Develop a Business Culture of Trust, Encouragement and Opportunity

May 1 2012, By , No Comments

For every business, people are the common denominator who will deliver success or failure.  The same is also true for the fire service.  The only way to ensure that the people within any organization will deliver successful outcomes is to ignite a culture of trust, encouragement and opportunity.

For firefighting leaders, it is fairly easy to figure out what type of training firefighters will need to survive and thrive in the unforgiving world of firefighting.  The hard part is to create a culture where people are willing to do the things that they fear.

When new firefighter recruits show up for the first day at the fire academy, many of them have the same fears as anyone else – they’re afraid of fire, heights, blood and guts, especially their own!   Now, imagine the fear that people probably feel as they walk into your world.  Think about their final destination, with all that they will be required to accomplish, and how you can help to get them there.

Everyone has a comfort zone, and some are bigger than others.  Our comfort zone is where we live in our thoughts.  It is what our thoughts tell us is safe and comfortable.  The only way to expand it is to do something new, thereby creating another experience that no longer seems uncomfortable for us.

To really stretch our comfort zones we need to do something that scares us.  Not something reckless that doesn’t have any purpose other than to frighten us, but something that we really don’t want to do – but should.

When any of us face our fears by trying something new, we are no longer locked within the old boundaries of our thoughts.  This allows self-confidence to soar as we emerge from this experience, dissolving fear into a new familiar skill or ability.

The only way to influence people to successfully stretch their comfort zone is with trust.  If we don’t trust that someone has our best interest at heart, then we will never listen to anything they say – especially if it involves us doing something that we fear.

Trust is developed through our knowledge of another person.  We tend to trust those who are professional, competent, and experienced in what we are being asked to do.  Once a level of trust has been earned, encouragement works like magic.

Have you ever been in a work situation where you were afraid to make mistakes?  Did you also fear doing anything that you were not 100% sure of?  How many opportunities did you pass-up because of this fear?

A culture that is based on trust and encouragement to try new things will experience continuous improvements in management, leadership, and workforce development.  This is because the culture supports the idea that it is okay to make a mistake.

Comfort zones will only expand when people believe that they can trust those around them to be helpful and supportive of the new experience.  Everyone improves faster in an environment that promotes learning.  Encouragement, especially from our leaders, is what creates the desire to grow and contribute more to the organization’s success.

As a rookie firefighter in the fire academy, every day brought me a new comfort zone expanding opportunity.  The training was focused on the very things that firefighters need to know to perform well, including those that instilled fear in many.

Through the trust we had in our trainers, the encouragement they provided, and the seemingly endless opportunities to expand our comfort zones – we overcame our fears to become actual firefighters.

So it doesn’t matter what business you’re in or what your workforce requirements are, your organization’s success is dependent upon your people and how far their comfort zones can be stretched.  Beware, when you ignite a culture of trust, encouragement and opportunity – one of the comfort zones being stretched just might be your own!

About the Author:

Tom Pandola is a Leadership Trainer and Consultant delivering real word leadership principles to individuals, business teams and organizations. After 25 years with the LAFD and serving as a captain and battalion chief, Tom moved on to business leadership positions and discovered how the same principles that allowed him to successfully lead others to navigate the dangers and challenges of firefighting and rescue operations, also produces success in everyday business.

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