The Dog Days Of Summer

In Canada and the US our summer seasonal workforce is in what is called the dog days of summer. This slang saying is commonly defined as hot, sultry summer weather also, a period of stagnation.

Put on the boots of a wildland firefighter for a moment. They started in spring with the usual pre-season anticipation, said their goodbyes to friends and loved ones and joined their summer crew. By now homeostasis has set in.

People know their role both officially and unofficially: Who is the most likable, reliable, funny, rude, moody, trustworthy? Individuals have also rated for themselves this summer’s crew against other seasons. It might even have an unspoken hashtag: #most fun, #most uptight, #grumpy.

As these human factors work out their kinks the crew forms and norms, gets in a groove and steady rhythm. In this state the crew can relax because even the “drama” is perceived as predictable.

But then the “dog days of summer” arrive and what was normalized ends up becoming disrupted. The “happy go lucky” firefighter from Montana all of a sudden goes quiet, the “know-it-all” shifts from being entertaining to irritating, the humour becomes dark or completely disappears. A period of stagnation sets in.

Leaders who are not factoring in “the dog days of summer” will miss a critical moment of teamwork and personal development by either overcompensating, by pushing too hard or undercompensating and disappearing from active engaged leadership.

One of Switchback’s Frameworks, the Six Profiles, is a great tool to help summer crews see and understand their unique and ever changing team dynamics. We describe the target and how individuals can end up wandering out of TEAM and ending up in one of the six profiles: Passive Asset, Big Bill, Captain Rejection, Troll, ​Cave Dweller, Snowball Throwers.

It might be time to do a mid season check-in:

1. Are you still on “target” as a healthy functional team player or have you wandered off into one of the six profiles?

2. Sit down with your crew and talk through the reality of the “dog days of summer.”

3. Talk about your crew’s target for healthy functional team dynamics.

4. Leverage the Switchback 6 profiles and then encourage self reflection and self regulation.

Helping your summer crew safely through the “dog days of summer,” is not just a fun exercise but also could save a life.

The Power of TEAM

Steven Falk

P.S. Don’t forget, People Can Change and The Power of Success is in TEAM

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