Why they're a Crisis Leader:
I first met Tim while working as part of an instructor cadre teaching current and future incident managers.
His magnetic personality draws people in, and his depth of knowledge on almost any topic makes it hard to turn away.
From a background consisting of mixed martial arts to emergency response to exotic animal rescue, Tim is one of the most interesting men I know.
It’s an honor to be able to share his crisis leadership stories; many‘ ripped from the headlines.’
As you’ll see, his diverse background plays a huge part in his diverse set of skills he uses to lead himself and others during a crisis.
Be sure to learn more about his latest and arguably one of the most important projects he’s been involved with: his leadership of Outreach For Animals, the #1 advocate for proper behavior around animals (opens in new tab).
#1 "What is a Crisis Leader?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What is a Crisis Leader?"
A crisis leader, to me, is somebody that... It's like a quarterback of a football team.
I was a quarterback, and when the huddle gets around you before you go into the stressful, you know, play that you're gonna be having there in the football field with everybody watching, the huddle around you, they're all looking at you for confidence.
They're looking at you for trust.
They're looking to you for the communicate, what we need to do as a team together.
And to me, it's like being a good quarterback.
So when you do get into a crisis later, there has to be somebody that everybody looks to, trusts, also is able to understand the communications.
They look at ya and say, "You're giving me what I need to do to accomplish my task, what my objective is."
So to me, it's like being a quarterback.
But I'd also throw in, too, since I'm in the fight game, it's like being a good corner man also, too, because your team's out there working for ya, and you're gonna have to know their strengths, their weaknesses, of the team members.
So when they come to you, and you give them a job or something to do that they can't do, and they're not gonna be able to accomplish that job, it's gonna break the team down all the way through.
So you don't-- You have to know your team members, you have to be able to look at them as a good corner man, put that Vaseline on their eyes and their nose, and send them back into the fight, knowing that they could continue to fight and continue doing what you need 'em to do, to hopefully win that fight.
So to me a good crisis leader is somebody that's a quarterback of a football team, then when you get in that huddle, before we get into it, they all look at you, they're waiting for your communications, they're waiting for you to tell 'em what's gonna happen, and they're trusting you.
And make sure that play runs good.
And also being a bit of a corner man. Just be there for 'em, you know, when things go bad, go good, you're standing there, you're ready for 'em. "Come to me, and we're gonna work this out."
#2 "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
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There's been many situations, being a public safety officer- I'm a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, all wrapped into one.
But I've got to trust my own crisis leadership, management skills and also as a crew commander, but I've had some unusual situations too, that most officers and most government officials will not run into on a regular basis and I want to bring that out.
So that people, when it does happen, it's Stymie's people.
People get a real baptism in reality when they have two African lions running loose on the interstate, and they have no idea how- they just freeze.
People freeze a- even if you're a master at critical thinking, you still freeze because that is a bizarre, abstract situation happening.
I've had that situation happen with two African lions running on interstate of Ohio attacking cars.
We were able to put up a perimeter, I calmed the situation down, I had the skills and the experience to be able to tell people these lions were only going to stay with a certain area. They're not going to cross the river. They're not going to do these things that people are worried about, and we were able to calm the situation down.
Then I had the Superbowl of that kind of situations happen, was the Zanesville massacre in Zanesville, Ohio in 2011 where a gentleman that I had had confrontations with over the years, Terry Thompson, turned 56 of the most dangerous animals in the world loose on the city of Zanesville.
We had 38 big cats- that's tigers, lions, leopards, cougars. Then we had grizzly bears, black bears, uh, wolves, primates running loose- some primates have herpes B virus, which some of the officers wanted to shoot, and I had to calm everybody down and say, Whoa whoa, we can't shoot that animal because it's infected.
If you shoot it and it doesn't kill it right away it's going to run with that infection through the community.
So in that kind of situation, being involved with a critical thinking situation like that and being sit down as looked at in the incident command post as somebody that- "can you help us? Can you come in here and help set this situation up?"
I was able to step in and tell them, "This is what we need to do. We do need to shoot the animals." Because it was getting dark, we can't dart these animals.
