TBLL: Table of Contents

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership and culture development tactics. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help. Click on any of the titles to be taken directly to that particular blog.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. You can follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership or check us out on Facebook.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and, as always, LEAD ON!

06/25/14              Welcome to Thin Blue Line of Leadership

06/25/14              Thin Blue Line of Leadership Logo Explanation

06/29/14              Law Enforcement Lingo 101

07/10/14              Defining the Thin Blue Line Leader

07/17/14              Power, Passion, People, and Production

07/24/14              14 Ways to Create a Positive Squad Culture

08/07/14              3 Keys to Squad Expectation Success

08/14/14              Saving the World One Call at a Time

08/27/14             6 Ways to Positively Influence Officer Behavior

09/04/14             The 3 Accountability Relationships in Law Enforcement

09/30/14             Welcome to the Squad: New Officer Checklist

10/23/14              5 Basic Leadership Lessons

11/23/14               Law Enforcement Recognition Idea

12/17/14               Intentional Culture

01/07/15              Confusion of Sacrifice

01/21/15               Don’t Get Captured

02/09/15             Change and Reputation

02/19/15              Insubordination?

03/25/15              The 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments

04/07/15              A Law Enforcement Leadership Reward

04/14/15              Good to Great: A Law Enforcement Leader’s Viewpoint

05/18/15              BRIEFING IDEA: What makes a great beat cop?

06/02/15             Shifting Gears in Policing

06/23/15              4 Keys to Building Influence

07/15/15              5 Killers of Positive Culture

07/23/15              10 Keys to a Successful Oral Board

08/03/15              Creating “Wow” Moments in Policing

08/10/15              5 Steps to Develop Squad Culture

09/23/15              7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 1

09/29/15              7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 2

01/19/16               Transactional vs. Relational Policing

02/16/16               3 Components to Law Enforcement Leadership

02/29/16              HELP WANTED: Police Officers

03/16/16               Culture in Just 4 Words

03/29/16               A Simple Gesture

04/27/16               Trickle-Down Leadership

05/11/16                 10 Steps to Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 1

05/25/16                10 Steps to Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 2

06/08/16                3 Signs of a Miserable Law Enforcement Job

07/12/16                 TBLL Leadership Reading List

10/26/16                 10 Tips for New Sergeants

11/01/16                  PRIDE Adaptive Decision-Making Model

11/16/16                  The 3 PRIDE Loops

11/30/16                  Leading with P-R-I-D-E

12/07/16                  Predictive Policing

01/09/17                 Briefing with Purpose

04/23/17                 Advanced Officer Training Day

03/26/18                 1 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Start with Why

04/03/18                 2 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Strive to be a Great Leader

04/11/18                 3 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Intentionally Create Culture

04/16/18                 4 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Building Unity and Loyalty

04/24/18                 5 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Personal Accountability

05/02/18                 6 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Show Recognition

05/09/18                 7 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team – Make People Feel Safe

07/30/18                 Leadership Accountability: Internal and External Accountability

08/08/18                 Leadership Accountability – It’s All About Me!

08/20/18                 Leadership Accountability – Control vs. Influence

06/24/19                 Loeb’s Rules of Medicine Applied to Law Enforcement

07/07/19                 Staying on P-A-T-H

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3 Components to Law Enforcement Leadership

There is a simple formula for effective law enforcement leadership and it’s made up of just 3 components. First, build positivity within your officers. Next, make your officers feel like they belong. Lastly, give your officers direction. Below are the 3 components to law enforcement leadership and a few examples of how leaders can apply each of them to their team, squad, district, precinct, or department.

  1. Build positivity within your officers.

People are instinctively drawn to things that make them feel positive about themselves. As a leader it is imperative to consider how your actions and attitude make others feel about themselves. After someone is done talking to you or after you finish conducting a briefing, what is the general feeling when it is over – do they feel positive or negative? Here are 3 ways to make officers feel positive about themselves when you are around . . .

  • Help officers identify and remember their “why.”
  • Recognize and reward good police work routinely.
  • Find ways to serve those you wish to lead.
  1. Make your officers feel like they belong.

As police officers, there is already a jump start on this component due to the natural brother/sisterhood created just by putting on the badge. But, it is vital to maintain that feeling throughout the entirety of a 20 – 30 year career and to do that it must be a major component of your leadership. Develop a team within your realm of leadership and bring the officers that work with you into the fold as quickly as possible.

