9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Traits of a Chaotic Workplace - And 7 Great Resources for Overcoming Them

Taken from 9-1-1.com Magazine, 2/22/12
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.

"Commitment is demonstrated through accountability."

#4: No Accountability Process

"People Get Away With Murder Here"
Commitment is demonstrated through accountability, which can be loosely defined as "following through on what is expected," or more simply stated, "keeping your word."  When commitment is questioned, trust ( a key element of accountability) becomes impaired.  People at work often do not keep their word because they are centered in self instead of centered in what is best for the team.  People become centered in self when they forget that their job is to serve.  However it must also be noted that people do what they feel is best for self and with accountability for tardiness, negative behaviors, skipping meetings, sick leave abuse, failing to follow through on projects will create a whole new perception about what is best for self; to do the right thing or pay the consequences.  Administrators and supervisors must also keep their word to keep fair and consistent with accountability processes.

Suggested Reading #4: Professional Pride's training program, Breaking Out of Negativity is a downloadable workbook and slideshow program offering a dozen intense personal exercises for less.

#5: Zero Conflict Resolution In Place

"Can't We All Just Get Along? No, Not Really."
What do you do when there is conflict?  How do you feel about conflict?  Is conflict actually a welcomed event that can bring better understanding, uncover unspoken feelings, deal with current stressors and create improvement where needed?  Likely not.  Mediation and peer mediation teams are a new concept.  Most people don't know there is a process to working with conflict that actually and absolutely turns conflict into opportunity.  Put in place a Peer Mediation Team plan today and you will find that you will have more peace at your agency.

Suggested Reading #5: Becoming the Peace-Maker At The Comm Center, a downloadable eBook written by a certification Dispute Resolution Mediator that explains mediation, resolution and understanding the formula used by mediators in court.  Available from Professional Pride.

#6: Knowing What Is Wrong and Doing Nothing

"Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes"
Challenges at the workplace are often ongoing and are assumed to be a part of the culture.  Actually there are many steps you can take to begin a process of change - all solutions begin with an acknowledgement that there is an ongoing problem that may have solutions.  Stress and Negativity are two ongoing challenges that seem to be just a part of the culture but instead are problems that can be neutralized by looking to many of the sources rather than always mopping up after the 'effects' have been realized.  These effects may include high turnover, sick leave, conflict, poor work habits, and low job satisfaction.

Suggested Reading #6: Professional Pride eNews "Got Solutions?" This series can be assessed by signing up to "Join Our Mailing List" at www.911trainer.com

#7: Dealing With 'Effects' Instead of Causes

"Who Is The Enemy Here?"
Let's say you do not have an evaluation process or form that is honored, respected, and useful in planning needed training, retraining, or motivation.  You know it's a problem but what can you do?  There isn't enough time to allow all the supervisors time to revamp the system let alone time to listen to tapes and provide evidence of skill levels and adherence to policy and procedures.  Or let's say your SOP is sadly out of date.  Maybe you don't have a good training manual.  Or you send people to training just to give them a break yet really aren't sure the training is what they need.  Your budget is used up by turnover and overtime and people you hire aren't really fit and either quit or are let go.  You know your training program needs to be changed but the amount of energy and time needed seems overwhelming considering how hard everyone is working anyway.  You're putting out fires when you should be eliminating the fuel source.  Time isn't the enemy - leadership priorities and skill at providing effective leadership are.  Great leaders are able to define priorities and get stuff done - regardless.  Time is money - great leaders can find money if they can make the time.  Great leaders can make the time if they free up time by delegating.  But delegating means giving more work to overworked people - so what's a leader to do?

"You're putting out fires when you should be eliminating the fuel source."

 There are thousands of leadership books out there.  I counted the ones on my shelf: 32.  Most of them have been read, some of them have been used.  There is no great mystery to leadership - it's about getting stuff done; to get stuff done first define what stuff needs to be done.  Next prioritize based on possible losses or potential harm.  Next list all solutions tried and if they worked and solutions not tried and cost.  Let's take one issue and explore how it's handled.  Stress: Determine the source of stress for your people.

Suggested Reading #7: 911 Wellness, Stress Less Trio by Sue Pivetta found at www.911trainer.com.  This book approaches stress at its 'source,' which is personal responsibility, education and skill building for each member of your staff.

I accept chaos, I'm not sure whether it accepts me. -Bob Dylan

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