These are situa- these are questions that were being brought up by the media and everyone else.
So, that situation in Zanesville was a really big wake up call across the world for our law enforcement and firefighters to be able to handle these kinds of situations because more of this is going to happen down the road, but I also learned with my critical uh, thinking and my critical leadership uh, abilities I was able to step in and calm the situation down.
Things were out of control, and everybody was giving advice. Everybody was an expert- government officials were experts of course, right.
I had to step in and say, "Listen guys, let me show you the easy way to do this. Let's sit down- just like the quarter back of the team- let's sit down, guys and huddle up here in the instant command post, and make a decision of what we're going to do.
Stick with that decision, and I'll be the voice of what happen- I'll be the one to step up an say, "I was the critical leader in this one. We made the decision.
Sheriff Lutz was actually the incident commander, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do. So we were able to handle a situation that was totally out of control, unbelievable, could not even be- I couldn't even of dreamed of it, in my lifetime, and it was a situation that has been repeated on smaller scales, as we've learned now.
The tiger was loose in Georgia, on interstate 75, actually was going down towards children getting ready to get on a bus. This just happened this year, and the officers were making quick decisions and it- they needed to step up and just make the decision: we have to kill it.
When you make the decision, for public safety on what your decision is, you have to stick with it, and that's what I would say is my uh, Superbowl of uh, critical leader.
Working in that kind of capacity because that was, to a point, where I have never done this before, that large of a scale, nobody has.
And it's like... People are used to earthquakes. We can do that. We can do a tornado. We can do all these incidents. Okay, 38 big cats. Grizzly bears, 56 all together- C'mon. Loose in the community and people were calling in 911 continually. "I got a lion in my backyard." "I got a tiger running down the interstate." "I got a bear going after one of my dogs."
It was one of those situations, it was very abstract, and we were able to handle that situation and keep it within a perimeter, and I was very proud of that.
#3 "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
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You know, what I know now, and I wish I knew then.
One thing is that I wish I would have stuck with my instincts more because back then, I was going by book knowledge, tabletop stuff a lot, which is great, which is great, but I think a lot of times we lose our instinct, our natural instinct, to do what's right.
I know most people's natural instinct is to run away from a disaster, to run. Our instinct is to go into a disaster.
We're made differently. We're wired differently as first responders, so we go with that instinct but also go with the instinct of survival and to pay attention to your pack, let's just say like a wolf pack.
We're going in.
Use that instinct to look for your people, care for your people. Don't get tunnel vision.
Look at the situation like you would look at it as maybe even as a primitive individual going into a hut.
We're going to go in and look at the whole situation. We forgot that.
We've been civilized a little bit too much to the point where we'll hesitate sometimes when we should go ahead and take that natural instinct, that first thought that's in our minds, what we have.
Back then, I hesitated a lot, and I wish. There are some situations I think I could have handled a lot better if I just went with my natural instinct just to go, and we call it professional instinct now. I have a lot of guys out here I work with.
It's called a professional instinct because you say natural instinct, people are like, "Oh, you're like an animal, right?"
No, professional instinct, and we all have it.
I learned a lot of that as time went on by working with surgeons when I worked in surgery, where I saw them do some amazing stuff that wasn't by the book, and I'm thinking, "Where did this come from?" And they would tell you, "Instinct, brother. Instinct. That's why they call it medical arts."
And I'm thinking, "Let's bring that to the disaster world."
So, if you're standing there, and you're thinking, "I need three engines over here," and all of a sudden your natural instinct says, "You know, I could do this and save my people a lot of work and protect them better. Let's go with that."
It may go against what the book says, but sometimes it's gonna maybe save lives and be a quicker, safer way to do it, and I want also, too, I wish I had the confidence I have now because back then, confidence was something you earn.
I've watched that with a lot of people. You earn it.
It's one of those things where there's cocky people. Stay away from them.
Like I always say, "If somebody's an expert, somebody's gonna get hurt. Look out."
And it happens in all fields, but confidence-wise, I wish I was a little bit more confident.
I'd have stepped up when the chief was asking questions and said, "Chief, I got a feeling here, from my years of experience, working here, that we need to get this guy moved from here to here, and it might be an easier way to do it." Now, I know a lot of young guys feel that way, too.
