News & Media

Breaking barriers

By: Volunteerism

Category: People, Training & Recruitment

  6.21 PM 24 April, 2014

Location: General

Views: 3344

Most team building sessions include an ice-breaking activity, but participants in a special leadership program run by the Chief went one step further in breaking through a 6-inch board, martial arts style.

This second session of the Chief Officer’s Leadership Development Program saw 20 CFA members – both current and future leaders – gathered at South Morang for two days of practical exercises, discussion and inspiration, including the ‘breaking barriers’ session which worked through warm-ups, grappling and self-defence moves.

Toolern Vale firefighter Craig Dunshea said that the opportunity “bought back memories of watching ‘The Samurai’ in the 60s and 70s”. 

According to CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson, reflection, thought and study are on a par with physical or practical skills when it comes to leadership.  Five months on from the first session in November, he started off by asking the team how their actions during the fire season had been influenced. 

Care of his team and communication with their families were top of mind for Rick Ventrelli of Mt Evelyn Fire Brigade, who had taken the step of reading Martina Jewell’s book ‘Caught in the Crossfire’ over summer.

Rick said that what hit home for him was that through all of her changing environments and circumstances, Martina Jewell had always kept within the chain of command.  

“In the most adverse situations, Martina’s priorities remained foremost for the location, safety and welfare of her fellow Peacekeepers,” he said. 

Euan also touched on the importance of tribes working together – not against each other – for a common goal, something he demonstrated by showing clips from the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and drawing connections with our own brigade, volunteer and career firefighter ‘tribes’.

Euan also introduced the team to his ‘Rules of Engagement’ philosophies which include:

  • Never sacrafice your values
  • Act fairly, honestly and with integrity – always and in all ways.
  • And so it is that the person at the front line is the most important person in the hierarchy.  Everyone else exists to support them.
  • We work in teams.  Cooperation is about everyone kicking in the same direction.
  • Refelct on what Sun Tzu says: "Regard your soldiers as your childern, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death"
  • Always eat a good breakfast

Said Beechworth firefighter Sandon Allen: “No matter what our rank or position we all have the protection of people at our heart,” adding that the ‘Rules of Engagement’ gave him an insight into the way a senior leader of CFA thinks and acts. 

Another highlight of the session came from guest speaker Mark McKeon (Collingwood Football Club fitness coach).

“Recovery is something many of us don’t do properly, without recovering properly we can never build resilience,” he said, advising the group to stay connected with people around them, have a passion outside CFA at least twice a week and to ensure a good sleep by allowing enough wind down time and avoiding heavy foods.

Mark also talked about how different personality types communicate and interact, a concept which resonated with Karen Woodhart of Portarlington Fire Brigade, who said that a sign of a good natural leader was someone who could sum people up quickly.

“Knowing how the different personality types think is another great tool for an effective leader,” she said.

Leadership program participants are now working with their mentors on areas of leadership and communication they feel they need to develop further.

The Chief Officer’s Leadership Development Program is an eight month training program personally facilitated by CFA’s Chief Officer Euan Ferguson.  Funded by OT&V, 21 participants from across the state are taking part in the inaugural program developed to enhance and broaden members’ understanding, capability and confidence as CFA leaders.  The program offers a unique insight into personal leadership styles of senior leaders.

The final session will be held in June 2014.

Last Updated: 27 May 2014