interpret information in the proper context. For the organization to be successful, leaders and employees must have a clear understanding of what the company stands for, where it’s going, and how they will help it achieve its goals.

Even if your business doesn’t deal with life and death matters, you can enhance its success greatly by developing and practicing the disciplines of trust, focus, and situational awareness in your workplace. 

Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: What Business Can Learn from Disaster Response Teams

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

What Business Can Learn from
Disaster Response Teams

Alignment solution: If your goal is to serve your customers as effectively, efficiently, and quickly as possible, consider what disaster response teams can teach you.

Today’s complex, fast-paced world requires leaders and employees to be agile, resilient, resourceful, and effective. Often working in highly competitive markets, organizations aspire to serve their customers as effectively, efficiently, and quickly as possible. As a member of the Long Beach (CA) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and as a Disaster Action Team leader for the Los Angeles Region of the American Red Cross, I’ve had the opportunity to help people immediately after disaster befalls them by working with team members in sometimes very chaotic circumstances. In the process, I’ve developed valuable skills and insights that are transferrable to the workplace. To help you optimize your organization’s performance, I’d like to share twelve of those lessons with you.

  1. When faced with any situation, conduct a “size-up” prior to jumping in.
    Your customers are best served when you take a minute to step back, assess the
    situation, and create an initial plan before taking action.

  2. Prepare in advance through training and drills.
    Putting new knowledge into practice through simulations and role playing gives employees added confidence when they are faced with “real” situations.

  3. Know and respect your own limits and those of others.
    When the right people are in the right roles, customers experience exceptional service.

  4. Develop the flexibility to work with whatever and whoever are available.
    Cultivating the agility to do a good job with the resources at hand provides a
    tremendous advantage when supplies are scarce.

  5. No matter the level of chaos, take a minute to connect with others.
    Sometimes a reassuring look, smile, or word is all a team member or customer needs to understand that help truly is at hand.

  6. Remain calm in the midst of chaos.
    People take their cue from their leaders: if you’re agitated, so are they.

  7. You create a “force multiplier” when you work smoothly as a team.
    Effective teamwork provides the synergy needed to serve customers well.

  8. The Incident Command System (ICS) provides a structure that can flex up or down as circumstances warrant. 
    Creating a structure that includes clear roles and responsibilities AND that is flexible enough to expand or contract as needed provides a tremendous competitive advantage.

  9. Provide supervised on-the-job training.
    “Learning by doing” can be the best teaching method if there is adequate supervision.

  10. Engaging in “after-action” debriefings enables continuous improvement.
    Taking the time to identify and discuss what went well and what you could do better next time will boost morale and result in increasingly better customer service.

  11. Call for reinforcements when necessary.
    Think of what’s best for the customer: if you are not the right person for the job at
    hand, find the person who is, and step aside.

  12. Self-care and personal safety must be your top priorities.
    If you don’t put your own safety and well-being first, you easily can become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

In summary, being able to serve your customers effectively, efficiently, and quickly requires skills that emergency response teams use daily. If you are interested in acquiring those skills while also helping your family and your community, consider exploring volunteer opportunities with your local CERT organization (typically run through the fire department) and/or your local American Red Cross chapter.

Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

Click here to Join Our Mailing List!

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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.