Category Archives: Behavioral Health

Predicting Ethical Performance

In the world today ethics and morality are written about, debated, and are often the cause of much controversy in many public forums. In the fire service we see that this issue is also a point of contention. We see that ethics are ambiguous, hard to define, no matter how clearly defined they are organizationally. However, despite the controversial and ambiguous nature of ethics they are inherently necessary to the life of the public servant.

“Clearly, public service ethics has become a very broad and often ambiguous category that sometimes generates controversy as to what constitutes the term” (Zamor, p.1). Yet in the realm of public service, it continues to demand individuals of higher moral character and behavior while yet failing to produce a consistent example or mechanism of enforcement. Why is this so? One begins to wonder, with all of the emphasis on the individual how much of their ethical performance is determined by the organizational processes or culture?

• Will the members of higher moral character tire of doing the right thing because their cultural climate is ethically absent? Or ‘if the opportunity presents itself, and the risk of getting caught is low, and if the organization does not foster an ethical climate, then chances are fairly good that corruption will take place” (Zamor, p.6).

• Will a devout religious individual fail ethically if forced to choose between their principles and their paycheck?

• Will a compliance based ethical employee fail the organization if not given proper boundaries such as codes of ethics and organizational controls?

Denhardt asserts that ethics are “the process by which we clarify right from wrong and act on what we take to be right’ (Zamor, p.1). The phrase that should grab our attention is deemed ‘bureaucratic discretion’; wherein the public servant exercises his or her ability to make the proper decisions within the framework of organizational controls and codes of ethics. In firefighter terms, this is when he or she faces down an incident and has to make a decision.

As a firefighter we have our framework, the incident command system, and we understand our response protocols thus knowing our resource capabilities. We size up the problem, formulate the incident action plan, and move into action. On the average, firefighters are statistically consistent in these areas because of the constant training, accountability measures, and practice of these skills.

Yet in the realm of ethical decision making we seem hesitant and treat the decision as if it were a hazardous materials incident. We recognize, notify, identify/isolate, and protect if necessary because we know what we are dealing with may have consequences that outlive us. We sometimes put off making the decision or avoid it altogether which goes against the very nature of firefighters. In my opinion, the individual’s ethical performance is impaired or affected by the organizational processes for three main reasons:
• Claim without consistent conduct.
• Fears of financial loss.
• A lack of organizational controls and codes of conduct.

Claim without Consistent Conduct:
First, any individual who is employed in an organization that supports ethical behavior in policy but their organization fails to truly exemplify it in its daily actions will be setting the stage for ethical dilemmas. Policies without practice are mere words without meaning. In today’s social and political climate if one claims a specific religious belief they are often labeled intolerant but perhaps organizations should consider the value of the individual who has strong values from a faith based perspective other than a constant redefining of right and wrong based on politics and not morality? Others often shy away from the importance of spirituality and its correlative effect on individual ethical performance because of the abuses of the few cause many to judge the whole. Let us consider the ethical performance of an individual with strong faith based beliefs: “an individual’s spirituality is critical to his/her comprehension and perception of ethical behavior” (Zamor, p.6). But there are also many instances where as in our organizational ethics those who claim a strong spiritual foundation fail to practice their beliefs in all parts of their lives. The prophet Isaiah sums it up well: “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29:13). And the inherent nature of an individual to ignore the code of conduct is summed up well in this quote:
‘Operational enforcement structures and procedures’ hence end up taking ‘the form of elegant plaques that are hung on the office walls and thereafter ignored. They may be quoted on ceremonial occasions, but never taken seriously enough to use in assessing the conduct of individual members” (Zamor, p4).

In firefighter terms, the organization’s member’s talk must match its talk. In all of the research it comes back to integrity. “It is the public servant’s internal moral character and individual conscience that is critical in ensuring that actions are ethical and are in line with the ethics codes, and that they are carried out with integrity and morality. Carl Friedrich (1935) stated that internal control and individual conscience are the core of ethical behavior and standards in the public service.” (Zamor, p.4). In short, if those who create the policies fail to follow the policies it breeds apathy and anarchy. Its members will stop believing in them and they will have lost all credibility.

Paycheck Principles:
Secondly, individual ethical performance is often compromised for financial reasons. Many employees have failed to speak up on matters of principle, unfair treatment, or other issues for fear of losing their job. An organization that has set a precedent by its informal culture of persecuting those who blow the whistle sets the stage for intimidating certain employees.

Compliance Based Ethics:
Lastly, we come to the compliance based ethical individual. The policies, procedures, and general statutes are specifically for these individuals and without these individuals tend to wander beyond the ethical boundaries. “Left to their own, some public servants may engage in selfish behavior. This is where external controls like rules and regulations, penalties and punishments that impose constraints on the conduct of public servants find usefulness” (Zamor, p.6).

Many departments fail to publish their code of ethics and S.O.G’s believing that ethical behaviors are common sense. These departments fail to be proactive and often react by writing a policy based upon an ethical breech and often resulting in the damage to the public’s trust. Thus the “Your name here-S.O.G.” is born. Each time an ethical dilemma is faced a new policy is written and each year the policy book grows thicker and the offenses continue. An organization must endorse, train, and educate its employees on its policies and processes. ‘When ethics training is successful, employees become aware of ethical choices and have the knowledge and resources to choose and carry out the right choices’ (Zamor, p.8).

Despite the organizational processes that may impact individual ethical performance “ultimately, public service ethics depend on the individual conscience of the public servants and the organizational constraints that may take the form of rules and regulations, codes of conduct, organizational process, structures, and culture” (Zamor, p.8). The ethical performance of the individual resides with the individual but the organizational processes can be a test of one’s moral character. It has been said that “the power of petition is based upon the depth of the relationship” (Dr. Larry Crabb) thus the ethical performance of an employee is may be judged by the depth of their conscience. An individual will do the ‘right thing’ in the difficult moments if their values are deeply rooted. Such “values are formed long before people enter public service” (Zamor p.8). This type of organizational ethical performance test could be invaluable for departments in screening future employees.

Another process that is critical to individual ethical performance that is often overlooked is the hiring process. Each organization would do well to conduct more research to discover if the person’s ethics they are about to hire truly align with the values of the department. Some employers are already using Emotional Quotient Testing in their hiring processes. There are Fire Departments in the U.S. who are currently using Emotional Quotient Testing in hiring and retention. One such example is a service called Zero Risk HR for Emotional Intelligence Pre-employment Assessment (http://www.zeroriskhr.com/). This is another type of organization control to insure the department is hiring those who value align with the organization. Chief Dennis Rubin, former Chief of Washington DC Fire states it well in his class “How not to hire idiots, thugs, and misfits.”

