Monday, February 13, 2012

Ghost to the Post

Freddie Solomon passed away at the age of 59.
It is with sadness that I report the passing of Freddie Solomon today.  He was a truly kind man who enriched the lives of everyone he touched.  A month ago I wrote a piece about "Fabulous Freddie" called "The Ghost" detailing the brief interactions I had with Freddie in my adolescence.

Freddie Solomon served as a youth mentor for the last two decades.

Freddie taught me many things that I did not fully realize until I took inventory of all the great people who have influenced me in a positive manner as I struggle to be a good father, husband, person, and leader.  We could all stand to learn a lot from this mighty man.  He devoted his life to helping at-risk youth in the Tampa, FL area after his retirement from the NFL.

"Freddie Solomon was a dear friend and a great teammate," Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana said. "There was no one who gave more on and off the field than Freddie. The kindness he demonstrated was inspirational to all that knew him. The warmth of his smile will be forever embedded in my heart."

King Solomon said,"Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Thank you King Freddie.  You are already missed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


humility [hjuːˈmɪlɪtɪ]
the state or quality of being humble

An undercurrent in many of the posts in Fully Involved has to do with the leader's role in being humble, and the importance of passing credit to the people who play a big part in accomplishing a goal.  While it is true that there is a lot that goes into the responsibility of being an officer (or a coach), a large part of the credit for the success of the team is due to the hard work of the masses.  
Harbaugh displays a deep commitment to each member of the team.

The people that fall in line with the leader's vision are those who shoulder the burden of implementing the plan. They are the ones who must execute the game plan successfully. When the goal is attained, they deserve a great deal - if not all - of the credit.

Jim Harbaugh and the 2011 San Francisco 49ers have been an excellent example of the leader - the one with the vision who inspires his disciples - deferring credit to those who do the work in accomplishing a goal. Harbaugh took a rudderless organization and turned it around with an unwavering commitment to his men. Though the team did not win it all - they were defeated in the NFC Championship game by the eventual Super Bowl winners, the New York Giants - Harbaugh was named The Associated Press' (AP) Coach of the Year.  The award is typically given to the coach who orchestrates the greatest turn-around of an organization during the previous season. Bill Walsh was the last 49ers coach to receive the award. It is an esteemed award to say the least.

When Harbaugh was notified that he would be a candidate for the award, he was so humble in his response to the honor that he dispatched his starting quarterback - Alex Smith - to accept on his behalf. Harbaugh did not want to accept credit for a season made possible by his players.
Your people will appreciate you as a leader if you take the lead when danger and adversity arise.  
"I did not want to take a deep bow for what the players had done," he said. "And what our players did was play their hearts out and had an incredible season. They are the ones that hold our fate in their hands."

Harbaugh has inspired his men by demonstrating strong beliefs, values, and vision.  He has set the example and creates enthusiasm for his vision with a strong dedication to the team, and by giving the credit to those who accomplish the work.  Harbaugh knows that his players are smart enough to understand that words alone do not accomplish much of anything.  People respond more to what they see than what they hear. What his men see is a leader who supports their efforts from a position of humility.  

He is very modest in the assessment of his own importance. "Winning as a team is better than anything. It's great to share success."

Harbaugh (The Jackhammer) is at it again.  He is laying the ground work for next season and the clean up crews at Lucas Oil Stadium haven't even finished sweeping up the confetti from the Super Bowl. He continues to show that he believes in the team concept, and that he places the success of the team above self-gratification.
Alex Smith accepts the AP Coach of the Year Award on behalf of his coach.

All members of the team are with the program. "We are in lock-step as an organization," Harbaugh said. When celebrating success, it is better to lead from the rear and put your people out front. Your people will appreciate you as a leader if you take the lead when danger and adversity arise.  

The picture of Alex Smith accepting the AP Coach's award on his leader's behalf tells the story. Harbaugh puts his players out in front - giving them much deserved credit - but the leader looms large in the background, ever watchful, and supportive of their efforts.

Think about it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Fireground decision making is a critical factor in the outcome of any incident.  Fireground accidents are most often the result of a series of small cascading failures - both tactical and strategic - that lead to a major accident.  Every error compounds the next - this is also known as the sand pile effect.  

Many things can influence what are often construed as errors in judgement.  Errors in judgement can be influenced by both internal (emotional) and external (distractions) factors.  With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to dissect the actions of others who came before and form an opinion, deciding on a better solution to the problem.  It is even easier when you have the test group to learn from.  

In retrospect, predictable certainly is preventable.

Some theorists, such as Charles Perrow the author of "Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies," suggest that accidents are simply a part of the natural order of things and cannot be completely eliminated.  In his book he describes systems and their interactions. "A complex system exhibits complex interactions when it has: unfamiliar, unplanned, or unexpected sequences that are not visible or not immediately comprehensible."  Perrow’s description of a complex system sounds an awful lot like the fireground.

Perrow goes on to describe complex, tightly coupled systems.  "A complex system is tightly coupled when it has: time-dependent processes which cannot wait.  Rigidly ordered processes (as in sequence B must follow A). There is only one path to a successful outcome. There is very little slack in the system- requiring precise quantities of specific resources for successful operation." By Perrow’s definition, the fire ground is a complex, tightly coupled system. Perrow’s "Normal Accident Theory" suggests that in complex, tightly coupled systems accidents are inevitable.

It's all about how we recover.

Organizations cannot train for unimagined, highly dangerous, never before seen situations. Close call and Line of Duty Death (LODD) reports are definitive learning devices; we are foolish if we do not examine them. The message that our fallen comrades are sending us through the reports is, "Don’t do what we did. Learn from our sacrifice."  It’s been said that it is unfortunate that we only get to die once, for there are so many lessons to be learned in death.

Aggressive fire companies do not make mistakes in the heat of battle- they make decisions. Decisions are based upon the best perception of the environment at the time. This is why being acutely aware of the environment and possessing the ability to adapt to changing conditions are vital.
 Preparing is itself an activity and action is preparation.
Keeping in mind that fire ground decision making is done in seconds with an endless list of often unknown variables is essential to the learning process- to honor the memories of our brothers and sisters who precede us in death we must study their every action to aid in preventing the same catastrophe again. Failure to learn from tragedies in the fire service means that we are destined to keep reliving these “unexpected” circumstances in a terrible reality production of ground hog's day.

If we continually study accident reports and learn from them, the lesser the likelihood of being surprised. Peter Leschak writes, "In fire and other emergency operations, you must not only tolerate uncertainty, you must savor it or you won’t last long. The most efficient preparation is a general mental, physical and professional readiness nurtured over years of training and experience. You live to live. Preparing is itself an activity and action is preparation."
Know what you can do and what you can't do.

Training and repetition are keys to avoiding potential errors in judgement. Captain Chesley Sullenberger speaks of the value of preparation in his book "Highest Duty". Sullenberger writes, “You can’t be a wishful thinker. You have to know what you know and what you don’t know- what you can do and what you can’t do. You have to know what (you and) your (equipment) can and can’t do in every possible situation."

Sullenberger is saying that we must train and constantly plan. Procedure, training, and planning are certainly important, but a rigid adherence to a plan that is not befitting the changing conditions can be suicidal.  Those who survive in high-octane environments are those who can anticipate changes in the environment and adapt accordingly.  They are the ones who can think and function under pressure.

Know the rules. Know yourself. Remember, the game is about vigilance and preparation.

Think about it.