A few years ago, I had the good fortune to meet and collaborate with Matt Pegg, Toronto's Fire Chief. At the time, he was the Deputy Chief, and tasked with helping guide Toronto Fire Services through some challenging budget cuts imposed by City Hall. Since that time, Matt was asked to step up the ladder, hose in hand and take the helm. In spite of the ever increasing complexities that come with urban vertical growth and densification, he and his entire team have been transforming and enhancing the way critical fire fighting and life saving services are delivered in Toronto.
Below are Matt's thoughts on "Leadership", in an article he wrote that appears in the May 2019 issue of Fire Fighting in Canada Magazine.
"It never ceases to amaze me when and where leadership lessons present themselves.
Some of the lessons I learn come as a result of mistakes that I make. Others come from learning from the experience and wisdom of others. And, some lessons come in the form of positive reinforcement, when something that initially seems simple and rather unimportant turns into a powerful reminder of what leadership is.
I want to share one such experience with you. This lesson in leadership emerged in the most unexpected of places – in the pouring rain.
By protocol, I am not expected to respond to a fire until it progresses to the 5th alarm level. However, I have a tendency to respond to significant and complex incidents long before they reach these levels. I believe strongly that senior officers must connect with the media quickly in order to be the face and voice of their fire service, and to begin to bring a sense of calm to the community during times of emergency.
We must also ensure that effective command structures are in place and that we are doing everything reasonable to protect both our crews and the public we serve.
One such incident occurred on the shores of Lake Ontario when a massive, middle-of-the-night recycling plant fire eventually escalated to a full six alarms. I was on scene by the time the fire hit the 4th alarm level and began to assume my two primary roles at these incidents; connect with the media and connect with our people on scene.
On this particular night, the weather was horrendous. Driving rain, strong and cold winds and reduced visibility made an already difficult night even worse for our crews as they fought this difficult and dangerous blaze.
I had just finished one of many media scrums of the night and was walking back towards the command post. I was completely drenched. In fact, I could have jumped into Lake Ontario and not been any wetter. On my way back to the command post, I was able to speak with and shake the hands of exhausted firefighters as they found a much-needed hot drink and some shelter from the rain in the rehab sector.
I stopped to talk with one firefighter, who was equally drenched, obviously cold and far more exhausted. He shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why are you out here? It is awful. Don’t you have somewhere warm and dry you can be?”
To be honest, I was stunned. That was the last thing that I expected to hear from him that night.
I simply shook his hand and said, “If you can work in this, so can I.”
I thanked him for his hard work and moved on down the line of exhausted firefighters and then made my way back into the mobile command post.
A few weeks later, I received a note from that firefighter. He explained how he was shocked that the fire chief would be in front of the media in the cold, driving rain and would take the time to shake his hand and thank him for his hard work at a fire.
He ended his note by thanking me for showing him that what he and his crew do matters to me. In his final sentence, he thanked and explained how much “showing up” means to our crews.
Just like that, I was reminded of a powerful leadership truth. The power of “showing up,” especially when it isn’t comfortable to do so, is immeasurably important to our people.
I remembered how much that meant to me when I was an exhausted firefighter in need of rest and hydration. How easy it would be to forget that, now that I have the privilege of rank.
I set very high expectations for myself and for our senior officer team, especially when it comes to being engaged in serious incidents that happen in our city. When we are placed into senior leadership roles, we accept considerable responsibilities, none of which stop or start within a defined set of work hours and none of which are limited to comfortable, sunny days.
One of my mentors taught me that the more difficult it is for a leader to do something, the more important it is that it be done.
On that miserable night, in the pouring rain, I was reminded that being a leader is not a spectator sport. Being a leader is about being engaged, involved and present when it matters most.
After all, firefighters don’t melt. Neither do fire chiefs."
Matthew Pegg is the chief with Toronto Fire Services, having previously served in Georgina, Ajax and Brampton, Ont. Follow him on Twitter at @ChiefPeggTFS.
To view the original article in "Fire Fighting in Canada" magazine, click here.
A while ago, my daughter asked me to help coach her for an upcoming Summer job interview. Who better to ask than her Dad, the consummate executive search professional, right? Well, it just so happens, a Forbes Magazine article from a few years back happened to cross my desk again, and just in time. I thought I’d re-ePost it as I never tire of its simplicity:
The only three true job interview questions are:
1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you love the job?
3. Can we tolerate working with you?
That’s it. Those three. Think back, every question you’ve ever posed to others or had asked of you in a job interview is a subset of a deeper in-depth follow-up to one of these three key questions. Each question may be asked using different words, but every question, however it is phrased, is just a variation on one of these topics: Strengths, Motivation, and Fit.
1. Can You Do the Job? – Strengths
It’s not just about the technical skills, but also about leadership and interpersonal strengths. Technical skills help you climb the ladder. As you get there, managing up, down, and across become more important.
“You can’t tell by looking at a piece of paper what some of the strengths and weaknesses really are… We ask for specific examples of not only what’s been successful but what they’ve done that hasn’t gone well or a task they’ve, quite frankly, failed at and how they learned from that experience and what they’d do different in a new scenario.”
Not only is it important to look at the technical skill set they have… but also the strengths on what I call the EQ side of the equation in terms of getting along and dealing or interacting with people.
2. Will You Love the Job? - Motivation
The changing nature of motivation:
“… younger employees do not wish to get paid merely for working hard — just the reverse: they will work hard because they enjoy their environment and the challenges associated with their work…. Executives who embrace this new management style are attracting and retaining better employees.”
3. Can We Tolerate Working With You? – Fit
The importance of cultural fit:
“A lot of it is cultural fit and whether they are going to fit well into the organization… The perception is that when (senior leaders) come into the firm, a totally new environment, they know everything. And they could do little things such as send emails in a voicemail culture that tend to negatively snowball over time. Feedback or onboarding is critical. If you don’t get that feedback, you will get turnover later on.”
Referencing a global consulting firm's study of 20,000 executive searches:
“40 percent of senior executives leave organizations or are fired or pushed out within 18 months. It’s not because they’re dumb; it’s because a lot of times culturally they may not fit in with the organization or it’s not clearly articulated to them as they joined.”
Preparing for Interviews
If you’re the one doing the interviewing, get clear on what strengths, motivational and fit insights you’re looking for before you go into your interviews. If you’re the one being interviewed, prepare by thinking through examples that illustrate your strengths, what motivates you about the organization and role you’re interviewing for, and the fit between your own preferences and the organization’s Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment (BRAVE). But remember that interviews are exercises in solution selling. They are not about you. Think of the interview process as a chance for you to show your ability to solve the organization and interviewer’s problem. That’s why you need to highlight strengths in the areas most important to the interviewers, talk about how you would be motivated by the role’s challenges, and discuss why you would be a BRAVE fit with the organization’s culture.
– from Forbes, April 27, 2011. To view the original article, click here.