“It would be interesting to “dollarize” all of the costs associated with the discipline process that a department spends during a single year. Some examples are the personnel needed to investigate bad behaviors; the time and effort to document same; the cost to consult with outside agencies such as police or attorneys; if a member is suspended or terminated, calculate the replacement over-time costs; the aspect of spending time with the media explaining the situation and so on.” (Dennis Rubin)

In conclusion, the ethical performance of an individual can be affected by organizational processes but it is ultimately up to the individual’s values. These processes are in the news daily such as ‘Firefighters vote no confidence in Fire Chief’, “Former employee alleges firing was based on her whistle blowing efforts”, and “Fire Chief accused of making racial slur during meeting.” The examples given in this article show how the informal cultural processes of an organization can affect an individual’s ethical performance.

Works Cited:

Casey, Michael P. (2007) Emotional Intelligence for Emergency Service Leaders.
Retrieved from: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo40416.pdf

Genevieve Enid Kyarimpa & Jean-Claude Garcia-Zamor (2006): The Quest for Public Service Ethics: Individual Conscience and Organizational Constraints, Public Money & Management, 26:1, 31-38

Rubin, Dennis. (2012). How not to hire idiots, thugs, and misfits. Fire Rescue1 magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-department-management/articles/1377396-Hiring-plan-How-not-to-hire-idiots-thugs-and-misfits/

Leadership Lessons

Leadership moment to consider:

Are we building others up? Or are we tearing them down?

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
—Galatians 6:1

As leaders, have you ever noticed when someone makes a mistake (minor or major) many leaders don’t follow a system of progressive discipline?

Rather than holding the person accountable and establishing a plan to rectify the behavior they actually destroy the person. Their method of fixing the behavior is destructive and does nothing to prevent the problem from happening again. It often creates a bitter employee who goes on to poison other environments and more people.

As leaders, we are to hold ourselves and our people accountable but if we expect our team members to work together it will only function of each part is working correctly. This requires us to try to bring back the wanderer. 

James 5:19–20 tells us, “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”

So as leaders, it is imperative for us to work to restore our brothers and sisters. By holding one another accountable while not forgetting where we came from it allows us to remember that someone once cared enough to help us back on the right path. 

As T.D. Jakes said “Just because you graduated doesn’t mean we get to burn down the school.” So let us not burn down our brothers and sisters when God calls us to lead them back. 

After all, what is a greater testimony: how many people that we helped? Or how many people we ran off?

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes 

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries 

Organizational Processes & Firefighter Ethical Performance

Do Organizational Processes Affect Individual Firefighter Ethical Performance?

Clearly, public service ethics has become a very broad and often ambiguous category that sometimes generates controversy as to what constitutes the term” (Zamor, p.1). Yet in the realm of public service, it continues to demand individuals of higher moral character and behavior while failing to produce a consistent example or mechanism of enforcement. Why is this so? One begins to wonder, with all of the emphasis on the individual how much of their ethical performance is determined by the organizational processes or culture?
Let us consider these questions:

• Will the members of higher moral character tire of doing the right thing because the organizational climate is ethically absent? Or ‘if the opportunity presents itself, and the risk of getting caught is low, and if the organization does not foster an ethical climate, then chances are fairly good that corruption will take place” (Zamor, p.6).

• Will a devout religious individual fail ethically if forced to choose between their principles and their paycheck? If socioeconomic pressures continue to remove an individual’s ability to freely communicate their personal beliefs will we see a decline in the profession or in the pulpit?

• Will a compliance based ethical employee fail the organization if not given proper boundaries such as codes of ethics and organizational controls? What if the ethical fence has been well defined but is continually moved for certain individuals in the event of ethical disasters?

Why are ethics important to the fire service?

It has been said that ethics are “the process by which we clarify right from wrong and act on what we take to be right’ (Zamor, p.1). The phrase that grabs our attention is deemed ‘bureaucratic discretion’; wherein the public servant exercises his or her ability to make the proper decisions within the framework of organizational controls and codes of ethics. In firefighter terms, this is when an individual faces down an incident and has to make a decision.

As a firefighter we have our framework, the incident command system, and we understand our response protocols thus knowing our resource capabilities. We size up the problem, formulate the incident action plan, and move into action. On the average, firefighters are statistically consistent in these areas because of the constant training, accountability measures, and the constant practice of these skills.

Yet in the realm of ethical decision making we seem hesitant and treat the decision as if it were a hazardous materials incident. We recognize, notify, identify/isolate, and protect if necessary because we know what we are dealing with may have consequences that outlive us. We sometimes put off making the decision or avoid it altogether which goes against the very nature of firefighters. Thus we return to the title and question of this article: Do organizational processes affect a firefighter’s individual ethical performance? I believe that the individual’s ethical performance is impaired or affected by the organizational processes for three main reasons:

• Claim without consistent conduct.
• Fears of financial loss.
• A lack of organizational controls and codes of conduct.

First, any individual who is employed in an organization that supports ethical behavior in policy but their organization fails to truly exemplify it in its daily actions will be setting the stage for ethical dilemmas. Policies without practice are mere words without meaning. Many organizations fail to recognize the critical nature of an individual’s spiritual beliefs, their impact on their behaviors, and their daily decisions. “An individual’s spirituality is critical to his/her comprehension and perception of ethical behavior” (Zamor, p.6). The prophet Isaiah sums it up well: “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29:13).

And the inherent nature of an individual to ignore the code of conduct is explained well here:
‘Operational enforcement structures and procedures’ hence end up taking ‘the form of elegant plaques that are hung on the office walls and thereafter ignored. They may be quoted on ceremonial occasions, but never taken seriously enough to use in assessing the conduct of individual members” (Zamor, p4).

In firefighter terms, the organization’s member’s talk must match its talk. In all of the research it comes back to integrity. “It is the public servant’s internal moral character and individual conscience that is critical in ensuring that actions are ethical and are in line with the ethics codes, and that they are carried out with integrity and morality. Carl Friedrich (1935) stated that internal control and individual conscience are the core of ethical behavior and standards in the public service.” (Zamor, p.4). In short, if those who create the policies fail to follow the policies it breeds apathy and anarchy. Its members will stop believing in them and they will have lost all credibility.

Secondly, individual ethical performance is often compromised for financial reasons. Many employees have failed to speak up on matters of principle, unfair treatment, or other issues for fear of losing their job. An organization that persecutes those who stand up for their beliefs has gained compliance through fear and intimidation.

Lastly, we come to the compliance based ethical individual. The policies, procedures, and general statutes are specifically for these individuals and without them they would wander off. “Left to their own, some public servants may engage in selfish behavior. This is where external controls like rules and regulations, penalties and punishments that impose constraints on the conduct of public servants find usefulness” (Zamor, p.6).

Many departments fail to publish their code of ethics and S.O.G’s believing that they are common sense. These departments fail to be proactive and often react by writing a policy based upon an ethical breech. Thus the “Your name here-S.O.G.” is born. Each time an ethical dilemma is faced a new policy is written and each year the policy book grows thicker and the offenses continue. An organization must endorse, train, and educate its employees on its policies and processes. ‘When ethics training is successful, employees become aware of ethical choices and have the knowledge and resources to choose and carry out the right choices’ (Zamor, p.8).