When you're in the situation, having a pow-wow, and you just don't feel like I can't say anything.
I think confidence is not being overly confident, not being narcissistic, but just saying you've got something and that's where a good critical leader comes in to be able to listen, to listen to what's going on, and look at his team and go, "Bob, what do you think? Are we all on the same page? Tell me what you feel," and they should have that three or four times before that at the bar six weeks ago, or the restaurant you guys all ate at, or the training session you had six months ago.
That should have broken ice back then. That should have been a situation where you don't keep your mouth shut.
You tell me. If you don't tell me, I'm gonna be mad, so it's already there before the incident occurs so you already have that groundwork already laid out, and I learned that, and it's really sad.
Not from the emergency world that I got involved with, but working in the hospital world because you would think these surgeons were overly confident and cocky.
They're confident, but they'll look at you, and they're looking at the nurses, and if you've ever been in the emergency room, which I know a lot of people have, look at the doctors ask the emergency room nurses, "What do you think? What's going on?"
You'll see that, and there's a teamwork there, a trust, and that's one thing I wish I would have stepped up and said a few things because I saw things that happened that could have probably had a better outcome for everyone involved. Hope that's OK.
#4 "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
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One thing, if you want to improve your crisis leadership, I've learned over the years, is to be more involved with what's going on.
Read a lot, watch a lot of videos and training. Take what you need out of it.
I'm kind of like an old Bruce Lee martial artist, where you look at all the different skills and all the things that are out there people have done, speak with the people that have been through the situation, have been through those fights.
Learn what worked for them and what didn't work for them.
Write it down, keep it in a log. Put it somewhere so that when you get into that situation it's not gonna be a surprise. "Oh, I know what this gentleman did, a friend of mine did, on an earthquake. This is what happened, this is what he did wrong, this is what he did right."
So gather as much information as you can, learn as much as you can, go to as much training as you can, which is good, take what you need out of it.
It's one of those situations where people gather too much and they have too much in their head.
I always like that Far Side comic, where the little kid raises his hand and said, "I'm sorry teacher, My brain's full."
You don't wanna have too full a brain. You wanna have bullet points. You wanna have things that are gonna hit. Boom, boom, boom, boom, when it gets into that fight.
It's the same as a kick boxer, same as a mix martial artist.
You get out there, you're not gonna have a whole bunch of stuff, you're gonna keep the techniques that work for you and keep them valuable and try to work them into what other people have done, and not successfully.
But what they have done successfully, I'm gonna use that technique. And that's what I've learned over the years.
The one thing is too, is try to understand that Excuse me. Try to understand that, if somebody tells you something, they're not trying to be obnoxious. I've had a lot of times over the years, I've actually shut people off, "this guys trying to tell me something, you know, bah, bah, bah." No, listen to everyone, listen, listen, listen, listen.
It's both very important that you listen and pay attention and absorb everything you can.
And if you don't listen, that's when you become a person that becomes stagnant and you're a danger in the crisis leadership world.
If you stagnate, and we all know those people, "that's the way we always done it," no.
You gotta make sure that you look at the situation, all situations and be able to adapt and learn from it.
And as we said earlier, make sure before anything happens, before you get into the situation, y'all know each other. Your team knows each other, you know the neighboring city, you know the people that you work with, so when it comes together, you're not gonna be in one of those scam where I don't know what you do.
So the main thing is, listen, work and learn from each other know each other, that's the biggest drill, is to get everybody to know each other and your surrounding area and go to as many national trainings as you can to learn from everybody from around the country.
Most of the time you're gonna learn, is not gonna be in the classroom, it's gonna be at the restaurant that night or the bar.
That's where you're gonna learn cause they're gonna tell you the truth. And that's where you're gonna learn your most stuff.
Also, too, learn things like ... I was teaching them at the Zanesville massacre. One of the things I taught, and I did it very, I don't "This is the way you do it." You come in gently, and say, "hey, by the way, let me give you a little advice. Let me throw this out on the table." That's how you do it.
