Public Safety Should Not Be Average – Ever!
When someone dials 911 they are not expecting average! In their hour of need, they are expecting our best effort – always. Whether it’s the 911 operator, the police officer, the fire fighter, or EMS, the caller is expecting the best of the best. Average is about the best of the worst. Yet what is so surprising is that so many people settle for average even when it takes such little effort to rise far above average.
In fact, who among us is satisfied with average? Average service is, in most cases, unremarkable at best and that’s why we don’t usually remember it (although public safety may be one of the few exceptions). But we seldom forget when someone has been treated to above average service. Most people I know did not start out wanting an average job, or an average marriage, or average kids, or to be average at anything. Agencies doing pre-employment interviews are not looking for the average candidate. They are looking for the person with a little something extra – someone who is, in their minds, above average. Public safety’s goal is to hire the best of the best.
I am not even talking about being the best. While that is certainly a noble goal, I’m just talking about being better than average. Anyone can be average. Shouldn’t we, as public safety people want more than that? Think of all the opportunities where just giving a little more time, a little more effort, a little more kindness would make a huge difference in the lives of others. After all, isn’t “helping people” and “making a difference” why we signed up in the first place?
I once saw a sign that read, “One degree can make a big difference.” It went on to show that at 211 degrees, water is just very hot water. At 212 degrees, water boils. Boiling water creates steam. Steam powers locomotives. Steam is what powered the industrial revolution that lead us into the 20th century and literally changed the world. One degree! That’s all, one degree.
Think of it this way using a compass. If you are going somewhere and you are off course by one degree, after 100 yards, you’ll be off by 5.2 feet. Not huge, but noticeable. After a mile, you’ll be off by 92.2 feet. One degree is starting to make a difference. If NASA had been off by one degree they would have missed the moonshot by more than 4000 miles! You get the idea. It works with hot water, it works with a compass, and it can work for you. Imagine if you changed your career trajectory by one degree. Where might you end up?
You do not have to be in a leadership position to get started. You do not need a policy from your organization. You just need to start thinking differently – one degree. Here’s an idea, treat people the way you would want to be treated under the same circumstances. Cliché, sure, but you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. Offer yourself up to help your coworkers when they are overloaded with work. Offer to take on projects. Take the initiative whenever the opportunity presents itself. Do not shy away from responsibility. Most importantly, help people, and be kind. Don’t just meet their expectation, exceed them.