  • Build a team atmosphere where everyone works together to create success.
  • Create a positive environment that focuses on solutions to problems as opposed to mindlessly complaining.
  • Develop a “what can I do” mentality among your officers.
  1. Give your officers a direction.

Some call it a vision, some call it a mission; whatever term is used officers need to know the direction they are expected to go and the plan to get there. Therefore, it is incumbent on the leader to define the officers’ roles with clear expectations about every aspect of policing: how to treat people, production, attitude, etc.

  • Build culture with clear squad expectations that address both actions and attitudes.
  • Develop informal leaders within the squad to assist in perpetuating the squad culture.
  • Be out on the road with your officers demonstrating your expectations.

What’s challenging about these components is that they require working with both people and their feelings. Those are not simple challenges to address in the law enforcement world; especially feelings. Not many supervisors are willing to venture into that realm, but those that strive to be the best leaders will because they recognize the benefits that can be had.

What’s rewarding about these components is that when they all come together, it creates an environment that is just incredible to work in for both the supervisor and the officers. It allows the spirit of leadership to thrive and the officers within that environment to be both inspired and motivated to do policing and serve their communities.

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time and Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Share your thoughts or comments on this blog below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Staying on P-A-T-H

Who are you as a leader? How do you know if the decisions you are making are meeting your personal expectations? Do you take the time to weigh your actions, attitudes, and effort against a personal mission and set of core values? Have you taken the time to define your own mission and core values? How do you know if you are staying on path?

The other day, I was instructing a class on Leadership Accountability to a group of 20 officers, sergeants, and civilian staff that are currently in my department’s leadership development program. On the whiteboard, I put up the following quote to generate discussion…

IMG_4665

We began discussing the importance of a leader controlling their actions, attitude, and effort when looking for solutions to challenging leadership dilemmas. Then one of the officers asked the following question, “I get that the leader must adjust their sails to control what they can control, but how do they know the direction to adjust them? What is the ‘right’ thing to do?” This was a phenomenal question for an officer that is just beginning to explore their own leadership potential.

The discussion continued among the group and the consensus was that a leader has to know, believe, and exemplify their personal mission and core values when choosing their direction. That was when another student asked me, “Sarge, do you have a mission and core values?” Due to my personal interest in leadership and the passion that keeps Thin Blue Line of Leadership going, I have spent more time than most thinking through and articulating answers to questions just like this. I looked at the group and stated, “I do and that is exactly how I know when I’m staying on P-A-T-H.”

I first addressed my personal mission – “Wherever I go and whatever I do, my mission is to leave it better than I found it.” It is from this personal mission statement that I developed my set of four core values. This mission and these core values lead every decision I make in my effort to leave whatever I am a part of better than I found it. To put it simply, it is my P-A-T-H.

P-A-T-H is an acronym for Positivity, Activity, Teamability, and Humility. I approach everything with this set of core values and that is exactly how I know how to control my actions, attitude, and effort. Not just when things are going good, but also went they aren’t. Here is how I explained my P-A-T-H to the group.

POSITIVITY

Positivity is NOT about walking around with a shit-eating grin on my face saying everything is wonderful, even when it isn’t. It is about having appreciation and gratitude for the good things in my life no matter how large or small they may be. Positivity is about having a “get to” attitude, not a “have to” one. I get to go to work, I get to spend time with my family, I get to do a lot of things that I appreciate more when I don’t consider them as things I have to do. It is about seeing the difficult things in life as challenges and not threats. Finally, positivity is about being solution-oriented and controlling the things I can control, my actions, attitude, and effort, in order to solve those challenges before me.

ACTIVITY

Activity is about doing the things I place value in and committing the necessary amount of effort to being successful in those activities. If the activity I am about to do will make my family, career, personal health, work environment, or marriage better than I found it that day, then I know I am doing an activity that has value. This is what leads me in understanding where to spend my time since the one things we all have equally is 24 hours in a day. While we all have the same amount of time in a day, we do not have the same amount overall in our lives; so activity is one of my core values so I remember to commit my time to those things that matter to me.

TEAMABILITY

Teamability is about looking at the groups I am a part of, such as my family, my friends, and my work group, and thinking of each of them as a team I am a member of. As a team, we value our strengths, help to overcome weaknesses, and make sure everyone’s voice is included in decision-making that affects the team. Teamability is about being inclusive and by being an inclusive team we build influence with one another. That influence is built by spending time together, communicating openly and honestly, and then building connections with each other. Once those three things are occurring throughout the team, the bi-product is shared contribution to the team as a whole. Teamability, put simply, is about putting we before me.