Despite the organizational processes that may impact individual ethical performance “ultimately, public service ethics depend on the individual conscience of the public servants and the organizational constraints that may take the form of rules and regulations, codes of conduct, organizational process, structures, and culture” (Zamor, p.8). The ethical performance of the individual resides with the individual but the organizational processes can be a test of one’s moral character. The power of petition is based upon the depth of the relationship thus the ethical performance of an employee is based upon the depth of their conscience and beliefs. An individual will do the ‘right thing’ in the difficult moments if their values are deeply rooted. Such “values are formed long before people enter public service” (Zamor p.8).

Another process that is critical to individual ethical performance that is often overlooked is the hiring process. Each organization would do well to conduct more research to discover if the person’s ethics they are about to hire truly align with the values of the department. Some employers are already using Emotional Quotient Testing in their hiring processes. Certain departments are using these processes with great results. One department that was interviewed currently use a service called Zero Risk HR for Emotional Intelligence Pre-employment Assessment (http://www.zeroriskhr.com/). This is another type of organization control to insure the department is hiring those who value align with the organization. Chief Dennis Rubin, states it well in his class “How not to hire idiots, thugs, and misfits.”

“It would be interesting to “dollarize” all of the costs associated with the discipline process that a department spends during a single year. Some examples are the personnel needed to investigate bad behaviors; the time and effort to document same; the cost to consult with outside agencies such as police or attorneys; if a member is suspended or terminated, calculate the replacement overtime costs; the aspect of spending time with the media explaining the situation and so on.” (Dennis Rubin)

In conclusion, the ethical performance of an individual can be affected by organizational processes but it is ultimately up to the individual’s values. These processes are in the news daily such as ‘Firefighters vote no confidence in Fire Chief’, “Former employee alleges firing was based on her whistle blowing efforts”, and “Firefighter fired for social media post.” The examples given in this article show how the informal cultural processes of an organization can affect an individual’s ethical performance. The fire service would be wise to begin to evaluate the organizations ethical performance regularly, train employees on proper ethical behaviors, and continually monitor the health of the organization by the ethical behaviors of its members.

Works Cited:

Casey, Michael P. (2007) Emotional Intelligence for Emergency Service Leaders.
Retrieved from: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo40416.pdf

Genevieve Enid Kyarimpa & Jean-Claude Garcia-Zamor (2006): The Quest for Public Service Ethics: Individual Conscience and Organizational Constraints, Public Money & Management, 26:1, 31-38
Rubin, Dennis. (2012). How not to hire idiots, thugs, and misfits. Fire Rescue1 magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-department-management/articles/1377396-Hiring-plan-How-not-to-hire-idiots-thugs-and-misfits/

Ethical Disasters

Ethical Disasters in the Fire Service: “Preventing the Predictable” 
Ethical Disasters in the fire service are becoming a more common occurrence in our world. Or are they? The concept of breaking a code of ethics, failing to comply with a set of known standards, or breaking the law by a public official is nothing new but it is more readily scrutinized and used for inflammatory purposes by the media, the politicians, and other social agenda groups. The repeated response by the public and our leaders is “How could this happen?” 
     However, these ethical disasters by the fire service inflict damage upon the public trust, our ability to provide services, and potentially shrink or cut our future budgets.  If we search the Internet we see numerous examples of ethical disasters  that are primarily monetarily motivated such as the case of the attorney who threatened his clients with harsher sentences but then they received favorable treatment for signing over their property. (Skidmore, p.28)
We also see that there are numerous ethical disasters that are not primarily monetarily motivated and but as a consequence of our occupational stressors. 
What can we do about this issue?
Identifying the problem is half of the battle towards producing a solution. We will discuss processes that help prevent such occurrences verses policies that simply state what is right and wrong organizationally. 
As public servants, we are seeing a continual trend of veteran firefighters (with ten years of service or more) who are losing their jobs due to drug and alcohol abuse. I interviewed Mark Lamplugh from American Addiction Services who specializes in treating first responders. He stated that the majority of the clients they see are first responders who have been on the job for 10 or more years. One would reason that a public servant with this amount of tenure would be well educated in the rules and regulations of the organization and the consequences of their unethical behavior.  I have personally witnessed the loss of several employees to drug and alcohol abuse and the collateral damage caused by their actions. These individuals have often been veteran firefighters who were well educated on the rules and regulations and the consequences of such actions. And sadly, the fire services response to prevent such incidents has not changed overall.  
We must pose the question then why do senior firefighters fail to make the right decisions in these circumstances. It has been said,  states there are two modes of ethical norms: classical and modern (Skidmore, p.28).  It is my belief that the dilemma a firefighter faces in making an ethical decision is driven more by their particular circumstance than their virtues. Their virtues tell them that the decision to illegally use prescription drugs, abuse alcohol, is wrong but their modern mode of ethics justifies their behavior. “They were once prescribed the medication by a doctor so in their mind they believe they are justified” (Mark Lamplugh).  
In government, the lack of rules or regulations defining right and wrong isn’t the problem; it’s often the application of those proper ethical behaviors. 
In the United States the fire service has produced a national code of firefighter ethics (http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/code_of_ethics.pdf), in municipal departments we have mission statements and codes of conduct, and in volunteer departments they have oaths or firefighter pledges that define the organizations ethical parameters. With all of these predefined ethical fences, why then are firefighters and first responders continuing to breech these codes of ethics? 
Perhaps the problem is much deeper and wider than a set of codes or fanciful jargon that is developed to describe the same problem yet prescribe no solution. 
Describing ethics as bureaucratic ethos or democratic ethos is important but what is missing is the consistent application of these values and endorsement of them. The fire service has the appearance of high ethical standards but what are we doing to reinforce those standards other than “rule-driven” moral guidelines? (Skidmore, p. 28) 
The fire service has organizational measures designed to protect itself but few departments train their employees on how to recognize if an employee is an ethical disasters waiting to happen. Sadly, even fewer fire departments have “Last Chance Agreements” which are designed to rehabilitate employees who self-report their drug or alcohol abuse problem.  
The Phoenix Fire Department offers such a policy for its employees who are found to test positive for drugs and alcohol. Their guidelines are strict but offer the employee to return to work after successfully completing treatment. 
Chief Mark Revere, a Harvard fellow sums it up well in the following quote:
“We should never “leave behind” an alcoholic member, even as they resist our best efforts to help. Our aggressive support of members with this disease should be a given. However, my goal here is to protect our younger firefighters, to ensure that they never have to hit bottom—losing family and friends, a career and their health—before they can get a handle on this disease. Alcoholism is an illness, and like all illnesses, early detection and courageous intervention are the cure.”
(http://www.firefighternation.com/article/management-and-leadership/addressing-alcoholism-fire-service)
Ethical disasters of these types can be compared of recurring symptoms of an untreated disease. Our current diagnosis and prescription for these ethical quandaries isn’t working. A new code or rule that isn’t followed, endorsed, or applied will not cure the illness of unethical choices. The fire service ethical system is primarily a punitive or reaction based process. The code or policy states if firefighter does X action, he or she will receive Y disciplinary action. Discipline without prevention and correction is nothing more than punishment which will allow the problems to continue. 
“The mode of moral philosophy that has since prevailed. That mode reflects the scientific spirit and embraces a search for laws to govern conduct” (Skidmore, p.28).  In all of human history, laws have served as a means to govern conduct but they haven’t’ prevented them from being broken. They are inherently necessary but their existence is only part of the solution. 
For example, in the fire service:
9 out of 12 firefighters may suffer a divorce.
As much as 37% of the fire service suffers from PTSD.
As much as 30% of firefighters suffer from alcohol and drug abuse.
As much as 30% of firefighters suffer from depression. 
This information should not only enlighten us but if we want to prevent the predictable ethical breeches of public servants that are resulting from occupational stress then we must act.
(http://blog.americanaddictioncenters.org/firefighters-alcohol-will-rescue-heroes/?mm_campaign=9FAE9832F3A64C3EF3B80EBD8AE7F884&mm_replace=true&utm_source=1stResponders&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=1stRespondersTwitter)
Consider the case of Kyle Lenn, a 23 year member of the fire service, and considered one of the most progressive fire chiefs of his time. He was actively involved in the Everyone Goes Home program, active in the Nebraska Fire Chief’s Association, and more. On the morning of January 31rst 2012 his body was found hanging from a bridge from an apparent suicide. His death shocked the fire service community and numerous other deaths like Lenn’s have brought attention to behavioral health problems in the fire service. 
(http://www.nfpa.org/newsandpublications/nfpa-journal/2014/may-june-2014/features/special-report-firefighter-behavioral-health)
Identifying a solution: A Lack of Training:
 
