4 essential social skills for EMS leaders

The expertise needed to interact both verbally and non-verbally through gestures, body language and appearance is a hallmark of a great leader

As an EMS leader, it is vital to develop a network of peers and resources, and continue to cultivate both business and personal relationships. It takes a real knack to become proficient in managing relationships, building networks and finding that common ground that builds rapports over vast personalities.

And it’s the expertise needed to communicate and interact with each other both verbally and non-verbally, through gestures, body language and our personal appearance make up the social skills that are a hallmark of a great leader.

We see some horrible things throughout our daily responsibilities as EMS providers. Some of us may struggle when it comes to discussing our feelings, which could lead to the loss of a great employee.

Once we take the jump into leadership, we have to be able to be more open with our thoughts, visions and ability to persuade our workforce to follow us.

You may recall situations when you brought patients to a busy emergency room and were met with rude behavior, an attitude, or unprofessionalism. We usually responded in kind to our nursing partners, but now, as you climb the EMS leadership ladder, you need to develop the skills needed to deal with such behaviors.

Social skills should always be goal directed, and can help produce a desired response in others while bringing out their best. Mastering social skills means knowing when and how to use particular behaviors. For instance, because EMS is an emotionally charged career, remember to always use reasoning and control.

Here are four ways successful social skills can make a difference.

1. Positive influence

Regardless of your position in the organization, you have the ability to influence someone every day. Aspiring EMS leaders see leadership as a position, not an action. They lead by uniting people around an exciting vision of the future.

Especially in today’s changing EMS environment, it is vital to show others what's possible and motivate them to make those possibilities a reality. The best EMS leaders are teachers, mentors, and role models — and they accomplish the vast majority of their work through influence, not authority.

2. Better communication

One of the golden rules of leadership is listening to what your employees have to say, but you also have to be aware of how they feel.

We trust our EMS providers to go into someone’s home at 3 a.m. and communicate effectively to help their patients. When those individuals come into your office for whatever reason, listen openly and send clear, convincing messages in response — just like you’d expect them to do with their patients.

3. Conflict management

It is not a matter of if, but rather when, an employee will come to you to resolve a conflict. One of the most important qualities of a successful leader is the ability to negotiate and dissolve disagreements.

When a conflict goes unaddressed, expect a negative impact on productivity and teamwork. Conflict resolution requires specific leadership skills, problem solving abilities and decision-making skills.

4. Change management

There are many uncertainties that surround the future of EMS. Mobile integrated healthcare and community paramedicine programs seem to be the wave of the future, and change is a foregone conclusion.

Leading change is a difficult task; you must have a clear vision and a plan that involves getting people involved in the change and ensuring the groundwork is done for supporting that change.

Skills assessment: 8 questions

Below are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you need to do some professional development with your social skills:

  1. Do you use sarcasm in your communications with your workforce, peers, and stakeholders?
  2. Do you frequently say “yes” to projects or tasks in meetings or agree to take on work, and regret it later?
  3. Do you feel the need to crack a joke or change the subject during tough conversations?
  4. Would you rather send an email to set the record straight, rather than do it in person?
  5. Do you have great relationships with your team or is it limited to the task at hand?
  6. Do you take it personally when your manager, supervisor or peer is angry?
  7. Do you dwell on conflicts with your team members or even fantasize about ways to get even?
  8. Do you wish you were more charismatic with your workforce?

If you have answered yes to three or more questions, you need some work in your social skill development.

One of the things you can also do is find a few peers you respect and ask them to assess your social skill behavior. This may be painful to hear, but remember, the goal is to become a better leader.

Social skills can be taught, practiced and learned.

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