HUMILITY

Humility is about having a growth mindset and keeping my pride and ego in check. I’ll be honest, of these 4 core values this is the one I struggle with the most which is exactly why I included it as a core value. My worst decisions ever made in my personal life and in my law enforcement career have come when I let my pride and/or ego dictate my direction. Humility focuses me on consistently recognizing that I always have room for improvement as a husband, father, brother, son, friend, instructor, sergeant, leader, and person. Humility is about asking the right questions – What can I do? How can I make this better? What can I learn here? How can I share this lesson with others? As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

That is my personal mission and core values. They are how I know the exact direction to adjust my sails. I’ll end this blog with the same questions I started it with and challenge you to spend the time answering them…

  • Who are you as a leader?
  • How do you know if the decisions you are making are meeting your personal expectations?
  • Do you take the time to weigh your actions, attitudes, and effort against a personal mission and set of core values?
  • Have you taken the time to define your own mission and core values?
  • How do you know if you are staying on path?

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Your thoughts or comments on this blog are always appreciated either below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Loeb’s Rules of Medicine Applied to Law Enforcement

Each week, Thin Blue Line of Leadership puts out tweets entitled TBLL LEADERS LEARN. They are meant to assist in connecting the world of law enforcement to other avenues of leadership information. Typically, that connection is to the business world, but I came across an interesting retweet this week from a friend that happens to be an emergency room doctor. This is where I read Loeb’s Rules of Medicine for the first time and immediately felt they had multiple connections to law enforcement and leadership.

Robert F. Loeb (1895 – 1973) was a well-respected physician and professor at Columbia University Medical School. Dr. Loeb offered a simple set of four rules to cut through the complicated nature of being a physician. Here they are…

Loeb’s Rules of Medicine

  1. If what you are doing is working, keep doing it.
  2. If what you are doing isn’t working, stop doing it.
  3. If you don’t know what you are doing, do nothing.
  4. Never make the treatment worse than the disease.

As I read these rules, they got me thinking of their applications to policing of which I could think of many. But the most appropriate application that struck me was how we, as law enforcement leaders, should be handling critical incidents. Critical incidents are complex situations involving witnesses, victims, suspects, and officers all experiencing various overlapping states of volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and anxiety. All of these individuals have been brought together by the one thing they have in common, the circumstances of the particular situation.

How the law enforcement leader leads these situations not only influences and affects the officers that work with them, but also leaves a lasting impact on the witnesses, victims, and suspects involved. That impact can be a positive one in which those involved feel like the situation was made better by the presence of law enforcement. Or it can be a negative one in which the presence of law enforcement only served to make the situation worse.

So, as we head into these critical incidents, it is vital to understand what the appropriate role is for law enforcement to play, what our priorities are, and what our range of acceptable outcomes is for the particular situation. Knowing and having an understanding of these three things emphasizes good practice and process while also taking into account the range of acceptable outcomes. As we begin to apply what we believe to be the correct role and priorities for those responding, that is where the connections to Loeb’s Rules of Medicine really start to come into play.  They help create a mindset of adaptability in the leader’s actions, attitude, and effort regarding the handling of the critical incident and steer them away from the perspective that there is only a single solution to these complex events.

Loeb’s Rules of Medicine Applied to Law Enforcement

RULE# 1: If what you are doing is working, keep doing it. Consistently assessing the impact of our decisions as we lead critical incidents is vital. If we are going in a certain direction and it is working toward the already identified acceptable range of solutions, then keep pushing forward so long as appropriate practices and processes are being applied. This can be accomplished by understanding the hierarchy of life and applying it correctly for the benefit of all involved. Then looking to stabilize the situation as much as possible while continuing to work towards a solution to the issue at hand. The key is continuous evaluation. Just because something is working now, does not guarantee it will still be working 5 minutes from now. That is the very nature of a complex critical incident.

RULE# 2: If what you are doing isn’t working, stop doing it. In contrast to Rule #1, the minute we identify what we are doing is not working, then we must be willing to stop…and adjust. Law enforcement does not have the luxury to just stop, so adapting is key. We know when our actions in a critical incident are not working because we start to internalize the building stress and pressure of the situation. We begin to think in terms of control when we should be thinking in terms of influence. We focus more on trying to control the other people involved and/or the circumstances of the situation rather than the things we truly have control over. So, when we begin to feel overwhelmed by the demands of the situation, we need to stop and adapt by asking what are the actions I can adjust, what is a better attitude to approach this situation with, and what is the effort level needed for success. Obviously, something is not working, so control what you can control and influence all of the rest.

