3 ways fire chiefs can salvage their careers

Dennis Rubin

Humans have an amazing capacity to do monumental things, and that includes royally screwing up.

So, let's assume you've executed a grand career-crusher move. Like an Olympic gymnast sticking a perfect landing, your great blunder was worthy of a "ta-da" and high marks from the judges.

The question becomes, what happens now? Can your career be saved?

13 Career Crushers

The answer depends on the size and nature of the blunder. But also depends on how you handle yourself after the fact.

Here's a three-step approach to getting your career back on track after a crushing blow.

1. Be truthful
The first step is to tell the truth from the start of the investigation or discussion about the behavior in question. If there is a chance of recovery, being honest about the situation is going to be a critical part of the correction process.

Adding a lie on top of running afoul should just about secure termination from any public safety agency. So, the first aspect of the recovery journey is to be honest and take personnel responsibility for your actions.

2. Express remorse
The next step is to express remorse. Both honesty and humility will go a long way towards resolving a major personal misstep. A significant part of remorse includes appreciating the effects of the action along with a pledge to learn from the negative behavior to prevent a repeat performance.

Now, please do not misunderstand this advice. If the person involved in the controversial behavior is not genuinely sorry for their actions and has no intentions of taking corrective action, an apology is worthless.

3. Take your medicine
The final phase of the recovery process is to simply cowboy (cowgirl) up and take responsibility. Own the problem that you caused and be accountable for your actions. Take whatever corrective action that is headed you way without complaint.

This step works best if you have designs on re-entering the work place as a public servant. Not many prospective employers appreciate pending lawsuits or serous performance controversy in one's background. The focus of your efforts should be to get the issue over and settled.

These three steps are simple, easy to remember and an effective process to personal recovery after pulling off a bone-head career-crushing mistake. Of course, it is best to not be in this position in the first place. This comes from understanding the harm that negative behaviors bring and how to avoid them.

Never having to say 'sorry'
This is a perfect time to reiterate that the best discipline is self-discipline. I mentioned this axiom while teaching a training session with Chief Alan Brunacini. Chief Bruno, with his customary quick wit, said, "A person should always be heading towards true north; always check your moral compass."

As was stated in the very first article in this series, one of the expressed goals is to keep folks out of trouble and thinking about the big picture while developing a long-range personal plan for success.

Each career crusher makes for a great training discussion topic that requires little to no preparation. Try investing an hour or so at the fire station dinner table hitting the highlights of each concept and let me know how the session was received.

With a few mouse clicks, the discussion can be expanded to incorporate fire service related examples of both positive and negative behaviors surrounding each element. In fact, this teaching format would lend itself to a friendly competition to locate the most outrageous case study that violates each crusher (it is still difficult to understand the recent sexually violation of a firefighter in Texas).

Never lose site of the expressed goal of this series. Please prevent stupid stuff long before it happens.

Finally, I have produced a four- and eight-hour classroom presentation bringing each crusher concept to life with a corresponding class discussion. If you are interested in the details about hosting or accessing a career crusher program near you, please send me a email.

Until next time, please be safe out there.

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