Traits of a Leader

One of our projects is running an Emerging Leaders program for up-and- coming Emergency Managers from across the country.  Sponsored by Target Corporation and ESRI, this program brings in leaders from each of these companies as well as Directors of Emergency Management from some of the largest cities and jurisdictions in the country to discuss leadership issues. Recently, I had the pleasure of facilitating a panel of such leaders. A question posed by a student was “what are the leadership traits that have made you successful?” Traits noted were:  “Say-do” ratio. If you say you are going to do it, then do it.  Persistence. Don’t give up even in the face of pushback.  Selflessness. It’s not about you. Focusing on your success does not provide success.  Focus on those around you.  Transparent. Don’t hide your thoughts or the situation.  Self awareness. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know how you show up to others and how you show up in stressful situations.  Do you tend to make quick decisions or make no decisions at all? Do you tend to react with noticeable anger or appear too calm as though there are no issues at all?  Ask for help. This is a collaborative society. Don’t try to do it all and don’t try to do it all alone.  Be calm in a crisis. Leaders can cause chaos if they are not calm. Don’t let the disaster manage you. What was most amazing to me was the concurrence from senior public and private sector executives that this list is accurate. There was no differentiation based on if you’re part of a for profit business or if you’re a government employee. Do you have these traits? What are others you would add to this...

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Information Sharing in the Public Safety Community

There is a lot of energy in the public safety sector today around the term information sharing. Information is everywhere and with the build out of the Internet of Things (IoT) our public safety friends will continue to be flooded with too much information.  Information, is great if it’s accurate, relevant and provided at the right time.  There are a lot of Federal initiatives that have been stood up to help the public safety community with this issue.  At the same time, many local departments are coordinating with other disciplines and jurisdictions in an attempt to improve information sharing at their level, but often invest in systems that only provide them part of the solution that is required. While we won’t solve public safety’s information sharing issues overnight (and that is part of the problem), here are four ideas to consider when standing up a public safety information sharing initiative: You must work out the governance first.  Who needs what data and when? Who has that data? Who else needs that data to make decisions? Locals want to own their data. They want to be able to turn it on and off, and the ability to share their data with others. You must then develop and operationalize standard operating procedures (SOPs).  Do you have standard operating procedures (SOPs)? Are the public safety partners that will be responding aware of the procedures, so they can show up and respond in alignment? Having SOPs is one thing. Having SOPs that you actually use is another. Documents that sit on a shelf and are only pulled for big incidents are essentially worthless. You must exercise and train. Would a big time athlete show up for a game not having practiced for many hours? Nope. And, if she did, she likely wouldn’t be at her best. Public safety needs to take the same approach to information sharing. Finally, if you’re not using your information sharing system/applications on a daily basis, then when the sh*t hits the fan you’re efforts to share information will likely fall short of expectations. Unlike a land mobile radio (LMR) system that is used for voice communications, there are normally many different systems that provide data for a more complete information-sharing environment. Think of this as a systems-of-systems. During the event or incident is not the time to think about the governance, determine who has the data you need or what systems are relevant, or write an SOP. Notice that I did not say anything about the technology used for information sharing. Technology will not solve the problem. There are tons and tons of technology vendors selling you the solution that will “solve all of your problems”.  If you don’t...

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Understanding the Role of Emergency Managers

I have had the pleasure of supporting Emergency Managers for a few years now and I’ve seen that they have a serious problem. Not many people understand their role. They are constantly selling their services to elected officials and the public they serve. It’s really easy to understand what Big Blue (law enforcement) does. They uphold our laws. They arrive in fast blue cars and carry guns and handcuffs. It’s also really easy to understand what Big Red (fire/rescue) does. They arrive in large red trucks, pull out hoses, and put out fires. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) also provide easy-to-understand support, to our communities. They provide triage and medical services until the patient(s) can get to the hospital.  All of these services are vital to our communities. What do Emergency Managers do? What do they drive, what do they carry, and what do they own? A video the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM) put together a few years ago does a great job of describing its role. The reality is that Emergency Managers don’t usually own anything and their job is to work the scene behind the scenes. They don’t have tactical teams protecting our citizens or big red trucks with flashy lights that put out fires. They don’t usually carry guns (unless you’re from Texas) and they don’t arrest people. They’re rarely needed in a response to a normal, everyday event or incident. Whether it is a house fire, a high speed chase, or a normal 911 call for a suspected heart attack, Emergency Managers don’t have a role. Emergency Managers are masters in planning, logistics, collaboration, communications, and coordination. They are vital to the success of any community handling large planned events, significant weather (think of the floods in Texas right now) and multi-agency/multi-jurisdictional incidents, etc. Their job is to coordinate and communicate across departments for senior leadership.  They anticipate what will be needed tomorrow, determine who has the resources, and advise senior leadership on the logical path forward absent cultural constraints of specific job functions. They promote Federal efforts such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command Structure (ICS) when other disciplines question these efforts because they know a level of consistency across operations will help everyone’s ability to provide mutual aid to their neighbor. As an Emergency Manager from a very large county mentioned to me recently, “In the world of Big Red and Big Blue…Emergency Managers are Big Purple. They’re Sweden.” Emergency Managers have an important role in the incident planning, response, and recovery cycle. They’re vital in the design, organization, and execution of cross discipline planning and exercise efforts. When it comes to large response and recovery efforts, their value is in finding...

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What If Congress Was Held To the Same Standards As the Private Sector?

Let me get this straight.  One of Congress’ main functions is to fund the government (the appropriations process) every year by September 30th. I believe this date is pretty firm and the expectation of the deliverable (to use a term we use in our industry) is understood. So, if the date and expectation is known, why doesn’t this get done? Continuing Resolution (CR) after CR appear to have made CRs the new normal, allowing Congress to miss their deadline. Congress is allowed to not really produce any decision other than to continue at status quo. Instead, they dust off the previous year’s appropriations as their “product.” Recently I have found myself in conversations with colleagues within my company and other companies about our industry and what would happen if we couldn’t provide a client a product that we knew (a) was due every year on September 30th and (b) had clear expectations of the deliverable. Funny…we all agree that we wouldn’t have that client very long.  Without identifying realistic expectations with our clients we would be fired. Better yet, what if, when we missed the deadline, we handed in the old version as-is but said something like “don’t worry, we did spell check it again.”  That wouldn’t go well. So, I’m curious, why do you think we allow Congress the option of missing due dates and continuing to defer...

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