RULE# 3: If you don’t know what you are doing, do nothing. No law enforcement leader ever wants to admit they do not know what they are doing – there is just too much pride, ego, and reputation on the line for that to happen, right? But this is exactly what we need to be able to do, especially if we want to call ourselves leaders. We need to be able to admit to and identify our areas for improvement, especially in regards to handling critical incidents, prior to finding ourselves in the moment of running one. This is the only way we can work towards minimizing the likelihood of the “I don’t know what I’m doing” moment. The world of handling critical incidents is unpredictable and complex. If we find ourselves in a moment when we do not know what we are doing, then we must know the resources that are available and how to best utilize their strengths to accomplish what we cannot because in these critical incidents we cannot just do nothing.

 RULE #4 (Adapted): Never make the situation worse by our presence. Law enforcement was called to the critical incident for a reason, it is already a bad day for those involved. We must account for our actions, attitude, and effort with every decision we make to continually be moving towards both solving and stabilizing the situation. To stabilize the situation means to prevent it from getting worse and make it as safe as possible to work in for all involved. This could be setting containment, evacuations, road closures, calling in additional resources, and many other available options. If we find it necessary to momentarily de-stabilize a situation, then it must be done deliberately and with an intentional purpose. A momentary destabilization could be the use of a flashbang, deploying gas/smoke, breaking out a window, breaching a door, or making a crisis entry. These are all momentary de-stabilizations of the incident that must be justified by a priority higher than stabilization such as saving life.

Where else do you see Loeb’s Rules of Medicine applying to law enforcement?

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Your thoughts or comments on this blog are always appreciated either below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement leaders to be better than they were yesterday. Sharing positive leadership tactics and creating a positive law enforcement culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position.

The ideas below are simple, but not easy. Find the effort and make the time. These are all things that are within your control by making the most of your actions, your attitude, and your effort.

Here are 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments . . .

  1. Emphasize good culture over rules. Good culture within the organization or squad will take care of the rules. Be intentional about what you are creating.
  2. Create and train your officers to be the next leaders of the organization. Develop them through mentorship. Leadership development starts the moment they are hired.
  3. Remember your “why” and share it often. Know your officers’ “why” and don’t let them forget it. This is the fuel that will get them through a 20+ year career.
  4. Your officers will only be as good as they are trained to be. Work to create a learning culture.
  5. Emphasize the value in doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.
  6. Teach your officers not to operate in fear when their intent is pure.
  7. Recognize, reward, and promote good police work as a matter of routine. Remember, your officers long for attention, appreciation, and acceptance.
  8. Be purposeful in your briefings. Don’t let the little time you have with the whole squad go to waste.
  9. Create influence through contact, communication, and connection. Then you will get their contribution. Get out from behind the desk and handle some calls with them.
  10. You will succeed the most through your officers succeeding. Don’t put personal gain above their needs.

Have something that you would have added to this list? Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

 

Commandments

Change and Reputation

Reputation1

As a police sergeant, I have 2 primary goals regarding the officers on my squad: 1. Keep them safe. 2. Assist them in being successful at reaching their goals. To assist them in being successful with their goals, I find it is necessary to help give them perspective on the “big picture.” In law enforcement, it is easy to get caught up in short-sighted issues that demoralize a squad like staffing, compensation, negative public perceptions, etc. With that being said, I wrote this and read it in one of my recent briefings.

Change and your reputation go hand in hand in any organization, but in a mid-sized police department it is even truer – there is nowhere to hide within a 400 person department. We all know the phenomenal street cop whose career was or is being derailed by their poor attitude and/or reputation. More times than not, their poor attitude and/or reputation is related to their inability to deal with change effectively.

Change is inevitable. The only thing that stays constant is that circumstances and situations are always changing. How you deal with change comes down to your own personal responsibility and accountability – What do you expect of yourself? This defines not only your ability to deal with change, but also develops your reputation within the organization. Are you a whiny victim of change or are you someone who can deal and work within the system that is present?

