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The Godfather' Approach

"I m gonna make him an offer he can t refuse" is a classic line from the movie "The Godfather." Likewise, I m gonna make you an offer you can t refuse about management lessons. As a fan of "The Godfather" trilogy, I ve noted a number of management practices that you can apply within your organization.

Now, before you get excited about getting rid of your problem employees permanently that s not part of the approach. Instead, I ll cover several areas where the Godfather displayed an astute management philosophy on running his organization that might apply to how you can run yours.

Protect the familia: The Godfather spent his life protecting his family. He demonstrated the true definition of a risk manager who constantly looks for areas that could negatively affect his family business, personal life and future. He was, in most cases, proactive in dealing with problems and didn t let them get out of hand. You should have that same outlook. Be on guard for potential problems and deal with them accordingly before they become larger. On an annual basis, you should determine the five biggest threats to your organization and evaluate your planned responses in order to prepare for or prevent those threats from occurring.

Build the dynasty: The Godfather built a structured organization that clearly defined who managed each employee, and he defined the expectations for each person s performance. In your organization, is it clear who an employee reports to and what job performance is expected? This is especially critical in organizations that are increasing the number of employees and adding additional services. Keep in mind to make it clear how your staff can contribute to the effectiveness of the organization by their performance.

Be discreet: Be aware of your conversations and about revealing your strategies. "Never tell anyone outside the family what you are thinking" was a motto the Godfather emphasized to his sons. Situations occur where you (or your organization) are challenged by someone or another organization. Perhaps they re making unfair accusations or competing for funding or service. A natural reaction to challenges against your management decisions may be to proceed until you to prove your point and trump them with your insight. But why show your hand before you need to? However, remember to balance your sense of discretion; planning for major incidents and community concerns can be better tackled with the participation of all affected agencies. Also, be careful of what you reveal to employees within your organization. What you say in confidence can easily find its way into public discussion. Know who you can trust.

Lead them, with reason: Sometimes, employees can lose sight of an agency s true mission. It s up to you as the leader to demonstrate the mission by your actions and words. Changes will occur, but it s best if they re planned rather than a reaction to a competitive threat or a response to a demand from those who may not see the big picture. If you encounter resistance, remember that the Godfather treated people with reason. The best approach to dealing with problems, especially personnel problems, is not an aggressive frontal attack but rather a reasonable manner to find a solution that benefits both parties. You should try to get them to see your side of the issue so they can better understand your decisions.

Don t underestimate your enemies: This is an important lesson for managers. You may often feel invincible as the manager of your EMS organization, but there will be employees or others who aren t your biggest supporters. They may not directly criticize you; they may lie in wait for you to make a mistake and build a case to your supervisor that the organization would be better off without you. The best advice here is another line from the film series: "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." What does this mean? It s important to listen to those whose viewpoints don t always match yours and to make an effort to get that kind of feedback. It s a hard position to follow, but it does work.

Be politically active: The Godfather was smart in knowing that having friends in political positions helped him accomplish his goals. Although you can t "buy" their loyalty, you should know who your local, state and national politicians are and how you can contact them. You will need their assistance at some point, and if you ve already met with them or worked with them, you ll stand a much better chance of gaining their support. Make the time to visit them and provide your contact information in case they have any questions about emergency medical operations.

Protect your true familia: It s important to be a good EMS supervisor or manager, but never forget about your family at home. Often, our work causes us to make sacrifices that significantly affect our family. Keep your loved ones in mind, and try to balance your life between work and home.

I m not advocating that you run your organization like a gangster and break the arms and legs of anyone who steps out of line. But life is full of learning opportunities, and this critically acclaimed film series has a few gems in it. A structured, reasonable approach to building your organization and valuing your employees will earn you the respect you need in order to lead your agency and succeed in providing top quality prehospital care.


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