You don't run in there, puff up your chest, and act like your the king. You walk in and say listen, listen, listen. Herpes B, you've got a veterinarian standing right here. Herpes B, you can't shoot this animal. That's a moving hazardous material.
And that's what I would consider all dangerous exotics if anybody runs into them because, they don't get vaccinations, they're a zoonotic nightmare.
You don't know what they have or where they've been. So with the situation with the Herpes B, with the primates, please, treat them as hazardous material.
And that way it clicks in your head, that's one of those bullet points we just talked about. It's already in your head already, I can hit you, Mike, I can say, "Hey Mike, you might not be listening to me right now, but think about this for a second, hazardous material, hazardous material." Oh crap, that is right, that is hazardous material.
You know, click to the responders that it'll put it in a category that they understand.
And it works.
If I walked up there and somebody from PETA, or one of these organizations and try to tell them, "Don't shoot the monkey, don't shoot the monkey." And somebody tried to say, "Oh, because you know, it carries disease." And that, I believe, myself and the majority of us would turn our brain off and not listen to it.
But if I approach you as a crisis leader and come up and say, "We got a hazardous material problem, here." "What?" that clicks, "What do you mean?" "Let me show you." Boom, boom, boom from that point, and then they understand it, "Oh crap, yeah, that is."
Shoot that monkey, he's running through the city, blood everywhere if we don't kill him right there on the spot.
So it's one of those situations where, connections, you listen, you step in when you can, and you don't force your way in.
That's some of the hints I give people and some of the things that would help you out. It helped me out over the, you know, 62 years old, it's helped me out over all these years and I've learned some valuable skills from everybody I've worked with.
I've learned something from everybody I work with. And if you haven't, you're not listening.
#5 "Who is a Crisis Leader that influenced your career?"
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You know, I look back over my life, I had a lot of great, they weren't called crisis leaders back in the '70s, but I had a lot of great people that I dealt with over my life, and it's hard to pick a few, but one of the ones that sticks out the most was I worked at Piqua Medical Center.
I worked in surgery, and I would help the doctors. kind of a physician's assistant, kind of situation.
And I had a doctor, by the name of Dr. John Beachler. He was the oldest guy there, and it was a situation where I learned so much from him.
We had one night, we had a car accident with five cars involved, 10 people, trauma, blood everywhere, and they're bringin' 'em to our hospital first to make the judgment.
We didn't really get into flying helicopters back then as much. It was one of those things where it was very, very stressful. Extremely stressful situation, for families screaming, people, kids, everything.
I watched him walk into emergency room and he called me in. I got in, I had the beeper. I got there. I watched him walk into the emergency room. There was two young doctors already there, and they were freakin' out. The nurses were freakin' out. I'm freakin' out, and you just don't know where to go.
The triage is like, yeah, I'll go ahead and start triaging. Where? Come on, we've got a kid over here. It's just like what?
You just gotta take that deep breath.
He walked in there, and you gotta remember I was just in my early 20s. He walks into that emergency room and the first thing he goes, "Okay honey." Called everybody honey. "Honey, let's see what we got here.
"Everybody relax. "Everything's gon' be fine."
And he walked into this woman screaming over her child. And he grabs her and touches on her back, and says, "It's gon' be okay honey." Everything's got that southern accent. "It's gon' be fine. "So won't you just step on outta here "and let me save your son's life."
And she just walked right out. And I'm thinkin', holy crap!
You know, this is like God just walked in here And everybody just, the nurses went I went oh, whoof, right.
And I watched him walk from patient to patient with me, "Tim do this. "Tim do that. "Come over here, do this. "MaryAnne do this. "Nurse do this, do this."
And it's like he was wading through this, it was like imagining as a firefighter, a house fully engulfed and you had people like him. He's just wading through. You get that one. You get this one. Same exact thing.
We got everything under control within about I'm gonna throw out less than 25 minutes.
It was under control with him. And people were goin' to surgery. We had one guy stabilized. We did take him to Miami Valley Hospital.
It was like, it's just experience, but it was the way he was a stress and a crisis leader, which wasn't even a title back then.
He knew how to step into the mess with his confidence. He listened to everybody. Mama. He listened to the patients. He listened to every one of them. And everything's gonna be fine honey.
