"He wins battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated...Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won." -Sun Tzu
I do not fully subscribe to the age-old idea that "there is always somebody better" out there. Somebody has to be the best. The best talent. The most knowledgeable. The top performer.
To win battles you have to make no mistakes. The way to make no mistakes is to be the best at what you do. There is a plethora of personal development resources that provide guidance on being the best. A synthesis of this information has shown that the top performers in any industry minimally possess four characteristics.
Focus. Top performers are laser focused on their goal of becoming the best. They partake only in the activities that will support and contribute to their goals. This often means having to say, "no", to other opportunities (even seemingly good ones).
Passion. Top performers are passionate about what they are doing. Their passion for the field, craft, or industry is what drives them to be the best. Passion is what makes a vocation and career more than just a job. Passion is what enables top performers to put in the longer hours, and make the bigger investments into their development and the enhancement of their industries.
Work Ethic. Top performers have a strong work ethic. Those with less natural knowledge, skills, or abilities, can quickly become a top performer by simply working harder than everyone else. Top performers are the best in their field because they are willing to do the hard work.
Giving. Top performers are givers. They routinely give to those around them, and to their industries at large. They freely share of their knowledge and resources. They continuously contribute to the betterment of all around them. They know that by helping others achieve, and become their best, they will achieve their goals as well.
No matter what your aspirations in the ARFF industry may be, these four characteristics can be applied to ensure that you are the best in your field, and mistakes are not made when it matters most.
For example, if you are one of those individuals that loves being a ARFF apparatus operator, then you should focus on being the best at that skill. Take courses and classes, read, be in the company of others who are passionate about ARFF operations. You should drive, operate, study, and know the vehicle more than everyone else. Share your knowledge, experiences, and opportunities with those around you. Teach the next generation of ARFF operator everything that you know, so they are prepared to take the wheel. Transfer your passion to someone else!
"The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy...Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of feet in height." -Sun Tzu
The wise warrior understands that victory cannot be obtained by only one person or type of personality. Victory can come only through the combined energy and talents of the whole team. If more responsibility is placed on one person that all the others, that individual will quickly tire and 'burn-out'. His effectiveness will become severely diminished. Likewise, if the wrong responsibility is assigned to an unsuited team member, the same results will occur.
Victory comes when the company officer knows his personnel. He knows their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, experiences, limits, and personal factors. By intimately knowing all personnel, the proper tasks and work loads can be assigned. This utilization of "combined energy" will lead to victory. A good tool to utilize for this is a profile assessment such as the DISC profile or others.
Tu Mu, a Sun Tzu commentator, says, "He first of all considers the power of his army in the bulk; afterwards he takes individual talent into account, and uses each man according to his capabilities. He does not demand perfection from the untalented."
Notice how he states that perfection cannot be demanded from the untalented. The inverse of this would be that perfection is to be expected from the talented, the top performers.
"Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient." -Sun Tzu
Special operations forces utilizes a peer review assessment tool. This tool is an evaluation of by personnel of their peers. With this tool each individuals contributions and skill level can be seen. Areas for improvement can be customized for each individual as their part pertains to the team.
Evaluate your team on a regular basis. An evaluation can be used to understand the level that your personnel are at, where their strengths lie, and what deficiencies need to be worked on. If you find that certain fire or medical skills are lacking you can train on those. If specific aircraft or facility familiarity is missing, then you can arrange for hands-on or walk-throughs to improve these areas. Any area of deficiency (knowledge, skills, or abilities) is the area where failure should be expected. Ensuring that there are no deficient areas can make your success sure.
Other articles in this series: