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Company officer tips for staying motivated on the job

Keys to motivation include developing a vision, building a support system and changing bad behaviors


As a company officer, you will have to determine what motivates members of your company.


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No matter how many years you spend in a leadership position on a fire department, staying motivated is the common factor among those who are high-achievers.

As a company officer, you will have to determine what motivates members of your company. This will take some effort but will pay dividends in your ability to lead people effectively. It’s important to remember that everyone is different; the technique that motivates one firefighter may have little or no motivational effect on others within the same company. And what works for them may be different than what motivates you.

Identify the “key-holder”

One of the major frustrations for all of us is when we face roadblocks to progress that are thrown up to slow, stop or derail an idea. As a company officer, you will need to recognize those obstacles and learn how to remove them or work around them.

An essential role for a leader is to determine who at the organization holds the “key” to progress. The key is often held by one person, and they can either use their key to unlock the door to progress or keep the key in their pocket, thereby stopping you in your tracks.

Develop a vision for the future

We will always face roadblocks, and part of managing them involves how we manage the outside forces that are all around us, impacting our day-to-day lives. We are all controlled by outside forces, and these outside forces actually have more control as you promote up your chain of command. Company officers who develop a vision for what they are trying to accomplish have a better chance at success, as they have more control over their own destiny. Without a clear vision, outside forces are more likely to take control of your life.

Key to this is keeping the desired results in sight. If your superiors learn that you become frustrated when roadblocks are thrown in your way, they will sometimes throw a roadblock not necessarily to stop you but to gauge if you are serious about the idea or task you have proposed. Do not let the fear of failure stop you from having the freedom to choose the destiny you desire.

Understand the positive role of failure

True motivation is not only a learned skill; it is developed due to a need or desire to make dreams a reality. Failure can be a huge motivational tool. Failure can create motivation to overcome that failure. None of us likes to fail, but no one ever became successful without prior failures. Zig Ziglar says, “failure is an event, not a life.” Failure is a byproduct of imagination and creativity. It challenges you to take risks and teaches you to keep trying until you get it right.

Avoid procrastination

The fear of failure is a common factor among those who procrastinate. If you want to succeed in reaching your goals, you must be willing to take a risk and lose. Overcoming procrastination habits is perhaps one of the most important steps you can take to improve your internal motivation. Get into the habit of finishing what you start. An unfinished project is of no value.

Identify supporters vs. energy-suckers

Find support through friends, acquaintances and coworkers. If you surround yourself with motivated, visionary people, you will naturally develop the attributes that helped them get that way. Mutual interests and like-minded associates can be excellent motivational tools.

Company officers who are not motivated but just hang around are what I refer to as energy-suckers, who can suck the life right out of you. They are the kind of person who has nothing good to say about anyone or anything. Avoid those kinds of people at all costs.

Set goals, big and small, that support your dreams

Develop a major goal but take a specified path to get there. You’ll have many smaller goals to reach before you get to the final result. By learning to accomplish these smaller goals, you’ll be motivated to take on the larger challenges.

The power of your dreams is the primary factor in becoming motivated. Productivity will be the result of developing habits and attitudes that keep you on the right track. By changing bad habits and focusing on your specific goals, motivation will come to you, even when you wish you could quit and times are tough.

Put it all together

Many people trade joy, satisfaction and fulfillment for a job that is considered conventional and safe. The unfulfilling job is not the failure; not pursuing your dreams is the real failure. Developing a vision requires conquering your fears and finding motivation from within. The individual who is extremely motivated and successful has been motivated by a vision.

By identifying the behaviors that you need to change, developing a vision of what you would like to achieve, and striving to attain that goal, you will become a naturally motivated, highly efficient and productive person.

The quest for freedom is the basis for motivation. Total freedom is not necessarily desirable or possible, but the pursuit of that ideal is what motivates us to succeed.

You have to let go of your old personality and ways of doing old things to change, so quit procrastinating and get motivated!


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This article, originally published in 2019, has been updated.

Chief John M. Buckman III served 35 years as fire chief for the German Township (Indiana) Volunteer Fire Department, and 15 years as director of the fire and public safety academy for the Indiana State Fire Marshal Office. He is the Director of Government and Regional Outreach for Buckman is a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and a co-founder of the IAFC Volunteer and Combination Officers Section. In 1996, Fire Chief Magazine named Buckman Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year. Buckman is an accomplished photographer, a co-author of the Lesson Learned from Fire-Rescue Leaders, and the editor of the Chief Officers Desk Reference. He is also the owner of Wildfire Productions. Buckman is a member of the Fire Chief/FireRescue1 Editorial Advisory Board. Connect with Chief Buckman on LinkedIn or via email.