“If it’s predictable then it’s preventable” (Gordon Graham). Robert Golembiewski’s work argued “that ethical standards should reflect some degree of core values of society” (Skidmore, p.31). But the predictable outcome of first responders being exposed to occupational stress and the recurring choice to use alcohol or drugs to cope does not compute with common core values. Any organization that believes that someone suffering from addiction will make ‘ethical choices’ because a standard exists is not only foolish but naïve. The fire service needs more training and education on not merely how to discipline these employees but how to recognize the signs, rehabilitate them, and allow them to return to work. 
Firefighters are exposed to constant occupational stress. The statistics overwhelmingly point out that firefighters are suffering from alcoholism and drug abuse at a higher rate than most professions. If we as leaders ignore the problem and then when an employee makes an unethical decision resulting in the loss of their career and damaging public trust shouldn’t we be held accountable for their decision? If a fire service leader ignores signs and symptoms of a pending ethical breech are they not negligent?  
Ken Holland of the NFPA “says behavioral health remains a difficult topic for emergency responders for a variety of reasons. “The thinking is, ‘we’re called on to help everyone else—we aren’t the ones who should need the help,’” says Holland, who’s been a first responder for 22 years. “No one wants to admit that they have a concern or an issue. But the cumulative effect of what we see in the fire service day to day, without having a way to offload some of that stuff, is obviously becoming a larger issue.” (http://www.nfpa.org/newsandpublications/nfpa-journal/2014/may-june-2014/features/special-report-firefighter-behavioral-health)
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Fire Life Safety Initiative #13 states “Firefighters and their families must have access to counseling and psychological support. In most departments this is limited to an Employee Assistance Program with no prior training of leadership to identify impending ethical dilemmas. Firefighters receive countless hours of training to stay proficient in the services that they provide. How many hours are required in the following areas?
Identifying the signs of an Emotional MAY-DAY: (suicide, family issues, depression, PTSD, anxiety)
Identifying the signs of alcohol and drug abuse.
Counseling and Rehabilitating Firefighters who suffer from the problems mentioned above.
The fire service invests time and countless dollars developing an employee into a trusted asset of the department. If a firefighter commits an ethical breech and is immediately fired; does this prevent the next occurrence? No, the threat based system of zero tolerance needs to be revised to a “Last Chance Agreement” whereas the employee is given one chance to rehabilitate and become a productive member of the department once again.  
Numerous organizations are conducting training and solid work in these areas to help fire departments “prevent the predictable”. I strongly believe that the problem with most articles and publications is that they are merely information without application, therefore let us consider several organizations that are currently working to reduce the damages of ethical breeches and more importantly save firefighters lives.
Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance: Jeff Dill started tracking first responder suicides in 2010. Firefighter Behavioral Health has gained attention by the NFFF in life safety initiative #13 and by the NFPA in a special report where they mention Jeff’s work. He has complied a database and conducts training on suicide prevention, implementation of suicide prevention programs, and is offering free training funded by the AFG grant. He is also paying it forward by training FFBH Ambassadors to share the message. Please check out his organization at: http://www.ffbha.org/
The Share the Load Program: Through a collaborative effort from Mark Lamplugh of American Addiction Services and the National Volunteer Firefighters Council the Share the Load Program was introduced. This is a 24/7 365 days a year service that is available free to first responders who are suffering from addiction, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and or depression. The phone number routes them to a trained counselor who is a former or current firefighter/first responder. 
(http://www.nvfc.org/hot-topics/share-the-load-support-program-for-fire-and-ems)
These are but a few of the great organizations that are actively involved in saving those who save others. The collateral damage from ethical breeches by firefighters is a symptom and can be prevented if we as leaders refuse to ignore their silent cries for help. Organizations who espouse ethical codes of conduct but fail to train and educate their members on how to take care of one another before, during, and after crisis are setting themselves up for failure. 
It is my passion to see such incidents reduced and have created my own personal foundation called Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries (www.bringingbackbrothehood.org) that provides the critically needed resources for first responders. It is my hope that the fire service will respond quickly to the 911 calls coming from within their own organization and put policy into action.
The National Fallen Firefighters foundation through the Everyone Goes Home program offers free training to help prevent these incidents and help firefighters in need. This is the result of the Fire Life Safety Initiative 13 (FLSI #13) and is available on their website.

If you could have seen the signs of the following would you respond ahead of the call?

Let us introduce a new acronym to help us WATCH out for our brothers and sisters.

W.A.T.C.H: The Firefighter Size-up Acronym:

W: Withdrawl- (Confinement) A once passionate, dedicated, and driven firefighter suddenly loses interest and fades into the background. Has anyone taken the time to check on them? Is their company officer aware of the problem?

A- Anger, Anxiety, And more…

A firefighter who has dramatic mood changes, is suddenly angered by small events, and is easily irritated. These are signs of an impending flashover in their life. 

Some examples of such sudden changes are:

feelings hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, sudden weight loss, sleep changes, loss of energy, self loathing, and concentration problems.

T-Traumatic Stress (PTSD): as much as 37% of firefighters suffer from PTSD.

A firefighter who seems troubled by a past event or call. They avoid anything that reminds reminds them of the call. And they seem to have increased anxiety and emotional arousal.

C-Coping Mechanisms:

The majority who face great stress look for ways to alleviate it. There are healthy ways to cope such as: exercise, prayer, and meditation, etc. 

Then there are unhealthy coping mechanisms such as: excessive drinking/substance abuse, reckless behaviors (otherwise known as the passive suicide attempt), pornography (an attempt to escape) and participating in unhealthy relationships (for example: having an affair).

