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     Question: Being the boss isn't easy, is it? You're doing your best to guide your people through some of the worst economic times in history. But sometimes you're not sure if you're leading or merely adapting to whatever awaits you each morning when you walk through that door. And responding to whatever happens next. Sometimes you feel simply overwhelmed, and you're pretty sure your people are quietly aware of that. They're great folks, but right now you're all going through some doldrums.

     In planning mode, your mind is riding a roller-coaster—pondering new vehicle designs, therapeutic hypothermia, expensive new cardiac monitoring and resuscitation technologies, video laryngoscopy, new drugs, communications advances, training needs and new safety gear. But your little agency is struggling just to survive, much less keep up with everything that's happening around you. Maybe some of those other leaders can just go out in their backyards and shake their money trees. You don't have one of those. And payroll's due at noon.

     Answer: Maybe it's time for a surprise. On your way in tomorrow, stop at a donut shop and pick up enough fresh donuts for both shifts (oncoming and offgoing). Do that about once a month, for no particular reason and on no particular schedule. Use a felt-tip marker to write something nice on the box, like "XOXOXO, help yourself."

     Your mom was right about donuts; nutritionally, they're crap. But once in a while, didn't she offer you one anyway? Of course she did.

     Why'd she do that? Because she understood another reality that supersedes nutritional values, namely that people love surprises. All people. And even the few people who don't particularly care for donuts get their message: The whole world may be about to crash around us. Never mind that. Somehow, it will look a little better through a donut hole.

     Thom Dick is the quality care coordinator for Platte Valley Ambulance Service, a community-owned, hospital-based 9-1-1 provider in Brighton, CO. Reach him at

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