Post Preview: Firefighters can get the most out of their goals by using SMART principles. This post will cover the different parts of a SMART goal and provide relevant Fire Service related examples. Updated June 2020
Firefighters are busy– between the calls, the training, the planning, the bullshitting- then try to throw in food, showers and sleep and little time is left to research.
But Research can be the most important part!
We know that Firefighters are bigger, better and more efficient than the past and researching new information is a big part of that.
We also know the dangers that firefighters face- there are many dedicated people out there who are collecting data to save our brothers and sisters.
But what if they had never set a goal to save other firefighters?
What if you had never decided to be a firefighter?
You can’t just wake up one day and show up at Nasa and expect them to throw you in a space ship.
No, it takes years of work- but without a PLAN those years could turn into decades.
Goals (and the plans that accompany them) are important parts of achieving success. But that doesn’t mean that they are easy.
So what’s the secret to boosting productivity and reducing the confusion at the beginning of a new project?
One way to set up what you’ve learned and actually get it into application is through SMART goals.
Best part is anyone can use SMART goals, from rookie firefighters to experienced Fire Chiefs.
Why are SMART goals so amazing? It’s not really that they are amazing, it’s that they are practical and easy to use for most applications.
So once you learn how to use a SMART goal for one area, you can apply it to other areas or ideas that need planning to come to life.
It can become your template every time you start a new project.
Once you’ve grasped the concept and applied SMART goals, you can reach success in every goal you set as long as you persevere.
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments- Jim Rohn
You have the discipline, you want the accomplishments, but if you don’t have the goals in a realistic plan, then you will stumble. A project that was supposed to take 5 weeks will take 10- or worse yet, it will never get off the ground.
That is where SMART goals come into play.
What are SMART goals?
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound. I’ll give a brief explanation of each one with the example of hiring 3 new personnel to the department.
Think about the W questions. Who, What, When, Where and Why.
Using those will help you list specific points that are part of your goal. If we use the example of three new hires, we need to think about many things like.
the new hires, HR, their training officers, the county medical director, the chief, where the training will take place, what shift they are assigned to etc.
We are hiring them to staff empty positions, that we need them to be hired in the next three months, and that they will work at B station.
It can be a lot of information, but the beauty of outlining the information is that it can give you a very clear picture of what is initially required at the start of this goal.
You can think of it as a summary, a blue print, or a list. It’s the “must know” information to complete the rest of the steps.
How are you going to measure this goal?
Will it have multiple measurements (like if it takes more than a month, you might have different metrics to evaluate the progress).
If you plan to hire 3 new people, the ultimate measurement is getting them through their year of probation.
But if that is the only thing you measure, you will miss out on other valuable milestones like the hiring process (getting the right people to start with is very important to turnover) and then training them according to your departments standards.
All of those have a measurement that can be recorded here.
It’s it achievable right now? Do you need to have more tools, man power or knowledge to achieve this goal?
Write it all down to get a view of the big picture when the SMART goal is outlined- that way it gives you a realistic view of the requirements and where you need to start.
Sometimes you need more man power, sometimes its training, other times you have everything you need and you just need to say YES- it is achievable.
Also, Don’t quit here if you realize that you need more than what you currently have– anything is achievable with the right plan and attitude.
If you can’t do it right now, put your SMART goal up on the wall or in a folder so you can reference it when the time is right (and you will have most of the planning outlined!)
This goal should tie into the theme that your Fire Department is trying to accomplish.
If you are looking to hire three new people, you don’t want to put them all through medic school at the same time.
So consider hiring people that are already medics, or a mix of EMT’s and Medics.
Set relevant goals that apply right now. If you want to list others for the three new hires (like what they would be able to achieve their first year of probation without getting overwhelmed ) you would create a new SMART goal for that.
So one for them to get hired and one for them to get through probation. They will feed off of each other, but they wont be the same.
You have to have a time component. You have to have accountability. I wrote a post on Easy Time Management Tips here.
This can be tricky because someone that doesn’t believe in the goal will give it too much extra time, whereas someone that is overly ambitious will underestimate the amount of work required to achieve good results.
You can combat this by making a time line visual in this area- don’t just pick “3 weeks” and call it a day.
If you want to hire 3 new people think about everything involved.
Sending the call out, the application process, the hiring process, the new hire training- each of those has a specific time component that needs to be recognized with some leeway built in place.
If you aren’t sure about those time frames, talk to someone that could give you a better understanding of what might be involved.
The worst thing you can do is drastically under or overestimate a goal. You cant hire three new medics in a week, and you don’t want to wait a year (unless that’s what the budget calls for).
You Achieve SMART success in several ways. The first is by simply setting a goal and applying the SMART principle. ( a goal without a plan is just a wish)
Then as you hit milestones along the way, and stay true to your original goal, you are on the way to finishing the goal.
Continue to measure your goal, continue to remind yourself why, and if you have a solid plan- you will have success.
Find accountability here by having a mastermind group (the chief and other lieutenants OR a group of ambitious firefighters OR your spouse OR a good friend). You don’t want to get too many hands in the pot, so pick one to two trusted people to help you with your SMART goals.
