This month’s EMS Dashboard Confessional is from a leader who inadvertently jumped lanes and exceeded their authority, and how they recovered:
“I am an organizational leader who wears a bunch of different hats. By day, I’m a mild-mannered EMS agency chief, but I also serve as the president of an EMS industry advocacy group. Of course, the missions and interests of these two roles usually align well, and occasionally overlap, but sometimes they intersect strangely.
I’m in the middle of a complex legislative initiative because of my role in my advocacy group, but my agency’s government relations office likes to take the lead on those projects. It’s difficult to truly separate my role as president in one organization from my role as chief in the other. Politicians see me as both even when I’m clear about the capacity in which I’m working with them. In this case, since I was engaged as a representative from my advocacy group, I was given clearance by my agency’s government relations person to forge ahead on the initiative, so long as I kept the her in the loop.
I’ve been very successful in doing that until recently, when a meeting with a legislator came up quickly and I attended but did not notify her until afterward. She was not thrilled with me, and although I did not make any missteps that hurt my agency, it was a bad move. Since then, I’ve worked even harder to make sure that the “lanes” were clearly defined, and to rebuild trust.
The reason I think I was able to recover from the misstep is that I immediately took responsibility for not communicating before the meeting as was our established expectation. I’ve been very careful to make sure that I over communicate right now to reassure her that I can be trusted and that it was an honest mistake that I won’t repeat.”
Raphael M. Barishansky, not-so-mild mannered EMS expert, notes that this mistake could have ended up much differently. “First, always be the bearer of your own bad news. There is a famous adage that you should ‘hang a lantern on your problem’ and this leader did exactly that. If it gets back to the government relations person that you were sneaking around without her knowledge, even accidentally, this is tougher to recover from.
Also, if this leader jumped the lane in a way that hurt the parent organization, it might have been impossible to recover from that misstep. It’s hard to keep all of these balls in the air when you’re in a dynamic situation, especially with legislators or other officials where you don’t always dictate the terms of meetings or agendas, but trying hard to remember these considerations is a big career saver. Having a strong preexisting relationship with your colleagues – regardless of the reporting nature – also goes a long way towards preventing miscommunication and recovering from mistakes when they happen.”
Use the link here to tell us about a decision or action that you wish you had handled differently.