Forest Fire Direction: Good, Better, Better


The mistake is human, divine forgiveness. – Alexandre Pope


When I started working at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise 18 years ago, I had an ego problem (maybe I still am). My resume was filled with experiences that helped me land a permanent job in the forest fire department after 15 seasons of temporary employment and an educator career. With the resume came for perfection and the need to please. My identity was closely related to the work I did. Find an error in the work that I did and you take a hit at my character.

Enter a colleague who "would make me fall from my big horse" and expose my flaws / bias. I was not perfect and would rarely catch every mistake. This person was moved and changed the way I would interact with others for the rest of my career. We humans are not perfect. Sometimes, in our ability to do good work, we lose sight of doing a better job and bringing out the best of ourselves and our organizations. Being our best can mean forgiving those who are wrong, especially ourselves.

How about opening the door a little further and examining the relationship between our limits and the type of person we are. In her TED talk titled "How to get rid of the" good "person and become a better person," Dolly Chugh shares her perspective on the concept of "ethical ethics."

As you watch Dolly's speech, look at it from the perspective of how his thoughts might affect your response to incidents and accidents in the forest fire community. Could we be better people / organizations if we give up the idea of ​​being good people / organizations?

On the other hand, someone can question our identity or, after reflection, we can challenge it ourselves. Thus, the ethical implications of our decisions become really salient and, in these cases, we evolve towards more and more good behavior, or, to be more precise, towards more and more behavior that gives us the feeling of being in a better position. to be a good person, which is not always the same, of course. The idea of ​​a bounded ethic is that we may overestimate the importance of our inner compass in our ethical decisions. We may overestimate how much our self-interest determines our decisions, and we may not realize how good a person affects our behavior, that in fact, we work so hard to protect that good identity, to stay in outside this red zone, that we do not give ourselves the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and actually be better people.


Forest Fire Leadership Challenge – digging a little further

  • Does your attachment to being a good person prevent you from being a better person?
  • Do you need to forgive yourself? Discover Sara Lindberg's "How to forgive".
Wild Forest Fire Leadership Challenge 2019 Logo - Easel with WFLDP Logo and Brush

About the Author: Pam McDonald is Editor-in-Chief for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.