To be an effective listener as an officer, we must be able to mentally process multiple requests, opinions and thoughts at the same time and come up with a firm solution or answer. Sure, we are all used to this on the fireground; but the role of an officer expands to much more than just the fireground. This is where we will focus our discussion.
When a firefighter approaches us, we must stop what we’re doing, sit down and hear them out. Whatever may be on their mind is certainly important enough for them to come to us for help.
Is it trivial?
It’s not for you to decide. Nor does it really matter.
It’s for us to listen and help find a solution no matter what it is. In some cases, it may be that the firefighter just wants to talk to someone about personal issues. It may even involve a training concept or other ideas the firefighter has to make the station or shift function better. Whatever it is, take an interest and give them your undivided attention. They may be on to something and you may miss it if you’re not actively listening.
Listening is key to making informed decision to help the employee. Pay attention to what the firefighter is saying. A good officer will remain fair, objective, unbiased and consistent.
As you listen, remember to take notes of what is being discussed. You may need to follow-up on some items. Having notes will help you refer back without having to involve the firefighter again. This shows that you are actually involved in the conversation and are vested in helping them.
Remember to follow-up. If you are concerned over the firefighter’s problem or what the progress is of a project they are working on, check in on them and see how things are going. This is still considered listening.
As an officer, there is a fine line between being the friend of the firefighter and being their supervisor.
If a firefighter is coming to you with personal issues or work-related problems, they may not only want someone to listen to them as a friend. They may also be seeking help from you as their officer. Effective listening involves recognizing the need for interventions and resources that you as an officer can secure.
Lastly, just stop and ask your crew or the personnel hanging out at the station how they are and how things are going with work and even home.
Show that you care, because you should. Listen to what they have to tell you. You will gain a whole new perspective and insight on your crew, station, and maybe even yourself.
Check out Fire Officer = Natural Born Leader?
Image Courtesy of John Gallagher