H-Harming themself: A firefighter who shows any or all of these size-up factors is on the verge of harming themself. They are at a greater risk of suicide and are in need of help. They begin to feel as if they are a burden to everyone. You may notice them start to hesitate at calls that they were once confident at. They have a negative self image and feel as if they do not belong anymore. They may even talk openly of harming themselves.

In conclusion, ethical disasters are predictable therefore preventable. This article defines the problem, provides solutions, and hopefully has instilled a new found understanding of the importance of this issue.
Instructor Andy J. Starnes
Copyright 2015
Works Cited:
Gist, Taylor, & Raak, (2011) Depression and Suicide White Paper. NFFF Everyone Goes Home Project-Behavioral Health Initiative (FLSI 13). Retrieved from: http://lifesafetyinitiatives.com/13/suicide_whitepaper.pdf
Messina, Marina. (2014). Firefighters and Alcohol-Who will Rescue the Heroes? Retrieved from: http://blog.americanaddictioncenters.org/firefighters-alcohol-will-rescue-heroes/?mm_campaign=9FAE9832F3A64C3EF3B80EBD8AE7F884&mm_replace=true&utm_source=1stResponders&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=1stRespondersTwitter
Revere, Mark. (2013) Addressing Alcoholism in the Fire Service. Firefighter Nation. Retrieved   from: http://www.firefighternation.com/article/management-and-leadership/addressing-alcoholism-fire-service
Wilmoth, Janet. (2014) Trouble in Mind. NFPA Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.nfpa.org/newsandpublications/nfpa-journal/2014/may-june-2014/features/special-report-firefighter-behavioral-health

Combination Department Problems?

Combination Department Problems? Perhaps it’s time for some: Creative Professional Development.
     The situation presented before us is not an uncommon one. Many combination departments today are struggling with recruitment, resources, and training. Each department, no matter its circumstances, needs to begin with an honest evaluation of where they currently are: their strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies and where do they want to be in the future. This is the strategic planning in its basic form. In this case, the department would be focusing on the area of training.
     First, a plan must be established, one that is expandable and that is feasible for the department to sustain. After conducting an assessment of the department; areas that would be identified could be:
Current number of members who are certified vs. proficient members
-Or-
Current members who are not attending or not maintaining their hours. 
The Fire Department  leadership should meet with them and assess whether or not they will continue as active members or consider another role within the department. This seems harsh but is a necessary burden of leadership in order to maintain the services that the community depends upon.
Fire Department Leadership should also consider the current department resources for training such as: budget, members who have outside resources such as access to construction materials etc., and grant opportunities for training.
     Consider the example of a two station combination volunteer department who are struggling to get their members to attend training:
    In a combination department, the training must be offered where all members can attend (paid and volunteer). Thus the standard Monday night training schedule may not be adequate for the organization. A recommendation that may be helpful would be to develop the training curriculum and a training calendar. For example, Station 1 training would be offered on the 1rst Monday of each month during the day and night and Station 2 training would be offered on the 2nd Monday of each month day and night. 
     This calendar would give the company officers a monthly topic that they must focus on. The topic will have clear outline and objectives. Every quarter the two stations will have a special training that allows them to perform the past three consecutive skill sets in an incident based training format. For example if the preceding three months were on hose, ground ladders, and SCBA. The incident based training could be a VEIS scenario or a room and contents fire while simultaneous vertical ventilation efforts are being conducted. 
    This format allows for flexibility but the quarterly training would be the most critical as it serves as a quality assurance standard. The organizational leadership would review their performance and thus would show if the company officers have been doing their job. If individuals fail to meet the objectives, a meeting with the leadership is conducted, and the members are given the same training again with additional help by leadership to insure their success. These hours and training sessions are documented and assist in maintaining the required training hours by the state of NC (36 hours per member). During the course of these quarterly assessments, the department’s leadership could use this as an opportunity to identify potential future leaders and document their performance as criteria for selection. This helps prevent the election bias that is prevalent in many combination departments. In short, the organization would be choosing the most qualified rather than the most liked member.
     Certain fire service training is often deemed cost prohibitive but in reality “if we have a fire station and a fire truck we have all we need to train.” (Billy Goldfedder). The fundamentals of firefighting are based upon each member’s ability to execute them flawlessly. The training curriculum and drills are only limited by the imagination of the training officer. With the tremendous amount of free resources on-line, a training officer can easily come up with drills lasting as short as five minutes up to eight hours or more. 
     As the department implements the schedule, conducts quarterly reviews, a fire department representative should be looking into grants to assist with purchasing and building training props. A simple outbuilding can house a forcible entry prop, a Pittsburg drill, a Denver drill, and more. Our station had a custom made forcible entry prop for $1200 by a firefighter who is a welder. 
     These training sessions do not have to interfere with minimum staffing and can actually enhance staffing. For example, if the Monday night training sessions are not well attended and now due to the popularity and enjoyment of the training the department has 50% of its members their on Monday night let us consider how much better the response to the community will be because of this initiative.
Organizational Buy-In:
If we build it, doesn’t necessarily mean they will come. As the department plans out their training calendar these points should be considered:
Firefighters need to be given more than one opportunity to attend training per month. Volunteer firefighters have families and full-time jobs thus their time is limited.  A Monday night and a daylight training session should be offered to allow training opportunities for both paid and volunteers. As previously mentioned, if it is split between the two stations there could be four different opportunities for training each month. As studies have shown, that most paid firefighters for combination departments do not live in the response area.
Make it worth their time: One might stop reading this and say “All training is worth their time! Heresy! Burn this guy at the fire department stake!” But stay with me for a moment, every department is different but we all have the same problems. We suffer from a lack of time to complete everything on our list and if we have the time we don’t have the financial resources. Consider what you do have: Internet connection, Big Screen TV, fire trucks, and a bay? A simple training facility was just described based on what this department already has. The department’s leadership should consider making the training fun, applicable to their department, and to the point. Many firefighters know other firefighters who are top notch instructors and many of those same instructors are willing to teach such organizations or develop training curriculum for free if we would but ask them. 
Enlist the support of the youth: Firefighters today are young and they are smart. Many of them know how to do things with technology that we couldn’t imagine. For example, for $50 dollars one can plug an I-phone into a flat screen TV and use a fire simulator app to conduct Fire ground simulations with photos taken from your own response area. Find the firefighter who loves technology and encourage them. A leader would be wise to collectively analyze the strengths and expertise of its members and use them accordingly. Consider making training videos and sharing them with the membership to encourage them. There are movie apps available on smart phones and I have personally made training videos in as quickly as an hour.
Other resources: Many combination fire departments have Fire auxiliaries. A primary reason for volunteers failing to attend training is the prohibitive nature of removing them from their families. If the membership embraces the auxiliary concept, becomes organized, they could feasibly provide a covered dish meal each Monday night training session. These members could provide child care and thereby allowing the membership to grow and become what the fire service truly is: a family!
In conclusion, the combination fire departments face many challenges today but the creative minds of today can offer many solutions to these challenges. Each department has a wealth of knowledge under their roof. The department leadership should ‘get to know’ each member and conduct an assessment of their hobbies, likes, expertise, and any special skills. They should know about their family, their work schedules, and what their member’s priorities are. For example if 50 percent of your membership is devout Catholic then scheduling training on a night when Mass is normally held is a bad idea. Our departments are comprised of people who have lives outside of the fire service. If a combination department, or any department for that matter, wants to be truly successful they have to care enough to know their people. In this way, the relationships are strengthen and as a leader one would know who to select, when to schedule an event, and how to do it because they know their people.
Instructor Andy Starnes
Copyright 2014

The Need for Fire Service Ethics

The Need for Fire Service Ethics


Anyone who follows social media and has been in the fire service can readily identify that there has been an increase in ‘bad firefighter’ behavior. News headlines vary from firefighters being disciplined for sexual exploits in the fire house, to firefighters who are serving prison time for paying other firefighters to work for them, and firefighters being disciplined for inappropriate behavior or remarks on social media. 


