What is goal-setting? Why is it important for us as firefighters?
Yogi Berra gave the classic answer, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.”
As firefighters we should always have personal and professional goals that lead to our moral, mental and physical improvement. When setting goals, we must ensure that they are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic and trackable). Using the SMART concept as a framework, goals should include:
* Statement of the goal
* Explanation of the goal
* A single person of accountability
* Key performance indicators
* A target date
An example of an inadequate performance goal statement is: “Each member of the company should be proficient in establishing a water supply from a hydrant.”
A better goal –using the SMART format – would be: “Connecting to a hydrant is a core competency for al firefighters. By September 18 each member of the company shall demonstrate the ability to establish a hydrant water supply by flushing, connecting, and charging large diameter hose in one minute or less. Captain Jones is accountable.”
The former goal statement is ambiguous. The latter goal leaves no doubt about what must be accomplished to meet the goal. The metrics are specific and measurable. They are quantifiable and can be measured over time, which allows us to track progress.
Setting good goals allows us to focus on what’s important. We can be a part of the process and stay motivated. We can use aids such as wall charts to see our progress toward our goals. We should make every effort to ensure that our goals are aligned with other goals in our departments so that we don’t end up working at cross-purposes. An example of this might occur when a training goal requiring companies to go out-of-service conflicts with a command-staff goal to keep companies in service.
Aligning and accomplishing SMART goals helps us accomplish our personal and team missions. If you don’t have goals for yourself and your team, now is the time to get started.
Photo courtesy of Robert Cannon