Mentorship match: ISFSI program connects firefighters around the globe

New mentoring and coaching initiative uses dynamic technology to support member growth

Coaching and mentoring are essential ingredients to bridging generational gaps and building high-performing teams. This is why approximately 70% of Fortune 500 Companies provide their employees with the opportunity to participate in such a program.

The value of coaching and mentorship is no different for members of the fire service.

Unfortunately, the work involved in developing and implementing a formal mentoring program can be daunting, time-consuming and costly. The International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) is working to bridge this gap.

Identifying a purpose and bridging the gap

The ISFSI is launching a Mentoring and Coaching Initiative that offers a superior professional networking framework to connect ISFSI members for project-based and/or position-based feedback, guidance and professional growth.

The Initiative is designed to eliminate traditional boundaries, barriers and limitations to formal mentoring programs. Specifically, the initiative will leverage technology in an innovative and dynamic fashion to link fire service educators around the globe.

This initiative has long been in the sights of the ISFSI and is the product of countless hours spent researching, identifying, and building a successful and sustainable framework for formal mentoring that was also accessible to every member.

Differentiating coaching and mentoring

Before we detail how the Initiative works, it is important to understand that coaching and mentoring are two separate concepts. Both are necessary components to professional development, but each one plays a specific role in identifying and closing performance gaps.

Coaching supports a learner in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. Coaching is often focused on the development of hard skills, which include the requisite knowledge and abilities for job-related tasks.

Mentoring is a supportive relationship focused on learning and development over time, intended to support individuals to fulfil their potential. Mentoring is geared toward the development of soft skills, which involve the personal qualities that allow one to flourish personally and professionally. This process focuses on our emotional intelligence, aka EQ, in addition to our IQ.

Formal mentoring pairs a mentor and mentee to improve employee engagement, ensure succession planning, and improve alignment with the mission of the organization. Additionally, both mentees and mentors are more likely to experience a promotion following participation in a formal mentoring program.

How the Initiative works

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Becoming a new instructor, assuming the role of training officer, writing an article for publication or submitting a presentation can be challenging and intimidating processes. During work on such goals, it helps to have a trusted network of professionals to provide coaching, guidance and mentoring.

The ISFSI Mentoring and Coaching Initiative uses objective-based criteria that allows the organization to connect each of our members, from the Netherlands to Alaska, and everywhere in between. Further, the entire matching and communication process is dynamic in nature and provides timely, flexible and consistent feedback.

The initiative can be used to facilitate various “mentoring tiers,” such as single-session and multiple-session events. Single-session events may include the review of an article, presentation, curriculum vitae, or similar interaction. Multiple-session events include a new promotion, professional credentialing, developing a training program, or any other job performance requirement (JPR) as outlined in NFPA 1041: Standard for Fire and Emergency Services Instructor Professional Qualifications.

Mentors will be vetted by the ISFSI and will receive valuable training on how to improve their coaching and mentoring skills in addition to learning how to use the third-party software that makes the program possible. Prospective mentees are matched with mentors based on the type of guidance that is being requested through the initial survey that was used to determine the focus area(s).

Once paired, both parties enter into a formal mentoring agreement that outlines the intended outcome as well as the strategy and tactics needed to meet realize the objective. From this point on, the goal is to build a collaborative relationship through a variety of communication methods, including video conferencing, a personalized chat room and a personal file-sharing library. All of the communication is conducted directly through our software provider, providing a one-stop-shop for all of your mentoring needs.

As the relationship continues, both parties have the ability to reflect, review and revise any component of the mentoring process. This ensures that the strategy and tactics are aligned with the desired outcome at all times.

Upon the completion of the formal mentoring relationship, feedback will be collected to gauge the effectiveness of the program. This feedback is essential to the continuous improvement of the ISFSI Mentoring and Coaching Initiative.

Getting started with mentorship

Those seeking formal mentoring or coaching simply have to be a member of the ISFSI. This allows you to begin the formal mentoring process by registering for the program. Note: There is no added fee for current ISFSI members. The annual membership dues provide access to every aspect of the initiative.

Stay tuned for additional information and updates regarding the Initiative. This is only the beginning, and we will continue to strive to meet the needs of our membership and the collective fire service.

Additional information can be found at

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