This is the first of a three-part series discussing the three prospective levels of EMS officers defined by the National EMS Management Association’s EMS Leadership Agenda Core Competencies project. Those levels are supervising, managing and executive EMS officers. For more see www.nemsma.org.
We can all point to people in our lives who have inspired us and motivated us to great things. We can also point to individuals who have demotivated us, sometimes to the point of defeat. When you think back on those times, what was it that made those individuals so great or so terrible? Did you marvel at how easily they did their job without apparent distress or mistakes, or was the person so incompetent that you felt your own security was at risk? Did you know the person had a good heart and really cared about you, or did you feel they would lie and manipulate facts to spin things their way? How we relate to individuals, especially our direct supervisors, has a direct impact on how well we perform our tasks and fulfill our responsibilities. The front-line EMS supervisor has an incredible ability to influence his or her team and impact performance. Finding the right people for these roles is an absolute necessity for high-functioning organizations.
The supervising EMS officer who has both solid character and well-developed core competencies can achieve incredible results and portray real leadership. These results are accomplished by being able to influence others and push individuals to new heights by appropriately challenging and encouraging them. In his book The Servant, James Hunter calls this influence authority. Authority is earned and issued to the supervisor by those he supervises. Many new supervisors confuse authority with power. Power is given to the supervisor by someone else who simply placed the supervisor in a supervisory position. Power can achieve compliance and short-term results, but rarely translates into long-term success. Supervisors who try to lead through power rarely survive in EMS. That supervisor often becomes frustrated at what he perceives as his team members’ incompetence, and he rarely realizes the problem lies in his own leadership capabilities. The team often rebels, consciously or subconsciously, and performance suffers.
Great supervisors are easy to point out, but how do you become one? Supervisor performance has been difficult to quantify and measure. The first stage of NEMSMA’s Emergency Medical Services Management and Leadership Development in America: An Agenda for the Future called for the development of core leadership competencies. This process is underway, and results should be published later this year. Once the core competencies of the supervising EMS officer have been adopted, standards and expectations must be established. These have already been developed in most organizations. Adopting a well-defined set of values establishes character expectations. Those values must be frequently showcased as the standard of behavior for all employees. The supervisor is critical in ensuring all employees live by the values of the organization. Without this level of accountability, the organization has no chance to fully embrace its strategic direction and accomplish its goals.
Standards and expectations also can also be derived from the supervisor’s job description, policies and procedures, and performance expectations. Performance evaluations should outline what is expected of every employee and how well they are achieving it. Supervisor evaluations should include performance indicators, including a 360-degree feedback review from fellow supervisors, the crews under supervision, and administration. This feedback will help the supervisor grow within the organization.