The hiring or promotional offer is done, the excited candidate has accepted, and you have hired a new leader. So now what?
There are many areas where new leaders may have little or no experience, such as budgeting, HR, legal issues and communications. People may have natural tendencies and abilities in certain areas, but to be the best possible leader, they need help, especially if this is their first time in a management role.
In EMS, leadership is traditionally given to those with seniority. While this is not always a bad idea, without correct training and mentoring, that person will fail. The organization must keep front-line managers and leadership abreast of the constantly changing needs of both the exterior and internal climate. To keep a consistent message, I offer a Studer Group tool called Leadership Development Institutes (LDIs), where all leaders of an organization go off-site and off-line for a few days for an intense training and education summit. It is recommended that it be held quarterly.
The LDI is a time to get leaders to refocus on their organization's mission. I say leaders because it is not for front-line staff. This is an opportunity for the leadership to assign and establish mentoring roles with newer leaders and managers and allows for frank discussions. Give the leaders a "state of the union" address, airing any major issues and showing them the vision for the forthcoming future. It is also a great time to educate the leadership about new processes, bring in external experts and, most important, allow senior leaders to take the pulse of their organization.
Establish a Council
The recommendation is to have an LDI council whose charge is to establish the curriculum, communications, social, logistics and accountability teams. Responsibilities vary for each team:
- The curriculum is what's important to the organization, so if you're focusing on employee satisfaction, the curriculum team is in charge of bringing in an expert or becoming in-house experts.
- The communications team is responsible for making sure the people attending have the information they need and ensuring that front-line staff are aware of why the leaders are going off-site.
- The social team establishes a theme for the event. Don't be boxed into a boring educational day--have fun with it. Develop skits, do some role-playing, decorate, etc.
- Logistics is self-explanatory: finding the location, ordering food, etc.
- The accountability team members are scribes for the course, and are also in charge of assigning homework and ensuring it gets done. They create the plan going forward and keep the leaders accountable for what they learned.
Succession Planning Is Key
Leadership training also includes succession planning, which is a big problem facing EMS systems. With a national majority of the workforce age 50 and older, and most likely retiring soon, EMS needs to have plans in place to ensure that their organizations can withstand the changing times. This means allowing junior employees to take charge earlier in their careers. Being young does not correlate to being dumb, nor does gray hair make you smarter. Organizations that dismiss the concerns or ideas of the younger generation will find themselves left in the dust, as this generation has no problem changing employers to find a better fit.
Keeping an open mind and keenly recognizing new talent early is the new strategy for success. Leaders need to welcome unusual ideas, suggestions and procedures with an open mind. The greatest way to vet a process is to have to defend it objectively. If someone can prove a process is inefficient and suggests a better, more feasible solution, sticking to the old method out of habit is a crime against advancement.
Quarterly LDIs allow for organizations to harness their best and most important resources--their people. Developing leaders isn't just a good idea; it is a necessity for organizations to keep their competitive edge and be nimble. Most important, it will allow all of the leaders to receive one message at the same time, so everyone who works there receives the same message consistently. It allows leaders to practice management principles and keeps camaraderie strong within the higher ranks.
Patrick Pianezza, MHA, NREMT-P, is a consultant experienced with Studer, HCAPS, Gallup and Press Ganey principles. Along with nearly a decade of experience in the prehospital arena, he has worked for Johns Hopkins Hospital and Studer Group. He is currently the manager of service excellence for San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield, CA. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.