SMART goal examples for Firefighters
I wanted to include a few different SMART goals. These Firefighter goal examples are important for several reasons.
For one, they help new Firefighters with goal setting. And for two, they can help to make sure Firefighters of all levels are setting tangible, reachable goals for their individual lives and the department.
I’ve included two basic goals- one with an extended time component.
We know that delayed gratification is good- patience is a virtue. BUT it is certainly not easy!
One is much more basic, then the other is basic but it has a long time component. The time is what could throw people off when they look at a goal.
The last is a more complex SMART goal for those in a leadership position, because dealing with different personalities and convincing them to change (especially in the Fire Service) can be a challenge.
Example Basic Firefighter SMART Goals
Goal- Memorize the truck
Specific- I want to be able to know where all the supplies are on the truck. This includes tools, medical bags and equipments, hoses, gear, and everything else on the master check list.
Measurable- I will be tested on the truck- what is in each compartment. It is either PASS or FAIL.
Achievable- Yes, I can take pictures of each compartment and make a copy of the master list so I can know where everything is at. I can practice on and off shift.
Relevant- Yes, It’s a requirement for the job. Not only that, but if I don’t know where tools and equipment is, I jeopardize my brothers and any life and property we are trying to save.
Time Bound– I have two months to complete this with other basic training requirements. I want to have this done at the 6 week mark so I can have a practice test. That way I have a 2 week safe guard in place if I make a mistake. Then I can reevaluate my goals and make additions as needed.
(time intensive) Goal- Become Firefighter of the Year
Specific– I want to become Firefighter of the Year for B County Fire Rescue. I know that I have to beat out 60 other eligible Firefighters.
Measurable– I will compare myself against the diagnostic criteria put out by the Chief.
– I know that I can’t have any disciplinary action
-I need to take a leadership role and stay in good standing with the department
-I also plan to volunteer for events, and be more active in the Union
I will measure my actions to make sure that they line up with the departments mission.
Achievable- Yes, but I need to work on my leadership skills. I plan to read some books, talk to some senior lieutenants and attend a leadership workshop. I will also volunteer for any open committees so that I can have the opportunity to showcase my leadership skills. I will follow the motto, “Leadership is shown, not discussed”.
Relevant- Yes, I have been on staff three years, the minimum requirement to make Firefighter of the year. I have had no disciplinary action and I want to become a stand in lieutenant in the next few years. This would give me an advantage.
Time Bound– I know that I have ONE year to make this happen, possibly less as they might make the decision a month ahead of time. I also have to consider other firefighters who might be trying to get this title, so I plan to have a monthly review to evaluate where I stand on my goals.
Lieutenant/Chief SMART goal
Goal- Set up a New Mandatory Fitness Routine
Specific– Change current Fitness Routine to “XYZ Fitness on Shift” This will apply to all shifts at B County Fire Rescue in the next 3 months. This Fitness routine is best for Firefighters to ensure appropriate training even if they don’t train off shift.
This would be a boost for our fitness program and the requirements we have to train our Firefighters. Each of the LT’s will be accountable for their shift, they will have to go through a one day training routine.
Measurable- The current Fitness Routine will be phased out in the next 6 weeks, with 6 weeks to enact the new XYZ fitness routine. Firefighters will be tested on the basic components (not advanced) at the end of the 3 month cycle.
Once they have passed the basic test, they will be allowed to proceed with advanced XYZ training. Those that fail will have 2 months to complete the basic training.
All Firefighters, including those who are out on leave, will be required to have passed the basic XYZ fitness routine by the 6 month mark, or they will receive disciplinary action as outline in our Employee Handbook, section on Mandatory Fitness Requirements.
I will make up a test page that has requirements, times and amounts so that it isn’t biased. It will be pass or fail.
Achievable– XYZ training comes with many recommendations and accolades. They have a proven track record for helping firefighters complete the most training only while training on shift days.
They also offer full fitness routines for everyday use, which we will consider after the initial implementation.
We received this training as part of a grant- as long as the union doesn’t object it will go into effect on the start date. I have spoken with the Union President and it looks to be approved at the next meeting.
Relevant- 2 of our Firefighters failed their Fitness test last month. It is essential that all of our Firefighters are kept up to date with training and able to pull their own weight.
While many of our Firefighters oppose the change to a structure Fitness Routine, the other Half is excited to embrace it- we hope that it makes it easier for our people to stay in shape.
Time Bound– Once approved, we plan to spend the first six weeks training the lieutenants on the new program. After the one day training we will have six weeks to fully implement the Basic XYZ fitness regime.
At the end of the 3 months all Firefighters will be tested on the basic fitness test included with the program. Those that fail will have 2 months to retest, those that don’t can move on to the advanced portion of the training.
Firefighter SMART goals, with practice, can become an easy way to outline most goals and time based assignments.
This will allow encourage organization and accountability within the fire service, a crucial aspect of productivity.
Change is not always easy- but it is necessary and it will happen regardless of how many people complain.
Why not make it effective and well planned with SMART goals.
Please let me know if you have any questions about smart goals, I’d love to know how you plan to use them at work and in home life. You can comment below, send me an email or reach out on social media!