The fire service is a respected position of public trust and is still considered by most a noble calling. Why do we see an increase in ‘unethical’ behaviors by firefighters in today’s headlines? It is my belief that the fire service has its attention and focus so divided from hiring a diverse and well trained workforce, to constantly adding new services to our job description, that it has forgot to focus on the very foundational principles of the fire service. 


These principles can be found in a Code of Ethics. Firefighters need to be taught early on and reminded constantly about the value of maintaining the public’s trust through a life of ethical behavior.


After searching many department’s policies and procedures I noticed that code of ethics aren’t often easy to find. They are not often listed next to the mission statements of the organization. This should be a red flag to us all that in many cases a code of ethics or policy has been more of a knee jerk reaction to bad behaviors.


As a firefighter, we are continuing to see a trend of numerous firefighters fall victim to poor behaviors and choices. These actions often result in disastrous consequences for them personally and professionally.


For myself, I have lost friends to: suicide, a stress induced heart attack, and another who lost his job due to alcohol abuse. Each one of these friends left a mark upon me personally as they played a major part in influencing my life. What saddens me even more is that I had no idea that they were capable of such behaviors.


With the constant exposure of occupational stress, financial struggles, and sleep deprivation it is no surprise that a firefighter’s attitude eventually suffers. Then we add the demands of our family schedules, the usual problems of life, and we suddenly have become disheartened. We feel unappreciated and are tired of the false brotherhood that many firefighters and our leaders portray. 


However, a lifetime of serving others should not leave us broken, destitute, alone, and bitter? A department that tells its troops to live a life above reproach but does very little to reinforce or model the appropriate behaviors will leave a trail of shattered lives and a loss of public trust in its wake.


So where do we go from here? How do we refresh or renew our spirits when they become weary? How does a Fire Department that has previously failed to exemplify the appropriate behaviors to its troops start anew?


Redefining the Foundation:


The foundation of a house is the most important part. Without a proper foundation the house will collapse. Our future, our family’s future, and the future of the fire service are dependent on building upon a solid foundation.


Let us ask ourselves the following questions: 


What foundation is currently being laid for the future houses of fire service leadership? 


Or are they building without a foundation at all? 


What principles, morals, and values do they hold fast to?


“But the one, who has heard and not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of the house was great.” (Luke 6:49).


The Fire Service must define for its members the proper behaviors, virtues, and values in a code of ethics. This code of ethics is no mere piece of paper; it is the foundation upon which all behaviors and actions of the firefighters should be based upon. The leadership of the organization should be held to the strictest standard and if they fail to live out these ethics they should be disciplined accordingly. 


If the members of the organization see improper behaviors and violations by its leadership and they go unpunished the department has therefore destroyed its credibility.


Why is this important?


An intelligent leader who doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately fail the organization, their family, and those around them personally and or professionally. They will be found manning the life boats alone while the entire organization goes down with the ship.

Anyone can learn to be competent in their profession but to be exemplary is to be the one standing up for truth, caring for others, and leading by example (at home and at work).


In this moral battle, integrity is a word that is often misused. Integrity truly means to hold fast to our beliefs and values no matter the circumstance, the consequence, or the audience. In other words, we consistently apply our beliefs and values day in and day out no matter what. This requires a greater courage than facing down the flames of the greatest inferno. Our very lives, actions, and behaviors should speak volumes about our beliefs long before we ever speak a word. 


For myself, my dedication to God, my family, and to my calling as a firefighter should all be a part of this visible ‘witness’ to the world. If not then I am setting a hypocritical example thereby leading others astray. 


In a profession that prides itself in team work, sacrifice, service before self, camaraderie, integrity, courage, and honor we should be about the business of maintaining these foundations. 


Where is it that the traditional fire service values originated from? 


Where they from man? 


Where they from a government? 


Have we forgotten to focus on them at all?


As the fire service is embracing the diverse culture around is and changing daily, one who would implement a specific set of religious values as a ‘code of ethics’ would not only be unacceptable but could lead to career suicide. Thus the following fire service code of ethics is based upon these principles without quoting or endorsing a specific faith or religion:


The Fire Service Code of Ethics:
I_______________ pledge to serve the citizens and the department in a manner that exceeds the public’s expectations of the title of firefighter. I understand that a firefighter is never off duty and that the position I hold is one of great privilege, responsibility, and trust. I do not take this responsibility for granted and will strive to maintain and protect this trust with the utmost regard. I will honor this pledge by living a life above reproach:


•My words and actions are no longer without oversight. I am a servant to my fellow man and understand that anything that diminishes or damages that trust will be cause for discipline and or termination.

•My choices should be based on the organizations guiding principles and I pledge not to misrepresent the organization in areas of social media, outside employment, or areas of public scrutiny.

•The customers (internally/externally) that we serve shall always be treated with respect, professionalism, kindness, and most of all with compassion

•Any behavior or action that is criminal, unethical, or a conflict of interest I will stop or report as to protect those that we serve from such damaging incidents.

•I will surround myself with fellow members who will serve as accountability partners so we may be ‘our brother’s keeper’ to prevent any such behaviors or actions from rising to a level that would harm the citizens, the department, and ourselves.


The example listed above is not the absolute answer but it is a must have for all departments. Each department shall have a code of ethics, work to model and reward ethical behaviors, and implement the training at all levels of ethical issues that they will face over the course of their career. By doing so, the department is not merely writing a statement that is hidden away in a policy manual; it is lived out, trained on, and rewards those who exemplify the organizations code of ethics.


In the case of those who choose to violate the departments code of ethics their actions should be dealt with swiftly, openly, and the department shall conduct an after action report of each incident on how to prevent such behaviors in the future. These reports will be used to develop programs to prevent improper behaviors, teach others proper coping skills, and to train the members what can happen to them if these ethics are not followed. 


Instructor Andy Starnes
copyright 2014

 

Firefighter Discipleship-Leadership Lessons

Firefighter Discipleship: Leadership Lessons from the Book of Titus.

