Culture is one of those things people often feel they have no control over. Due to the lack of perceived control, culture is often ignored as an important element worth working on.
Below are six culture building principles adapted for response teams. I am certain they can make a huge difference to your team.
Be clear about what you stand for. Your teams priorities, values, and principles will set the culture. The best way to be clear about these elements, is to regularly train team members under the understanding that ‘We are doing this exercise because it will benefit the people we serve, in this way...’ which serves to refresh the purpose and ideals of your team. People follow what you do, not just what you say.
Design your organization for what it needs to win. This includes the specific work your team must do, the capabilities you need to build, finally taking account for the career path of team members will bring this all to life. This could mean adding response capabilities and skills or possibly reducing them to ensure a stronger portfolio of key response capabilities.
Get your team right and do it quickly. For response teams, this means knowing where you need help and where you need helpers, and hiring carefully. For help, hire people who are smarter and better trained than you, while helpers should give you arms, legs and a great work ethic. If possible quickly handle hiring mistakes.
Set your standards very high. You tell people every day what meets your standards when you agree or disagree with recommendations. If you believe in your team, you will set high standards in everything you do, from training, events and callouts. A good team will step up to the challenge.
Train all the time. This is simply a mind-set shift. Every interaction every day is a training event, and you can learn from it or not. Training is coaching (rather than criticizing) to improve the outcome next time. Training all the time is a hallmark of great leaders and great response teams. Training must go beyond sitting around watching instructional videos.
Do a few symbolic things to create excitement about what is important. Focus on one or two big events a year, major actions that will be meaningful to your team and other stakeholders, and make them fun as well as directional.
The right response team culture doesn’t require a cult atmosphere, but it does require a disdain for concepts like conventional wisdom and status quo. It does have to be built around ideals and give responders permission to be creative. To learn more about Decisions [D4H] download an information pack here.
Marc Healy - [D4H] Emergency Response Team Software Crew