Maximizing Team Performance

Have you ever had a dream where you were trying to get something done or get to a certain place, but you keep getting delayed and never reached your destination? How many times does something similar happen in the performance of your job? We have all been on scenes where nothing seems to go right and it takes twice as long to get half as much done. Your personnel are frustrated and the patient likely does not receive care that meets your agency’s standard.

The same can be true within your leadership team. Without proper philosophies and processes, your organization can be ineffective in accomplishing its goals. There are several key actions the effective leader can take to maximize performance both operationally and administratively.

Right Person in the Right Job

NFL managers use the college draft to not only pick the best player they can, but to pick the best player in the position they need the most. Your best clinician may not be your best supervisor. They may not even be the best person to lead an EMS scene. If your leadership team needs more business acumen, promote or hire an individual with that skill set, even if the person has less experience or qualifications in other aspects of EMS. The remainder of your team will pick up the other necessary skill set and your team will be more balanced and effective. Effective leaders recognize the strengths of all their personnel and minimize occasions where weaknesses may be exploited.

Defined Roles

Once your leadership team is in place, ensure the roles and responsibilities for each person are clearly defined. ICS tells us unity of command is clearly reporting to one supervisor. This concept is critical to avoid multiple “bosses” trying to run the show and creating confusion and frustration. Clear lines of authority also produce accountability among all staff.

Utilize Your Team’s Expertise

Use the knowledge and experience of your team to help develop the best plan of action. This approach fosters teamwork and provides you the best information with which to make a decision.

While commander of our technical rescue team, I developed a term I called “the 60-second democracy.” When the team arrived on scene of a rescue scenario, as team leader, I would receive a report from the on-scene incident commander. I would brief the team on objectives and the democracy would begin. I would ask for ideas on how to mitigate the situation and effect the rescue. Once the input was received, the democracy ended. I devised the plan and made assignments.

The 60-second democracy goes something like this: “Team, we have a vehicle about 300 feet over the embankment with one patient severely injured with a paramedic attending. Our objective is to get the patient out of the vehicle and back up to roadway and landing zone. Please give me your suggestions.” As I receive the report, the team is preparing equipment and developing ideas. Team suggestions may include, “It’s steep, suggest we use a 4:1 haul system. I can use that tree as a directional anchor point and our vehicles so our haul team is on the flat roadway, with that plateau halfway up the slope.”

The democracy ends here except for safety concerns identified by any team member and it is then time to put a plan into action: “Thank you team, here is the plan. Dave, set up the tree anchor and change of direction. Bob, set up the anchor off the vehicle axle. Tina, set up the lower system to get the team down to the vehicle and operate the system once it is checked off by safety. Mike, set up the belay line and be ready to man it. Sue, lay out the 4:1 haul system and you will lead the haul team, Steve, set up the basket for a 4-person litter with the backboard. You will be the basket leader, along with Dave, Bob and Jack as the litter team. Don has safety and will check all systems before being loaded. Report back to me when your assignment is complete and be ready for reassignment if conditions change.”

This method helped me make the best decisions by incorporating the suggestions from all the subject matter experts, minimizing role confusion and allowing our team to work simultaneously to accomplish the necessary tasks to fulfill the objective. It creates an efficient and effective operation and maximizes success.

These concepts work operationally and administratively: Draft the best personnel and place them into the best positions; clearly articulate and define roles, expectations and lines of authority; use your team’s expertise to develop the best possible plan; and then be the decisive leader and put the plan into action. With these simple concepts, your nightmares of inefficiency can remain fantasy and your real life full of success.

Troy M. Hagen, MBA, EMT-P, is director of Ada County Paramedics in Boise, ID. He is president-elect of the National EMS Management Association and a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board.