Becoming a Better Team Through Collaboration

When a team works as closely together as the EMS professionals and operations support does at Brewster Ambulance, the three C's are critical: communication, collaboration and cooperation. Any group of people who are charged with serving others in a critical capacity where life and limb are at stake must perform at their best using the three C's properly.

Communication occurs at several levels with EMS professionals and their behind-the-scenes support. In the field, communication between the team running the ambulance and caring for the patient(s) must flow like a dance, where seasoned partners almost anticipate each others' actions to bring about swift care for the patient. Communication also matters on a wider scale as operationally, teams in the field need accurate information to safely respond as fast as possible so they can deliver swift care. In municipal 9-1-1 situations, communication with other first responders such as fire and police departments are also critical.

Responding in Quincy

Cooperation starts with the right attitude and works best with a clear understanding of a team or organization's mission and objectives. At Brewster Ambulance, our objective is to provide the best quality care to our patients and cooperating as a trained, experienced team to consistently perform optimally. We provide our team the latest training opportunities online, in the classroom and in the field to expand their skills and perform better on the job. Teams rely on one another, especially in first responder situations where teamwork and collaboration is critical to saving lives and keeping responders safe while delivering care.

The Difference Between Cooperation and Collaboration

In the April 2015 Harvard Business Review article, There’s a Difference Between Cooperation and Collaboration, Ron Ashkenas explains how collaboration doesn't always align with cooperation in the business environment, costing hours of lost productivity and troubled, if not failed, outcomes. He writes,

The bottom line here is that cross-functional collaboration is easy to talk about but hard to do, particularly because we tend to get stuck in cooperating mode. So if you are able to map out what’s needed and bring the needed parties into alignment around it, you’ll not only make an impact on your organization, but begin to develop some important collaborative skills that are often in short supply.

It's important to note the distinction between these two activities. One aspect about collaboration and cooperation often overlooked is that encouraging collaborative behavior increases appreciation of others. When there is a deeper understanding of what coworkers face in their day-to-day roles as well as how they accomplish their work, it instills a sense of camaraderie and ownership that's unique to the organization. This is a large contributor to building the right culture.

Internal Collaboration

Collaboration is the lifeblood of any healthy organization driven by the talents and leadership of its people. Collaboration takes many forms, whether it's in the planning and executing of a new initiative that impacts the entire company or celebrating a team's joint accomplishment. With internal collaboration, nothing happens in a vacuum because many minds working together outperform a single mind because of the power of combined alignment. This is especially critical in emergency response situations, for better training and preparation when in the field.

One mechanism that enculturates collaboration early is with new hires. Incorporating collaboration as a cultural approach early on helps new hires understand not only how the business operates, but how people think within the organization by demonstrating collaboration and mentorship. Build learning about the company through the collaborative actions and insights of others and invite discussion and problem solving as a team.

new Brewster Ambulance team members

Customer Collaboration

Collaboration is a critical pathway to success when working with customers and partners to solve their challenges, not just the problems your organization is being engaged to solve for them. This is where a successful organization can go beyond the role of "supplier" or "vendor" to "partner." Collaboration not only enhances the quality of the customer experience, but it also builds trust and helps an organization understand a different viewpoint of the customer's world. This opens possibility for new alliances, new business opportunities and sustainable business relationships.

Observing how customers collaborate (or don't) within their organization also has value for a team. This can be observed through daily interactions with customers or just listening to how they complain or comment about their own operation. With the right listening, insights can help an internal team to practice and evaluate for worthiness and fit into the joint collaborative culture.

How you Can Use Collaboration to Instill Culture

Here are a few things to consider when looking at how your team and organization can enhance culture through collaboration:

  • As an individual, look at how you encourage collaboration (and the 3 C's) in your team and organization
  • Encourage skill set, tenure and role diversity when designing collaborative teams
  • Offer coaching in listening, communication and negotiating skills
  • Cross-train collaboration skills by having teams share success stories
  • Use appreciative inquiry (focus on the positive aspects of individuals and objectives) practices
  • Foster a broader view of how collaboration helps enrich your organization's culture
  • Employ brainstorming activities when collaborating to inspire more creative solutions
  • Invite new perspectives and different ways to approach problem solving
  • Include unique roles or outside partners for different points of view
  • Notice how other parts of your company or customers collaborate and share best practices (as well as things that don't work for learning and improvement) organization-wide

Collaboration is an evolving skill that is exhibited through the actions, attitudes and intention of people within any organization, whether a two-man operation or a 50,000-person global enterprise. At Brewster Ambulance, we encourage our team to seek opportunities to be better collaborators, help patients, customers and partners succeed by collaborating in a combined vision, and acknowledge their commitment to creating a collaborative culture that works for everyone.