Chief Insights: Autonomy, mastery and purpose
Chief Russell Goodman on helping providers achieve mastery by supporting their education and ensuring they have the tools they need to do their job
By Russell Goodman, chief, North Seneca Ambulance, Waterloo, N.Y.
The following content is part of EMS1’s EMS Leader Playbook – aimed at helping new EMS leaders increase their effectiveness, enhance their leadership KSAs, develop trust among crewmembers, and build confidence. Through a handful of questions presented by EMS1, veteran chiefs reflect on their early days in leadership roles and offer advice, while newer leaders detail their experiences taking on a new position. Email email@example.com to offer your insights for the EMS Leader Playbook.
THE SPARK: WHAT PUT YOU ON THE PATH TO BECOMING A CHIEF?
I had always been drawn to EMS primarily from the medical perspective. Similar to many folks, I had thought that EMS was going to be a bridge to medical or PA school. However, I found that the profession of EMS was ripe with opportunities for growth and advancement. I had initially attempted to effectuate growth in EMS from the clinical perspective and spent several years as a critical care paramedic. However, I found that it was challenging to influence larger system change from purely the clinical side of EMS. This experience made me realize that the operations and business management side of EMS is better positioned to drive change.
As a result, I decided to return to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree in corporate finance. Toward the end of my schooling, I transitioned from working as a critical care paramedic to being an operations supervisor. As an operations supervisor, I started to have a voice in the room to help create broader change. After I graduated with my business and finance education, I took an opportunity to move into my current role as a chief. In this role, I have been able to be part of the system-level changes that will improve how EMS supports the health of our communities.
LOOK AHEAD: WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH IN YOUR FIRST YEAR AS CHIEF?
One of my primary goals in my first year as chief is to raise awareness amongst our local leaders of the critical need for EMS workforce development and sustainable funding. I hope to play a large role in educating our local leaders and community about EMS. First, they need to know that we are here and what we do. Social media and community engagement events will play a large role in this. Additionally, by speaking with town and county leaders about EMS, they are starting to become more aware of the challenges that EMS is facing in the future, including insufficient medical billing revenue and staffing shortages.
HOW WILL YOU CREATE AN ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE THAT PEOPLE WANT TO BE A PART OF, TO JOIN AND TO STAY?
I believe autonomy, mastery and purpose are the three main internal motivators that drive everyone. While pay and benefits are a baseline expectation, these external motivators will not drive people to want to be a part of and stay at your organization.
My primary goal is to provide our crews with a sincere understanding and commitment to their purpose as EMS providers. From there, I need to give them the tools to be successful – mastery – through supporting their education and ensuring they have the tools to do their job. Finally, they must be given the autonomy to take ownership of the education and tools provided to create successful results.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SUPPORT AND STAND UP FOR YOUR PERSONNEL TO SHOW THAT YOU CARE?
As a public service, our organizations have a primary mission to serve our communities and an obligation to support those we employ to carry out that mission. As such, it is imperative for today’s EMS leaders to work alongside and educate our community leaders, both public and private. By working to engage our municipalities in supporting EMS coverage for their communities and communicating our mission to donors, we can have the resources to support our personnel through training, equipment, pay, benefits and personal time.
HOW DO YOU DEMONSTRATE SERVANT LEADERSHIP?
We no longer live in a time where hierarchical leadership structures provide the ability to create a high performance organization. High performance organizations are built on a distributive leadership model where everyone in the organization takes responsibility for an aspect of the organization’s success. Again, this gives everyone autonomy, mastery and purpose. For those who do step into a formal leadership role, they must realize that they have now committed themselves to supporting those that carry out the mission of the organization.
I spend the vast majority of my time building the foundation that gives our employees the resources they need to be successful. This mostly involves cultivating relationships with external partners, such as public leaders, neighboring EMS agencies and donors. These partnerships help provide the necessary resources for the crews to be successful in their roles.
LEADERSHIP LIGHTNING ROUND
What is a leadership book, podcast or seminar you’ve found invaluable? While I have always been an avid consumer of leadership advice, I keep coming back to the book, “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,” by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Klemp. Being a conscious leader is always an ideal that I am striving for.
If you knew the budget request would be approved, what’s a big purchase you’d make for your department today? While we could all probably use money for video laryngoscopes and improved communication technology, I would more likely request an investment in workforce development. Our area is critically short of paramedics and experienced EMTs, and there is not a significant investment into our workforce development pipeline at this point.
How do you recharge/improve your resiliency? I find that once my day starts at the base, there is usually a revolving door of fires to be put out, which doesn’t provide much time for oneself. By starting my day early around 3:30 am, I usually have time to run before coming into work. I find that this time gives me clarity and allows me to reflect on my priorities.