Washington State TERT Team
Philosophy of Service
As important as the physical and mental preparation is to the mission of a TERT team, the biggest hurdle in our mental preparation is to understand and work within our mission. The philosophy of the Washington TERT program is the philosophy of service.
When you arrive at a requesting/receiving PSAP, the question should not be, “What do you want us to do?”? The question should be, “How can we serve you?” The spirit of service is different than the spirit of “fixing”. As TERT members, WE ARE NOT THERE TO FIX THINGS. We cannot fix things. We can support them as they fix themselves, but we are not “fixers”. Our mission is to serve them and the communities they serve. We are there to support them in their PSAP’s continuity of operations for the good of the community. It is critical to the success of the team that you understand this philosophy and the difference between serving and fixing. We are here to serve. How may we serve you? Not, how can I fix you or your situation? Consider as part of your mental preparedness that you examine your reasons for wanting to be a TERT member. Are you a “fixer” or a “server”? Keep an open mind and examine your own philosophy. Using the philosophy of service also means that we do not judge or comment upon an agency’s resources, operating philosophy, equipment, policies, practices, or personnel. We accept and serve the situation, PSAP, personnel as they are. Key to serving as a useful member of the receiving PSAP team requires an understanding of group or team dynamics. Groups go through several stages of development. In 1965 Bruce W. Tuckman, an educational psychologist proposed a model that described the phases that are necessary for a group to go through in order to become effective. For TERT teams, there are several groups/teams to consider. 1) The TERT team deployed 2) The group or team on the shift you are assigned to at the receiving PSAP (and these may change) 3) The other TERT members on your assigned shift at the receiving PSAP. Navigating them all requires knowledge of group dynamics and attention paid to which group is involved.
In the first stages of team building or group dynamics, comes the FORMING stage. This stage is where a new group comes together (or one or more new persons are added to an existing group) and each individual’s behavior is motivated by their need to be accepted by others in the group. This can be a “honeymoon” period identified by avoidance of conflict or controversy.
The group may consist of a new work shift that sees some members leave and other new ones arrive. The group learns about the shift’s opportunities and challenges and determines the general flow of work and requirements of the shift. Team members tend to work and behave independently. Often, they have no formal process for establishing shift or team goals or objectives. Most individuals are on their best behavior, but self-focused. This is where members of the team get to know one another. This is also where team members watch to see how other members respond to work load, stress, and each other.
The next stage that the group will enter is the STORMING stage. In this stage the group individual’s ideas compete for consideration. The group decides on the formal or informal leader or leadership style preference. Team members are more comfortable confronting each other’s ideas or perspectives. This stage is where initial conflict arises and through effective interpersonal skills, this is the stage where the team may experience some stressful interactions. This is a NECESSARY stage for the group to work through in order to come together as an effective and cohesive team. This is also the stage where teams get stuck and never progress to the other phases. The group will be working more toward an understanding of individual roles and responsibilities. Because conflict can arise, some of the members may attempt to avoid confronting issues, thereby holding the group progress back. Supervisors, who intervene at this stage with a “no conflict” message, may further delay the team’s progress into the next phase of development. This stage is critical for the formation of an effective team.
Be cautious about becoming involved in “storming” with the receiving PSAP personnel. In normal settings, this would be a normal progression. However, in a situation where personnel may be already overworked, overwhelmed, and stressed, taking a more reflective, supportive, or submissive role may create more acceptance and cause less stress for others.
In this phase, team members understand the “rules of engagement”, individual tasks and responsibilities and are generally in agreement. Effective group members practice tolerance and patience and exhibit supportive behaviors. This is a difficult stage to achieve. Every team member must begin to understand other member’s points of view and needs, and generally what the team will or will not accept or tolerate. This is a critical phase in order for a highly effective and successful team to be able to move into the next phase. Think about when you have shift shake-ups. Maybe it’s a new shift bid situation. New shift members are added, others go to other shifts. You may experience the storming phase as everyone finds his or her position within the group. Once you become familiar with behaviors and expectations, there may be less surface or sub-surface conflict.
This is the norming phase – everyone is learning what to expect from their teammates. For some groups, this is as good as it gets. For various reasons, the group “norm” may never move to the next stage, which is performing (as in HIGH PERFORMING).
This is the phase that good teams work to achieve. Unfortunately, this phase is not reached by all groups or teams. It is characterized by member’s being able to work interdependently and flexibly. This group operates effectively as a unit finding ways to get the job done effectively without inappropriate behaviors and conflict. This group tends to need minimal supervision. Performing teams may revert back to earlier stages. Changes occur in the workplace or among team members that may cause the group or team to go back to storming or norming stages.
This phase occurs when the group’s goals are accomplished or there is a disengagement of members or duties. In a communications center, this may occur when new shift bids are put in place and the team breaks up as members go to different shifts, etc.
This phase may include a sense of loss by the group when a highly effective team breaks up.
The new team now goes back to the forming stage and begins again. This may be a difficult phase not only for you in leaving a group with which you may have bonded, but may be equally difficult for the receiving PSAP personnel who, having accepted you and your team as part of their team, now no longer have your support or have to look forward to bringing in another team made up of strangers.