EMS needs good leaders and managers. What can you do to become one? This is the latest installment of EMS Magazine's Professional Development series, a comprehensive curriculum for forward-thinking EMS providers wishing to improve their leadership and management skills, increase their authority and responsibility within their organizations, and change their field for the better. We welcome your comments on this series and invite ideas for future content. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up somewhere else."
A newly hired paramedic meets his supervisor for the first time and wonders, How long will it take me to get promoted, and what will I have to do to get there? He is about to take another step along his lifelong professional journey. Will he choose to pursue promotion and do the hard work needed to achieve it, or will he get bogged down in the daily grind and forget about it? It's his choice.
In the same way leaders look to the future and inspire people to work together toward making a vision real, an individual can look forward and use similar methods to direct their own professional development. You can take control of your career by making good choices and investing the time and effort to improve. But where do you begin?
First you have to choose to begin the journey—to step out on the road. Then you can take a page from the practices of top-performing organizations: Strong, successful organizations with capable leaders articulate a shared vision. You can use your individual vision to focus your efforts toward achieving your desired future. Figure out what you want—that is your destination. Your long-term goal is to make your vision real.
Organizations also have mission statements. An organization's mission is communicated in a set of concise statements that explain the purpose of the organization and how it will proceed to achieve it. Individuals can benefit from articulating personal mission statements. This can help you determine what you must do to make your vision reality. Your mission statement can include many components. It's like your road map, helping you determine the path you'll follow.
Everyone has the potential to be better and do more. It helps to have a plan. Your plan begins with a personal vision. What do you want to be? What do you want to do? The richer and more detailed your vision, the easier it is to figure out how to make it real. That might seem easy, but it takes significant effort and honest introspection. Spend time reflecting on the choices you've made that led to where you are now, and evaluating how well you've chosen. Be realistic about where you are and why you're there.
It's equally important to think in terms of where you want to be. Our newly hired paramedic might see himself as a shift supervisor someday. Perhaps he wants to pass his medical command exam to get off probation, or learn how to use the mobile data terminal. Maybe he just wants to figure out how to fit into station life and become one of the team. The point is, you have to spend time thinking about what you really want. Vision is about the long term: 10, 15, 20 years out. Achieving an advanced degree or paying for a child's college education could be long-term goals. So could a comfortable retirement. What are your long-term goals?
It takes some thought to really figure these out, but it's worth the effort, because it sets you up for the next step: writing a personal mission statement.
Personal Mission Statement
When I was a student in EMS management, a professor had us write our personal mission statements. It turned out to be an important exercise that has helped me ever since. I go back and reread the original and update my current mission statement regularly.