If you have a situation that does not need immediate action, you can follow the Leader’s Problem Solving Model, LPSM. LPSM is a framework that takes behavioral theories and leader strategies along with your knowledge and experience to navigate the situation and create an action plan. This model is simple, but not something you follow just once to solve all your personnel problems. You must live out this model as a leader of your team or organization.
To start, you have to identify what is occurring within your organization. You need to know what is happening in your station. Learn what your team talks about at the water cooler. If you don’t know what the problem truly is, then all your knowledge of behavioral theories and leader strategies is useless moving forward.
“Triggers are anything that
compels a leader to act.”
From there you have to identify the involved parties, which may be more people than you initially think. Involved parties include those involved and anyone who observed or witnessed the problem or incident; however, it may also include those affected. For example, if a group of firefighters are at a bar watching a football game when suddenly things get heated and turns into a bar scuffle, not only are the firefighters and those they fought involved parties, but so are the civilians who witnessed the fight, the bar, and the community.
After you identify what is occurring and the involved parties, you have to identify areas of interest or triggers. Triggers are anything that compels a leader to act. This is why it is important to know your people, because if they aren’t working to their potential you have to know if they are really being lazy or is there something else going on? Is this going to compel you to take immediate action?
Understanding your people’s behavior is critical, and not just as a group but each individual. For those that have multiple children, you know that each of them is very different. So when one of your children does something wrong, do you lock them in their room for ten years? Probably not, but when someone at work has a mishap do you shun them for ten years and keep them in the outs? With our children we would teach them the consequences of their actions, and very few supervisors have this mentality with subordinates. So why do we push people out instead of trying to bring them back and communicate with them? There is a difference between someone not being fit and you giving up on them. Just because you’re a supervisor or captain, doesn’t mean you don’t care for those you were once equals with.
Knowing and understanding underlying nuances of the problem will help you create an action plan. Creating your action plan isn’t going to happen in one day, but takes thought over time. You’re not going to walk around the fire station with a LAFD Leadership Academy handbook. LPSM is a guide to help you navigate what is happening around you, because these issues may be occurring in your station everyday. For example, the issue may fall under adult development theory as you have friction between a 28-year-old kid and a 40-year-old in midlife transition, so you should analyze where each involved party is in their life and their different objectives based on that.
If the issue calls for corrective action that part is being handled, but there is still the byproduct and shrapnel of the problem that you have to manage as a leader. The behavioral theories and leadership strategies help you navigate the problem, but you have to come up with an action plan that is obtainable and realistic. What are you really going to do to get a person or the entire organization back on track?
What is as important as creating the action plan is assessing and reassessing the action plan you have created. After you build the action plan, how does it shape out? You have to follow through and may have to make some course corrections along the way.
This leads to the single most important piece of the LPSM. If you have a behavioral or personnel issue, first, you must self reflect. “Check your ego at the door,” it is posted on the wall at the LAFD Leadership Academy. Take your bad pride and bring humility and assess and reassess your action plan. Usually when a problem occurs we want to be reactive instead of self-reflecting and assessing. Our egos get in the way, and emotionally based decisions usually don’t work out well and actually add to the problem.
LPSM is a simple model that works, but it takes work to implement. You must live the LPSM, preventing and fixing problems before they happen and having the courage to act when your people need you. That’s when you are living as a leader.
By Alicia Iwakiri, adapted from the LAFDLA presentation of Craig Poulson and Jason Powell