I want to begin this article by saying that the men and women responding to this incident are professionals. I know many of them personally and have responded to many incidents with them. What I would like to accomplish here is a look at the incident from a behavioral process to better understand why we do, what we do, when we do it.
There is no “tactical” judgement included in this analysis. While there are many things that could have been done differently, that is the case for each and every incident any one of us has ever responded to.
After spending over 25 years between the Fire Service, U.S. Military and the Intelligence Community, I have had the opportunity to work with and train some of the absolute best in the world. In more recent years, that work has extended to high performing business leaders, industry leaders, experts and professional athletes.
In all that I have done and observed, one specific behavioral trait continues to surface as THE DISTINCT FACTOR in how people respond to and navigate through highly stressful, complex situations… and achieve tremendous results. It is the WILLINGNESS to PAUSE in moments of sheer chaos.
In my last few years with the Intelligence community and then running my previous company, we spent a significant amount of time integrating bio-feedback metrics into live action training environments. This enabled us to see both external and internal performance. We were able to observe actions and impact simultaneously which allowed us to provide a depth of understanding to those we worked with.
What we learned was how each of us, without moments of pause and recovery, end up with what I call “The Stacking Effect.” This is where minor moments, stressors or influencers carry an impact on our individual bandwidth and add a mental, emotional or physical loads to our body. At each moment, our internal systems begin to transition our central nervous system in ways to prepare us for the events unfolding. While this is a normal and healthy human response, it will begin to thrust us towards a set of behaviors that limit our ability to observe the surroundings with accuracy and our ability to leverage critical mental capacities required to determine the best course of action.
It is my opinion that this incident is a prime and extreme example of how even the smallest moments of stacking can impact our assessments and decision making.
The truth is, these days we don’t get to run as many fires unless we work in certain urban city departments. This creates a gap for all of us in two ways:
1. A lack of depth in our experience that does not provide the foundational inner workings of memory recall, “dosing” as I like to call it (stress inoculation/stress assimilation) or simply being comfortable in certain environments and situations. The lack of real-world experience limits our innovation and exposure to rapidly changing and often uncontrollable environments.
2. The building of a repository of data points that enable us to using rapid cognitive systems and intuitive abilities to read and assess conditions in order to support more effective decisions in high stress situations.
Across the communities, we are wired to take action. To “get in there” and respond accordingly. There is an expectation of swift action to handle the crisis. Slowing down leads to judgement and criticism from the public and our peers. NOW. (and I make that a complete sentence for a reason) I am not a believer in hanging around, having a conversation and debating what actions need to be taken when the house is on fire. But… NEVER try to overrun your head lights.
You can watch the video, read the report and make your own judgments of this incident, but what it all boils down to, as it has for me in the past and does for so many of us, is a culmination of external influencers coupled with internal processing that leads us down a path of incomplete action and incomplete decision making.
The counter-action to this is “the pause.” Literally taking a few seconds, breathing (in order to balance in the internal systems) and observing the conditions as they exist and applying the 3 foot rule as to assume a predictive posture and forecast what may happen next.
What happens when we apply this process is we anchor ourselves in the present moment. We have the opportunity to see what is right in front of us, as it is, not as it should be or as we’ve been told through various reports. We see things for what they are. We have the opportunity to make our own evaluations and then choose the action based on THOSE conditions we observe.
I recently gave a talk titled Crucial Moments, Critical Decisions at the FireHouse World Conference in Los Angeles and will be delivering it again at the FireHouse Expo in Nashville.
In this conversation we explored the all the factors that inhibit us from successfully negotiating the situation. The number one issue is the willingness to pause. To take that one moment where you assess the situation based on what you see unfolding. We are so often primed to see things, to believe things or to assume things. Like we use to say in some of my former worlds… Trust but Verify.
My favorite quote that supports this idea…
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
– Marcus Aurelius