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9-1-1 Groundhog Day?

Author: Sue Pivetta

Date: 2012-03-12
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In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character wakes up every morning in the exact same place, at the exact same time, always having to repeat the same day--Groundhog Day. No matter what he experiences, he still wakes up having to repeat the day.  Although he tries strategies to escape, nothing works; he still wakes up the next day to the same mess.  

I hear from many 9-1-1 leaders that their work to bring about 'positive lasting change' feels like Groundhog Day. So how can leaders facilitate lasting transformation in the Comm Center environment? 


#1 Comm Center pattern = 'accommodating effects' instead of 'removing causes'.  

Let's discuss some of the 'effects' ; negativity, gossip, poor performance, apathy, self centered-ness, abuse of sick leave, rebellion, high turn over, low morale, trainee turnover, sexual harassment, foul language, abuse of equipment and so forth.

A leader could -and may- spend time and emotional energy dealing with conflict, discipline, hiring, negativity, and personal frustration and exhaustion. Or a leader could also spend time and emotional energy exploring the possibilities of needed change with this template (click here). Somewhat like the babies in the river parable.  Should you rescue the babies or run upriver to find out who is throwing them in?  Obviously you need to handle 'effects' while finding and removing causes.


#2 Permanent change only happens when good things are done WITH staff - not FOR staff.

Abe Lincoln said, "You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves." Lasting change will only last if it begins within each person and spirals outward. The magic comes when a leader can facilitate others paradigm shift. What is a paradigm shift? If you have a problem, the actual problem is that you are looking at it as a problem. It could be something else, such as an opportunity.  Give others a chance to identify 'problems' and offer them 'opportunity' to explore solutions.  


For Example: The team identifies the ideal as "Less negativity". They list all negativity BEHAVIORS (not attitudes). Possibly foul language as a 'stop' doing this and a 'start' a dollar jar for each identified curse word uttered.  Their stops and their starts - not leaderships command, as that would be judgment and punishment.  What does it take?  Facilitation and time. 


Change of Culture Isn't Quick or Easy - It Is However 'Possible'

Collective change of thought brings about a collective change of culture. A culture of negativity won't change unless the people in it change their minds. And with a process of inclusion, people are more willing to participate and be accountable for solutions.

"We tried this, they wouldn't participate!" Phil probably wouldn't have kept trying to do different things if he hadn't noticed just some slight changes day to day. Seeing his efforts were delivering what he wanted kept him invested in trying. Naysayers are not investing in potential disappointment.    

Leadership change of mind might be needed to help staff believe something IS different this time. Get everyone away to a retreat, bring in a motivating facilitator, offer rewards for participating, try a survey, pass this around by email and ask for feedback.  Be patient and be willing to experiment and risk being disappointed. It's OK, your efforts will be appreciated over time. 


Sue Pivetta is president of Professional Pride, Inc.  She has worked in emergency communications since 1989 as a college instructor, consultant, workshop leader and author.   She teaches adult learning through her book and workshop The Exceptional Trainer.  Contact Sue through her website or email receive monthly special offers or to join the Professional Pride e-mail group.


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