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3 questions to trigger success in the new year

Resolutions aside, this is a convenient time to reflect on the past year, and here are three questions to ponder as you consider the 12 months ahead

An old one-liner says, “My New Year’s resolution is to break my New Year’s resolutions — that way I can succeed at something.”

Many of us are skeptical about attributing any significance to the New Year in terms of promises for change. But it can be a convenient marker in time to reflect and ask tough questions about where you’re going. Here are three important questions to ponder as you consider the 12 months ahead.

1: Are you counting what really counts?

The quality movement taught us that improvement comes when we pay attention to what counts. Many have translated that lesson into giving attention to what is easiest to count. We count response times, skill success, protocol compliance, errors and dollars. But when we look closely at the best organizations — those consistently loved by customers and employees—we find that it is culture that really counts.

Customer service, quality, safety, productivity, employee commitment and profitability all improve when we create cultures in which employees feel important, appreciated, understood and cared about. We create such a culture by listening deeply to employees and customers and addressing what they tell us needs to change.

2: Are you really willing to grow and change?

When I ask leaders this question they easily say, “Of course, sure, bring it on.” But they rarely mean it. This industry is so notoriously resistant to change that we joke about it. This resistance often shows up in leaders’ fear of talking openly about their own leadership shortcomings and the weaknesses in their organization.

It’s easy to stick the chest out and boast about how great things are, but I’m finding it takes special courage for a leader to speak candidly about, and work on, what needs to change in their personal leadership journey and in their organization. While rare, it is always refreshing to be around such leaders — they are the ones people are more willing to follow.

As the new year unfolds, it’s worth remembering Darwin’s lesson that it’s not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but those who are most responsive and willing to change.

3: Do you have enough capacity in your leadership team to make lasting change?

You may have enough capacity to fill a schedule, keep trucks on the road and accommodate service growth, but does your team really have the time and energy to lead important change? Remember, leading change that sticks and has broad support is about influencing others — especially the newer generations — and demands building and nurturing relationships, telling and retelling powerful stories and listening deeply for ideas and clues about resistance.

All of this takes a lot of time. Too many EMS leadership teams simply lack the capacity to lead change and don’t believe they have the budget to add more. Make this a year of working on finding the resources to expand the capacity of your leadership team. Just imagine what might happen if you had a little more time to actually lead and not just manage.

The irascible 1950s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, once said, “The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”

Consider this New Year a gift of 365 more days to create some success. I wish you the best.

Produced in partnership with NEMSMA, Paramedic Chief: Best Practices for the Progressive EMS Leader provides the latest research and most relevant leadership advice to EMS managers and executives. From emerging trends to analysis and insight, practical case studies to leadership development advice, Paramedic Chief is packed with useful, valuable ideas you simply can’t get anywhere else.