It started like any other flight. The memorized announcements, beverage service, and a few peanuts. With my head buried in my laptop, I became aware of a commotion two rows in front of me. A woman asked for help for her husband. The announcement over the speaker system was for doctors or nurses on board. Across the aisle from the husband needing help was a retired paramedic wearing an Orlando firefighter tee shirt. He was also an instructor for paramedics.
The problem unfolded quickly. The man had a heart attack. Soon, he was lying in the aisle of the plane surrounded by a team: two doctors, two nurses and the paramedic who was organizing the work flow. For a half hour, they worked like a well-oiled team to save this man’s life, but they weren’t a well-oiled team. They didn’t even know each other’s’ names. What caused them to function as a team so quickly and how can you use it?
Call to action. Any team needs a call to action. In this case, the call was clear and quick. A life needed saving. While your team may not be dealing with life and death situations, their call to action should be compelling enough to inspire interest and action. If not, why bother?
Trust. This ad hoc team had no time for forming, storming and norming. They only had a one-word description of their credentials: nurse, doctor, paramedic. And that’s all they needed. They trusted each other’s skills. Yes, this was an emergency. Without creating an emergency, how do you create an atmosphere of trust? Any good team must trust the others to uphold their role and be good at what they do.
Persistence. Rarely does anything go as planned. A good team continues their mission in spite of the challenges. Teamwork is like water flowing around a rock in the middle of the stream. The effort flows around the challenge and keeps going. Similarly, this team worked for 30 minutes to revive the man lying in the aisle. They never gave up and were administering an injection up until the moment we touched down in Las Vegas. They were committed to a positive outcome. Is your team just as committed?
Humility. Teams gel around the leader. In our case, the retired paramedic expertly called out instructions to coordinate the team. The doctor knelt next to my chair rummaging through the medical kit for anything they could use: syringes, tape, medication. The doctor and he worked hand-in-hand until the other paramedics met the plane at the gate. And then there was humility. As the sick man was taken off the plane, the paramedic knelt in the aisle and crossed himself. Then he crawled along the floor to pick up the debris and any sharp objects that may have been left behind. He literally crawled along the floor to do what needed to be done. Are you, as the leader this humble? Will you do – do you do – anything necessary to make the mission successful?
Appreciation. Once the heart attack patient was transported away, the plane erupted into applause. We had our very own heroes. As we clapped our appreciation, they didn’t seem to hear it. They did what needed to be done. Still, I believe they heard the gratitude. Are you expressing your appreciation for a job well done – even when it’s the job that needs to be done? Gratitude matters. Say thank you; applaud; dance a jig. Do whatever is needed to be appreciative.
I wish I could say that the heart attack victim survived but I fear that he didn’t. I suspect that we saw a life transition to the next one in the aisle of that plane. Personally, I’ve seen enough death over the last few months to last quite a while. But this time, I had the privilege of observing a high-performing team in action. I’m grateful for their service and I’m grateful for the example they set for the rest of us.