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Igniting Your Workplace... Who Are Your Fire Starters?

(First appeared in WRAL Tech Wire.)

Last week we introduced the concept of campfire circles at your workplace, and the idea that every team needs a fire starter—a person willing to take the time, effort and energy to build the campfire so your team will gather, connect and find warmth and restoration.

It’s easy to see how important the role of the fire starter is at a campground; without a campfire, each camper is left to fend for themselves, cold and lonely at the end of a long hard day of activity. The fire starter produces a valuable and shared resource—the campfire—around which weary campers gather to warm up, cook their dinners, and share stories. It’s the heart of the whole experience.

But what do campfires at work look like, and, more importantly, who are the fire starters on your team? Because without them, there is no campfire.

WHAT DOES A FIRE STARTER LOOK LIKE?

Let’s say you’re going into a meeting where you know there’s some uncertainty, anxiety or potential tension. The firestarter is the one who takes the initiative to set a positive tone. You know… the person who makes a joke, breaks the ice or creates the conditions for thoughtful discussion and collaboration. A place where everyone feels included and welcomed. The fire starter can see the emotions swirling… but resists getting swept up in them and instead make the effort to create a safe environment.

In general, a fire starter puts in the extra effort to keep the team inspired, motivated and emotionally connected—to the work, and to each other. They’re the person who notices other people’s contributions, and gives them the credit they deserve. They’re the one who organizes a team lunch or outing, or stays late to conquer a problem so their coworker isn’t in it alone. Sometimes they’re the person who simply helps everybody take a deep breath and get recentered before tackling something difficult.

In some ways, fire starters are the opposite of quiet quitters.

WHO’S THE FIRE STARTER ON YOUR TEAM?

You might automatically assume that your team lead is your fire starter, and I will say that those who are in leadership roles should know how to strike a match and create a spark. Part of their job is to keep the fire going and welcome everyone to the campfire circle. However, it’s not reasonable to expect our leaders to stoke the fire every single day, because… well… we’re human! Just because we can, doesn’t mean we have the bandwidth to all the time.

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

Take the time to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does your team have a fire starter? Does that person regularly build campfires and invite everyone on the team to collaborate and get restored? In what ways do you see that person keeping the fire alive for your team?
  2. Have you ever been in the role of fire starter? If not at work, have you been the fire starter at home? In your community? What inspires you to step up? What makes you hold back?

CIRCLE UP

Check out our online Campfire Circles community where we bring together people who care about their work and personal communities and want to live their best lives.

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