And I know it's just his body rhythm, and the way he was and the confidence he had, that he was gonna take control of the situation.
And he knew us, what we could do. He didn't ask me to do anything I couldn't do. He knew what I can do and he wanted me to do these things. And he asked the nurses. He sent 'em right over to do what they specialized in.
That's what I learned too. You wanna fit the people, not in a situation where they're not, that's not their best qualities, let's say. MaryAnne, great IVs. "Well, okay MaryAnne, honey, can you get over here "and get an IV in this little boy. "I see they're havin' a little trouble." She runs over and do it.
And it was one of those situations, where he knew the strengths and then everything started clicking, 'cause everybody, oh, that's what I do! Okay, whoop, puts me back in the lane. And sometimes you need a, we used to teasingly call, when he comes in, it's like a sweet, kind, loving slap in the face It's like stop! Oh, okay go to work, right.
You know what you can do. And then later on we'd have like little critiques.
I didn't know what a critique was. But we'd always sit around, and then, "Okay, honey." He's sit there and go, "This is what we did good." And he goes, "I didn't like this. "We'll just change it next time. "But everybody did a great job. "Love you all.", and he'd leave. But had sit there and go through what everybody did, what they did good. Some things he'd like to see differently. He'd just like to see it different. And then off he went.
So that was the guy that I learned, when I got into a, when the crap hits the fan, take a deep breath. I think in my mind, okay honey. I don't say it. Everything's under control. That southern okay honey.
The other one was Sheriff Lutz, with the Zanesville Massacre. I never seen an officer or a sheriff listen as much as he did, take it all in.
This was a crisis situation with no kind of rules before in the past, nothing to follow, no kind of idea even how to get your arms even slowly around this. And he sat and he listens, he listens, he listens. And he listened to the guy that lived there, who was drunk. But he was trying to get information from him. He listened to everybody. And then he made what he was gonna do. Made out what the deal was gonna be.
But he listened to everybody.
And when he got through with it, he was worried that these organizations are gonna come and pickets and do all this stuff, like PETA and Humane Society and everything else, and I said, I'll take care of that for you. And I got ahead of it, and I got in contact with them, told them what went on. It's not the sheriff's fault. It's not the officer's fault, it's public safety, it's raining, and we all got in our lanes, like I call it. Everybody gets in their lane.
Sheriff Lutz didn't talk about no tigers. He don't know anything about tigers, and I told him stay away from that. You don't know anything about tigers. All you know is public safety, and that's your lane. Tim, you're the animal guy. That's you're lane, right now, not cops, not firemen. Your lane was dangerous animals, okay. So when I went to the media, when I spoke to the media, and I spoke to the organizations that they worried about, I gave them the heads up. Listen guys, this is what happened, and they trusted me, because they knew that's my expertise.
So these organizations that you would think would just bomb that place, which they were thinkin' about doin', stepped back, and go, I told 'em it wasn't them. It wasn't him. It was the laws that weren't passed. Go to where the bad guys are. If we had the laws, those animals wouldn't be there. It's not the sheriff's fault. And that's how we worked.
So to me, two of probably the greatest crisis leaders that I've met over my lifetime out of hundreds, literally hundreds, is Dr. John Beachler, and then Sheriff Lutz from Zanesville, Ohio, in that county there.
And it was amazing to watch somebody that coulda easily exploded or imploded, and that could have been Sheriff Lutz and he didn't. He sat up when he knew what he had to do. We had to control this situation. Let's work it out, let's get it done.
And I'm tellin' you, Mike, it was overwhelming, the media. Nobody has any, you've seen disasters. We've all seen that on TV, shootings at bars. They had probably three times as much media there from all over the world, than they did at probably the last bar shooting. They had satellites. They came in so quickly. We had TV Tokyo. We had everybody there.
And it was one of those situations, where I just went from one to the other and calmed it. And that's what, I think those crisis leaders showing me their style and how they do it, is almost like goin' to college, and learning from the world's best, and I did.
And I would say, to me hanging around the guys and girls that have that quality, don't try to imitate them, just learn from it.