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Can Google Teach EMS Something About Management?

Can Google Teach EMS Something About Management?

Sean Haaverson, President ESO, Inc.

In an age with turnover in EMS, especially those jobs without public retirement funds, an EMS manager can operate on one assumption: good employees will leave unless you take an active role in their growth.


In 2009 Google’s statisticians reviewed mounds of data on a mission to change the culture of their management. “Project Oxygen” reviewed data from feedback surveys, performance evaluations and the traits of managers who received peer based awards. After the data storm settled the team of Project Oxygen emerged with a plan to help managers improve, or as Adam Bryant of the New York Times calls it, “Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers”.

Eight point plan for better EMS Management.

Lets frame the problem that Google was dealing with and see if it meets any of the challenges your department is facing. Google works hard to keep its employees happy which is shown to equal productivity in the workforce. For public safety it means happy employees will provide excellent work and operate in the interest of customers and company alike.  Mike Morrison of Practical Rapid Business Improvement points out three common reasons employees leave their job:


  1. They don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters
  2. They don’t really like or respect their co-workers
  3. They have a bad boss — This being the biggest variable


As a manager we should consider if any of these are bubbling up in our team members and if so is it worth losing them over these nearly simplistic reasons? Google didn’t think so.


Google identified 8 behaviors found in its top managers that were published in Project Oxygen and used as a guide to help managers improve. They have been edited and listed in order of importance based on Google’s findings.Use the list and thoughts to improve your organizations EMS Management.


Be a good coach

Do just that: coach. Watch your team members with a keen eye on their performance and give them specific constructive feedback that highlights their positive work and areas for improvement.

Empower your team and don’t micromanage

The finesse in management is to give your team enough room to challenge them without leaving them without your advice and guidance. This is not a group psychology case as each team member has different levels of comfort in stretching on their own.

Express interest in team member’s success and personal well-being

When you were in their shoes as a front line employee you likely knew about the lives of your partners, maybe even shared time outside of work without much thought to it. When we become managers it’s easy to become segregated and some managers emanate superiority and awkwardness. Strive to get past this and know the personal lives of your members.

Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented

Look not only at the goals of your organization; survey your team to see what their goals and aspirations are. Help them set milestones and stay on task while they do their work. Simple things make a big difference in our line of work. Look at your team, station or shift response times. Can you safely shave off a minute? The public will notice.

Be a good communicator and listen to your team

The Communication Cycle
Click to see the Communication Cycle full size

Poor communication can happen to the best of us as our time fills with doing more with less. Nothing sets you apart from your team like ego (covered in item 3) and radio silence. Good communication is two-way, there was a reason we covered the communication cycle in our training (hopefully at some point in public safety). Share information with your team and help the team understand the context surrounding the messages that are lost as they make the way through the ranks. Seek to understand the messages your team sends you, as subtle as they may be. A bad attitude may be a hint at a problem versus just a bad employee or a bad day. Keep the dialogue open with your team so you don’t have to search for meanings, they will be frank with you when the dialog is open.

Help your employees with career development

Does your organization provide meaningful pathways for growth? Are they fads or are they truly pathways that your team wants to pursue? Think of a great employee that moved on to a promising career in another organization or another field, what was your organization missing that could appeal to them? It’s easy to write off their leaving as the ‘best thing for the family’ but is a ten-year employee telling you that going to the other place is the good move or is any move away from your company the right choice? They are two separate views of the same question.

Have a clear vision and strategy for the team

Reiterating the previous points a bit, this relies on pairing the organizational goals with the goals of the individual and the team. Encourage the team to stay on track in tough times to meet the collective goals.

Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team

Of all the qualities, this fell last. It was a bit surprising to many managers because the expertise of a manager is what employees often seek. The talent, experience and ability of a manager helped to put them in that position. A Google interpretation of this equates to, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Jump in and get dirty but only when it’s really needed. Use those qualities you possess to guide your team but don’t take over. When you step in and do something for them you rob their ability to achieve something they didn’t know they could do. When that happens, it is the beauty of a manager as a coach.


The resounding message in this list is that good management is about people skills and not technical skills. EMS managers can often view the orchestration of the team as overseeing components of the organization and not as coaching people. Yet the investment in our line of work is not the expensive equipment but the human capital delivering care and response in citizen’s time of need. Understanding each of your team member’s goals, needs and well-being helps you to ensure the organizational mission can be met. Part of this is to identify what the employee wants from their time in the organization. In our line of work it is not about the money. After all, a well-run organization has volunteers happily doing the job of life saving!

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Sean Haaverson Administrator
Sean P. Haaverson has been involved in Emergency Services since 2000 when he started out as a volunteer fire fighter in Bernalillo, New Mexico. Over the span of his career he has experience working in multiple levels of emergency services: dispatch, rural and urban EMS, hospital care, austere and remote duty medicine, flight medicine, administration and teaching. He is currently a licensed Paramedic with certification in Critical Care and Remote Duty Medicine. Sean holds a BAAS degree focused in Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services Management. Sean serves as the co-founder and President/CEO of Emergency Services Outreach and the Center for Advanced Medical Training. He is also the National Association of EMT’s State Advocacy Coordinator for New Mexico.
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