“Training others up in the way they should go” is an important step in the discipleship process, which is to slowly and carefully develop someone into a mature Christian and a responsible leader” (NIV commentary on Titus).

In the fire service today mentoring appears to becoming a lost art. As leaders and veterans of our calling we are entrusted with a greater responsibility than we realize. Jesus commands us in the great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Therefore we must be diligently and passionately seeking out those we can share the message of God’s hope, our experiences, and our skills with. By our obedient service to others they may be well equipped for the struggles yet to come. For by showing them the true source of our strength (Jesus Christ) they will remain steadfast to the faith long after our time has passed.

In the fire service, strong leadership in the face of negative circumstances can be a difficult road to travel. Paul provides us with many examples of how we should lead others in his letter to Titus. Paul faced innumerable hardships and references them as he is mentoring others. He defines leadership, defines Titus purpose, and outlines the necessary characteristics that he needs to model for others.

As we learn from these leadership lessons we see that a strong leader is also a responsible one. They understand that their calling must be based and built upon Jesus Christ and not on any person, title, or affirmation from others. Otherwise when trial and opposition comes their way they can quickly become disillusioned and disheartened. Therefore, to effectively lead requires a Godly vision for the future by making preparations to insure the process of leadership development continues long after the strong leader is gone.

Why is all this important?

A responsible leader cares more about the mission and the vision than they do about personal recognition. They know from the very beginning that training others up to assume key positions in leadership is mission critical. Paul recognized this and knew that the importance should be focused on Christ and not a person. Read his letters to Timothy and Titus and note how he is passionately, carefully, and slowly developing them into the future leaders for the church. Our lesson for today is that without mentoring, training, and encouraging others for the future we are failing to be obedient Disciples of Christ.

Here are some key characteristics and leadership lessons from Titus:

Has a strong marriage and strong family values: this person is faithful to their spouse.

Blameless- “not overbearing, not quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:7)

One who is passionately pursuing training others more than promoting themselves-Titus is a letter written from Paul to Titus. The letter was an example of Paul’s passion to train & equip Titus. Paul tells Titus “5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint[a] elders in every town, as I directed you.” (Titus 1: 5)

One who boldly speaks the truth in the face of false doctrine: 0 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. (Titus 1:10-11)

One who leads by example: “7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”(Titus 2:7-8)

One who is respectful to authority: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”(Titus 3:1)

One who avoids foolish arguments: “9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-10)

As leaders in our homes, our churches, communities, and the fire service may we meditate on God’s word and pray for the Holy Spirit to equip us in these areas. So “we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17)

God Bless

Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Tired of the Fire Service Debate?

In the fire service today, it is alive and vibrant with positive change and learning. As a lifelong student of the fire service I limit my remarks on the many debates and only serve as an arbiter. I myself have become weary of those who wish to build up their agenda by demeaning and condemning others. Consider these points for a moment:

With all the wonderful discussion and learning that occurs amidst change we must ask:

Are our methods to share this information more condemning than explanatory?

“There is no point given someone a rose to smell if you cut off their nose.” Indian Proverb

“Never sacrifice a relationship in order to win an argument.” Chief Alan Brunacini

Consider our history, we have grown and changed constantly over the years. Each change was difficult but necessary. What we don’t want to happen in the process of change is to disregard the collective wisdom of our peers in the process. There are many fire service veterans and leaders who have been shunned and talked down to and for that we should be ashamed of ourselves.

“As passengers on the airplane we are trying to kill the pilot.” Chief Pete Lamb

We should be trying to explain our point of view and not merely trying to silence someone else’s.

Perhaps if we came to the table with a less defensive posture and took the time to read the other side of the story rather than quoting the parts that inflame and enrage others we would be already moving forward.

Perhaps if we seek to understand our fellow firefighters opinion and views rather than condemn them we might be progressing instead of tearing down the very foundations of the fire service that we each know and love?

“Seek first to understand than to be understood.” Saint Francis

As instructors, leader’s, and fire service professionals let us consider one another’s views, educate ourselves as much about their perspective and we may find the bridge to change lies in being more understanding to one another.

In closing, let us be positive agents for change, build others up, and not assassinate one another in the process. We do everything together in the fire service; let us not forget that.

“An opposing view isn’t a reason to attack, it’s an opportunity to build a relationship.”

Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

IMG_5631.JPG

Leadership-The Trap of Ambition

This is what the world says to us all: Just one more…and that will be enough.

As one who is pursuing the role and great responsibility of leadership it is important to conduct a size-up of ones self. What are our underlying motivations to become a leader?

To make a difference or to affirm ourself?

Is it power, Is it wealth, Is it recognition, Or Is it control?

Understand this:

One who is called to a position of leadership will never be able to quench the inner fire that burns within them. Nothing we will ever do, ever buy, consume or experience will bring us settled assurance.

Only God can bring us peace. Only through Jesus Christ can the void within our heart be filled and the scars of our past be healed. Yet with this knowledge freely given to us, we pursue the perishable.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we lose sight of heaven and only see the here and now.

Emotions, inner drive, a desire to make a profound impact in the world all can spur one forward to revolutionize the world around them.

Yet in the pursuit of excellence, what was lost?

What did we truly gain and at what expense?

What if we stood at the gates of heaven at birth and have spent our entire lives running away from it?

“Every calling involves sacrifice” writes Chuck Swindoll. The key is to understanding this is to know whose calling are we answering: God’s or our own?

Our own calling will be wrapped up neatly so it looks worthy of the sacrifices we will make but underneath it all lays the ugly truth:

We are doing this for ourselves and ourselves alone.

“Our gains are mostly external while our losses are internal. Since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions it maybe that our gains are but losses spread over a wider field.” A.W. Tozer

“Our gains are but losses spread over a wider field.” Ponder that statement for a moment…

Our gains: Success, notoriety, wealth, accolades for a momentous achievement, status…

How shallow is the waters of our gains while “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33)

Each and every man and woman who pursues excellence needs to be aware of this danger. For our focus to remain steadfast, our principles uncompromising, and our beliefs unshaken each one must constantly be about the business of taking a long look in the mirror throughout their journey.

We must ask ourselves:

Why are we doing this? For man or For God?

Have we changed during this process? (good/bad)

Are we becoming closer to the world and a mere acquaintance to our spouse and children?

Have we grown closer to God or the more we achieve the more we shy away from Him?

What is the cost of all of this?

Are we willing to pay it?

After conducting our assessment, we must repeat the following:

“The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants.” A.W. Tozer

Going back to the cause of our spiritual losses and correcting them isn’t done in arrogance; It is done out of a ‘broken and contrite heart’ because we have ‘felt the inner weight of self accusation and it is more than we can bear” (A.W. Tozer)

When we pursue wisdom and knowledge, no matter how pure our first intentions may be, we must understand how dangerous it is. “It is like a hot drink, that you may able to sip it but handle it any other way it would scald you.” (Ravi Zacharias)

To remain humble is to remember that our strong desire to discover knowledge is the mark of wisdom not a guarantee that we cannot be corrupted by it.

