Becoming “Fully Involved”: Tennessee Style

fitn (4)On May 31st, I travelled down to Rhea County, Tennessee to attend the Fully Involved Leadership seminar by Mark vonAppen. As many of you are aware, I have been a big follower of Cpt. vonAppen’s work for quite some time. He is a very passionate Captain with Palo Alto Fire in California, and he truly “get’s it!” Cpt. vonAppen has developed a training seminar out of his experiences throughout his career, and travels the country to share these experiences with others. vonAppen is a very humble member of the fire service, and has the mind set that he is not creating any new information. He has, however, developed the material into a very simple format that helps stoke the fire that many need to help them better themselves as well as their department.

The Big 4

Do your job.

Treat People Right.

Give an all out effort.

Have an all in attitude.

Cpt. vonAppen lead off with asking a few very good questions. What is the biggest problem that the fire service is facing across the country? LEADERSHIP is the answer. Cpt. vonAppen talked about the fact that “help is not on the way,” and helped drive home the fact that it is up to each of us to change this! You do not have to be at the top to LEAD, and that just by providing an “all out effort and an all in attitude” you can LEAD others to strive forward.

Planning for, and overcoming failure creates the type of critical thinking skills that allow us to stay ahead of the ever-changing fireground. -Cpt. vonAppen

As the day progressed, Cpt. vonAppen continued to share stories from his career and shared knowledge that he had gained throughout it as well. He covered the differences between a LEADER and a MANAGER. We discussed how important mentors are, and how underutilized they are throughout the fire service. Many of the topics discussed hit home, almost as if Cpt. vonAppen was a coworker of mine. Even though he is not on the “right” side of the country, he made it known that he is looking to make a difference by sharing with those of us in class.

In the afternoon, he passed out a list of expectations that he uses in his firehouse, which was passed along to him from his father and former professional football coach, Fred vonAppen. As a group, we all discussed our interpretation of the 10 items that were on each list, and the important factors that should be discussed at our own firehouses following the seminar. While I am not going to post the items in this article, it is very important that you know the capabilities of the firefighters and officers that you work with, and to be sure that the expectations between your crew are known.

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This is just a small amount of the information and knowledge that was taken away from Fully Involved Leadership. The seminar is fairly new, and still being developed. Personally, I can say that it has helped me focus on my daily actions at the firehouse, and it has helped me wrap my mind around where I am…and where I need to be. As Cpt. vonAppen discussed, many firefighters fall into “passenger mode” after a number of years on the job, being told that their opinion doesn’t matter, or possibly by having new ideas shot down. We need to focus on the small victories and understand that changes take time to happen. With that being said, we can make changes by doing everything that is required of us…AND MORE! We can do the BIG 4, and make these things spread like a virus!

If you aren’t following Fully Involved, check out the website here: http://mark-vonappen.blogspot.com

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Contact Cpt. Mark vonAppen: markvonappen@yahoo.com

I would also like to thank the kind individuals with the Rhea County Fire Department for the fine hospitality, facilities, and refreshments. Chief Will Sergent went above and beyond to make this class a great success and that is exactly what it was. With nearly 50 firefighters in attendance from at least 3 states…we became FULLY INVOLVED: Tennessee.