Written by Sue Pivetta, president of Professional Pride, Inc. She has worked in emergency communications since 1989 as a college instructor, consultant, workshop leader and author. She teaches adult learning through her book and workshop The Exceptional Trainer.
9-1-1 Communications Center teams work like well-oiled precision tools when a critical call comes in or the phones and radios are swamped on a full moon Friday night. We all can agree Comm Centers rock when it comes to doing great teamwork on the phones and radios. But we often hear that teamwork comes to an abrupt halt when it comes to getting along or to be a team off the phones and radio. Performing extra data entry, agreeing on a new chair design, buying in on a new policy, implementing some in house training, getting past gossip, eliminating back stabbing or administration bashing. Here are 7 Deadly Habits and 7 Useful Tips for more teamwork off the phones and radios and 7+ recommended eBooks for your professional library, independent learning, or In Service Training.
#1: Not Knowing Team Responsibilities 'Off' The Phones and Radio
"It's Not My Job"
It is very clear that the role of a Call Taker or Emergency Radio Dispatcher is to send with speed. But does your staff agree on and accept their role when it comes to internal communications, enforcing procedures for the team, stress management, support, and decision-making when it's not associated with call taking and dispatching? Has everyone talked about his or her part in creating a safe and positive work environment? Do you have an ethics statement? Did your team create it? For example, would it be ethical to talk to officers about a trainee who made a mistake on a call? Do your telecommunicators know exactly what to do when a fellow worker abuses the equipment in frustration or anger? What would someone do if a dirty joke or picture was distributed in the center?
Suggested Reading #1: Purchase Sexual Harassment in the Comm Center
This book takes real stories from Dispatch Monthly Magazine and Power Point and connects them to the laws on Sexual Harassment. See Professional Pride's bookstore. Another great book is Resolving Conflicts At Work by Kenneth Cloke at amazon.com or other booksellers.
#2: Not Knowing How To Talk To One Another
"No One Listens Anyway"
Poor communications skills can be blamed for probably 99% of the stress and dysfunction at an agency. And the simple truth is, internal communications skills can and should be taught but are not. The purpose of communication is to get your message across to others. This is a process that involves both the sender of the message and the receiver. This process leaves room for error, with messages often misinterpreted by one or more of the parties involved. This causes unnecessary confusion and counter productivity.
Suggested Reading #2: Have your team read Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most by Stone, Patton & Heen (it's available at amazon and other booksellers). If you can do it in a group session, the training should be a dialogue where each person is required to read the section and discuss the principles and practice the techniques offered.
#3: Resistance To New Policies Or Change
"We're Treated Like Mushrooms"
If a rowing team changes direction people don't begin to question and complain - there is 'trust' in the person who knows what direction the group is supposed to be heading in order to get where the team is supposed to be going. There is no need to question every decision. However, when people don't understand the direction they are going nor the change of course, demands will create resistance. Telecommunicators are adults, but many 'demands' treat workers like children. Therefore it should come as no surprise if workers act like children and refuse to cooperate and question and resist.
Suggested Reading #3: Read Winging It, Supervisors Q & A by Sue Pivetta, available at www.911trainer.com.