The devil fell from Heaven because he too fell victim to this corruption. He was the protector of the glory of God and in his foolish ambition he thought he could take the glory of God for his own. And in trying to do so, he fell from heaven along with 1/3rd of the angels.

Let us learn from this and as we pursue knowledge and wisdom, let us not be tempted, and in our foolish pride be thrown down to the depths while harming those around us by our fall.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”
Proverbs 9:10

Notice that the fear of the Lord is the beginning wisdom not the pinnacle of it and the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding. Wisdom is the gift of Godly guidance; understanding is the application of this gift. As believers in Christ, we must strive to stay focused on the ‘knowledge of the Holy’ and not let the world’s wisdom drive us astray.

Each and every individual will climb their own mountains of adversity in search of what drives them. They will strive, fall, climb again, and finally reach the top only to find another mountain even greater than the last. Understanding that God is our source, God is our strength, and it is through God that we are made wise; this will give us the knowledge that doesn’t disappoint. His wisdom will not lead us astray and will never leave us orphaned.

The Application:

Those who are climbing the ladders of success should stop and conduct an honest assessment to understand their motivations.

For if our motivations aren’t pure, our methods may be unethical, and our ‘gains may be but losses spread over a wider field’.(A.W.T)

As we climb these ladders set before us in life we must strive to remain humble, to stay teachable, and to never compromise our principles or beliefs for the sake of an outcome. We must stop and check the locks to ensure we are climbing with certainty.

We must not prostitute ourselves on the altar of success only to find the goal leaves us unfulfilled and we move on to the next worldly ambition.

If it is our hearts desire to make a difference; to embrace the calling of the Holy Spirit then we should do so.

We can stay focused on the goal by keeping our eyes on Christ through disciplined study, fervent prayer, and stay in the deep waters of accountable individuals. Otherwise, we may find ourselves falling into the world’s trap of never enough.

His grace is enough and He will give us the desires of our heart. For He made our heart; who knows us better?

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Leadership: What’s Our Motivation?

It is apparent that leadership is a hot topic in the fire service today. One quick search on the internet reveals that leadership is something that is written about, lectured on, and taught on many different levels across our nation. Why is it that leadership is such a “hot topic”? Perhaps because it is painfully absent it most places. In this series we will address a definition of leadership that will set us apart.

Let us begin:

“What a waste to try to change their behavior without truly understanding the driving needs that cause such a behavior! Yet millions of people spend a lifetime searching for love, acceptance, and success without understanding the need that compels them.” (The Search for Significance pg 11)

Leadership is establishing a direction and influencing others to follow that direction. By definition, Leadership is an influence process. So in order for us to lead we must first understand what is it that drives to do so. What is our motivation to be a leader? Is it for recognition or monetary reasons? Is our ego pushing us to lead or is it out of your devotion to your family or some deeper calling?

Consider This:
The most effective and important leaders in the Bible had little awareness of the impact their lives had on others. They were too busy obeying God to keep track of their successes. Have you ever noticed that some of the best leaders were the ones that people seemed to naturally gather around? What attracts people to follow someone?

“Good leaders know how to bring the best out of people. They are encourager’s and motivators. They see the target ahead and pursue it.” Charles Specht

Leadership Self Assessment:
Are we someone who motivates others?
Do we look for ways to bring out the best in people?
Are we encouraging more than critical?

These statements are wrapped around one central word “motive”. Leaders who have defined history (in a positive way) are self-less. They are focused on others, their needs, and they see the good in others. A leader with pure motives can see the good in each person and collectively applies those resources in such a way that produces positive outcomes while building up their confidence & camaraderie. This comes from a selfless ambition that begins with a pure heart.

But how do we become a leader?

Take a moment and look at our life. Who are we? What defines us? If our job or title was taken away would us still be significant? Does our salary define your significance or do you measure significance by the lives we touch?
My friends God has made each of us unique. He has a special purpose for each one of his children. If we believe that we cannot make a difference or that we don’t have what it takes then we have not fully trusted completely in Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding-Proverbs 3:5”.

God has left us His word that lists example after example of inadequate, ill-equipped, and fearful individuals who produced miraculous and extraordinary results through God’s power. The Bible lists name after name of those who trusted in God and did great things. For example: Moses was not a good speaker yet God worked through him to speak to the most powerful man in history at that time to free the Israelites. David was the smallest of his brothers but was a “man after God’s own heart”. He became one of the greatest kings who ever lived. Paul was the greatest persecutor of the Christian faith and became the greatest evangelist for the Christian faith writing most of the New Testament.

Why us?

“God has shaped us to serve through your experiences, educations, gifts, personality, passions and relationships. God has people and situations that we are divinely prepared to touch.” (Dave Earley)

The process of becoming a leader started when we were born. Every moment of our life has uniquely prepared us for the circumstances of our future. Our testimony, trials, and tribulations are not just painful memories but “hard life lessons” that have made us stronger. There is no testimony without a test. These lessons will enable us to lift up others around us that are struggling. These difficult experiences, if we will draw from them rather than let them destroy us, can be the reason we are calmer, stronger, and decisive in the face of adversity.

Where is our heart?
“The man or woman who lives only for the love and attention of others is never satisfied, at least not for long. Despite our efforts we will never find lasting fulfilling peace if we must continually prove ourselves to others. Does our sense of self-worth depend upon our status, your title, or our spouse? This void is only meant to be filled by God? Our search for significance should both begin and end with God’s word” (The Search for Significance)

The world we live in seems desperate for constant approval. We are more concerned about the political correctness of society than following our morals and values that are God given. We spend a vast amount of money and resources to impress people that we don’t even know. We dress in fine clothes, live in the largest houses (compared to the rest of the world), and have more material possessions than anyone else in the world.

Yet we are the most depressed, obese, and anxious society in the world. If we have everything than shouldn’t that mean we should be happy? Why is it that our hearts seem to be constantly searching for meaning and fulfillment only to be disappointed yet again by another person, another material possession, or another achievement? Each one seems to leave us emptier than the previous attempt.

Our heart was designed for a purpose. The fulfillment of our heart and peace that we seek will never be found in a person, place, or thing. All of which will eventually disappoint us. This void is only meant to be filled by God. It is cross shaped scar that can only be healed by Jesus. Once our heart is opened to His love our world begins to change. Problems don’t go away but “a peace that passes understanding” fills our heart during life’s storms. We then become a “new creation in Christ Jesus” and this is all due to God’s great love for us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us-Romans 5:8”. We then will “do all things through Christ who gives us strength” (Philippians 4:13-paraphrase)

Leaders who possess the peace of God in their heart will influence others in profound ways. Their motivations are self-less, they want others to succeed, and they will sacrifice and go to great lengths to achieve goals for others. This seems to go against the belief of society today. If we truly want to lead, we truly want to make a difference, and then we must accept the challenge to do the greatest thing we could ever do: “Humble yourself before the Lord and ask God to send you today. Let us be ready to make difference in others’ lives. God is saying to us today : “Be strong & courageous for I am with you”

Let us all lead from a heart motivated by Christ,

God Bless & Stay Encouraged,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries