Sherri Stigler

Sherri Stigler


By Sherri Stigler

Our family cottage in northern Wisconsin is my “happy place.” It is a refuge where I can relax with a cool beverage, read to my heart’s content, swim, kayak, and soak up the sun’s warm rays. It is a haven where I can breathe fresh air, take in the beauty of nature, and experience the joy of just being still. I am reminded that nature paints a curious yet accurate portrait of life, even as it is displayed in our own dispatch centers.

This year, I noted an interesting theme among the woodland birds and assorted critters that is particularly significant and absolutely relevant to the care and feeding of our most vulnerable asset: new employees. Too many times, longer-serving staff members looks at new hires as having little value to the organization because they haven’t learned how to do the job.

We are critical of their ability to learn, their work style, motives, mannerisms, and the way they dress. This brings me to the question: Do we truly “eat our young,” or do we nurture and grow them? Do we clip our baby bird’s wings or do we give them wings?

Images at the lake added to my insight.

The pileated woodpecker landed on the suet feeder and was joined by another, much smaller version of the species. The bigger bird pecked at the suet and then turned and carefully placed pieces of the suet inside the smaller bird’s mouth.

Do we extend the same concern to new hires struggling to “gain nourishment” in the dispatch environment? Do we feed them so that they grow and learn, or do we leave them hungry? Do we share our knowledge, experience, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way as seasoned dispatchers, or do we stay silent? Worse yet, do we give them all the answers and never let them make mistakes? It’s not about giving them fish, but rather teaching them to fish. They will never grow hungry.

Outside the front window I saw twin fawns and their mama doe grazing on the grass in front of the cottage. Excited for the photo op, I made a mad dash for my iPhone and stepped outside the front door. The fawns bolted into the woods across the road. The doe walked toward me—stopping within about 50 yards—and proceeded to stomp her front hoof and blow at me angrily as if to scold me for frightening her offspring. After showing her peace, she bounded into the woods to presumably find and console her fawns.

Do we protect our new dispatchers from the things that could potentially harm them? Or do we allow them to make mistakes and encounter risk without warning them?

What can you do to promote the growth of your new dispatchers?

We must encourage longer-serving staff to engage fully and invest deeply in new dispatchers, from a professional and personal level, to help them feel part of the team. We spend a lot of our waking hours within our work community, often more time than we spend with our families at home, making it even more important to create an atmosphere that is caring, supportive, and friendly. There is no place for bullies, no place for impatience.

Plan for success and work through mistakes. Celebrate what was done right, and at the end of the day, your “birds” will either fly or they won’t. This is not failure on your part; this job is not for everyone.

Ultimately, the goal is to equip your new hires from the time they apply to the time they are “fully grown” and working independently in your center. Remember: “Clip their wings and they won’t fly. Give them wings and watch them fly.”