Exceeding expectations as an EMS leader

As leaders we not only set expectations for others and ourselves, we must also exceed those expectations


To effectively hold our workforce accountable, leaders need to set expectations. We expect our highest performers to not only meet expectations, but also exceed them and set the standards for others to follow. As a leader you are always on stage and in the spotlight. The workforce, your boss and peers are checking out how you conduct and handle your business.

As my good friend and retired EMS Chief Don Lundy says, "When you put the uniform on, it’s always Act 1, Scene 1, and Action!"

Ensuring you exceed the expectations of the audience — personnel, policy makers, and local media — is the crux of being a great leader. Let’s take a look at some components of how leaders can exceed expectations.

Setting the standards

Regardless of your position, set out to exceed expectations in all you do. Set the standard from the very beginning that you are a going to give 100 percent in everything you do. Your life is not about being mediocre.

Since your name and reputation is your calling card, always put yourself in the best position to succeed by setting these standards for yourself:

1. Always expect more from yourself than you expect from others, but also know your limitations

Being the leader, it is natural that you always want to take on more and never say no to anyone. Do not be afraid to say no. Remember you are not saying no to the person, you are saying no to the task. It’s always better to be honest and upfront with your capacity than to miss an important deadline later.

2. Refuse to live off your past success

Just because yesterday you won the big award from an industry association or made an outstanding presentation to the board does not mean you can bask in the limelight. Go out every day and conquer the next obstacle, achieve the next goal and take your leadership team on the same ride. Never allow yourself or your team to become complacent on yesterday’s successes or failures.

3. Earn respect daily

Just because you wear the gold badge and make the final decisions does not mean you should take your position for granted. When we get the feeling we are the only person that can do the job, that’s when we are prime to be replaced. Always be humble, appreciate what you have achieved and set out like it was your first week in the position.

4. Ask for information, question challenges and give feedback

When you are at the top of the organizational chart, folks are going to come to you for advice and for you to share your experience. It is easy to answer a question or give the information needed, but instead use your questioning techniques and allow the person asking the question to develop a solution. Guiding them will help them get to a solution. This is a great way to develop critical thinking skills. If you can set the expectations and teach your workforce to find solutions, productivity will increase and the organization will prosper.

5. Always travel the high road

In business there always seems to be someone trying to do you in or make you look bad. Some people spend a lot of time keeping score and cannot wait to get revenge. This is a horrible waste of time and energy. When you are a high-performing leader and give 100 percent all the time, some average leaders will resent you. Someone will always feel they can do it better. Turn the other cheek and refuse to return the hurt.

6. You cannot offer excuses and exceed expectations

 One of my favorite sayings with my leadership teams is, "We are not here to point fingers, we are here to fix the problem." Be positive, smile in the face of adversity and remember my quote, "There are no problems, just solutions."

7. Value everyone on the team

John Maxwell says, "Great leaders add value to people every day." Your job as a leader is to get the very best out of your workforce to deliver the best service they can. Set out to value the people on your team. Everyone is important regardless of the position. Once you believe that and value everyone; they deserve your very best. You asked them to follow you. Now that they are, give them 100 percent.

8. Choose a team that complements you

When we hire personnel we have a tendency to hire people just like us. Do you want 10 of you as part of your leadership team? Hire people who are stronger than you in your weaker areas. It’s okay to defer to the individual with the most experience or knowledge. This will be seen as a great leadership attribute. You will be perceived as a confident leader who trusts the team.

You expect your workforce and team to be the very best they can be. As their leader it is up to you to set the standards of what exceeding expectations looks like. Demonstrate by exceptional leadership, give an excellent performance in every responsibility you undertake and empower team members to think beyond the details of the job. You will exceed expectations and create an environment and culture of exceeding expectations. 

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