The sooner it is accepted that the system is what it is and will always be slow to respond, the easier it becomes to deal with organizational lapses. Organizations, like people, are inherently flawed – no organization is perfect because they are run by human beings who are made up of attitudes, egos, and emotions. To move beyond the lapses, though, you have to take the long view and not be focused on just the short-term. So, the question becomes, how do you react to change to get the best outcome and solidify a reputation as a positive, forward thinker?

First, when change is approaching, ask this question of yourself, “What can I do?” This is the most direct and proactive response you can have. Sometimes you’ll have the ability to affect change before it is upon you and sometimes you won’t. The key is to remember that working within yourself is the only thing you actually have true control over – your actions, your attitude, and your effort.. By taking initiative and working from the front, you can often help direct change in a more palatable direction.

But, what if there is nothing you can do to directly affect the change that is coming? I answer that question with a quote from Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

If you can’t affect the situation directly, then whining, complaining, or having beat office bitch sessions will do nothing but hurt YOUR reputation. The perceived “problem” will rarely be blamed because it is so ambiguous and comes from “they” levels. You know who “they” are, right? I implore you not to see change as something that is out to get you – it is vital to your career success to be a person who can identify the positives and opportunities that come with change.

There are 3 things you are always in control of when it comes to change – your actions, your attitude, and your effort. The common denominator to all 3 of those is YOU – you are in control and no one can take that away unless you let them. It is all about being proactive, not reactive.

Here are 5 steps to help deal with change in a positive, forward-thinking manner. These steps are adapted from the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

Change Awareness

  1. Accept that change happens.
  2. Anticipate change.
  3. Affect change, if possible.
  4. Adapt to change quickly by adjusting your perspective.
  5. Enjoy change by being in personal control of your response to it.

Ultimately to succeed, not just within an organization, but in life, it is about survival of the fittest – your ability to adapt and overcome to change. Just like responding to a call, the situation is always going to be fluid. How you respond is your choice and builds your reputation either for better or for worse!

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. By discussing topics like this, law enforcement leaders are tending to the welfare of the “whole” officer, not just the one in uniform.

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Be Intentional About Culture

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics and training ideas with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. Development of a positive culture must be intentional; otherwise, who knows what will develop in its place.

For demonstrative purposes, I am going to discuss culture as it relates to the position of a sergeant with his/her squad, but these concepts are applicable at any level within an organization. When speaking of culture, I am specifically defining it as the prevailing actions and attitudes that a group demonstrates on a consistent basis. Actions and attitudes are the building blocks of culture and both must be guided in a desired direction.

Here are 4 ways to develop an intentional culture . . .

  1. Cultural development begins the minute you assume a leadership position. The minute you walk into your first briefing, you are already beginning to develop the culture of the squad. Were you early, late, or right on time? Officers are watching every step you take and are trying to decipher what you like, what you don’t like, what you expect of them, and what they can get away with. You must already know what direction you want to go or a power vacuum will form. The squad is seeking direction and leadership, either you give it to them or someone else will. There is not a minute to waste.
  2. Your style will teach your officers the culture. To be intentional about your squad’s culture, you must feed them examples of how you picture the culture. This cannot be done from the office. It requires being out on the road with them and demonstrating your style in action so they aren’t having to guess. Contact, communication, and connection between you and your officers is key. While in briefings, encourage your officers to ask “why” so they can better understand your decision-making process. The more they understand, the more the culture will begin to reflect the style you desire.
  3. What you reward will be repeated. You must reward desired actions and attitudes consistently. When you know within yourself the direction you want your squad to go, you will be able to easily recognize behaviors that deserve rewarding. This needs to be done even more blatantly if the desired behavior is a significant change from how things were prior to your arrival. Positive reinforcement is a very powerful tool for a leader, but you must be careful in what you reward because that behavior will be repeated. When giving compliments, specifically define what was good. Instead of just saying something like, “Nice job;” specifically define the action or attitude that you observed. For example, “Nice job, I like the way you kept your cool back there when that guy was yelling at us. You didn’t lose your temper and maintained officer safety without lowering yourself to that level.”
  4. What you ignore, you condone. When taking over a leadership role, such as a sergeant starting with a new squad, there are always going to be things you see that you don’t necessarily agree with and differ from your desired culture. It is incumbent of you to not ignore them. Ultimately, what you don’t address will be assumed to be acceptable. On the flip-side, you must also be careful not to just bark orders about how you want things done or you’ll very quickly take on the persona of a micromanager. To make your redirections acceptable, you must define why it is important to you and why it should be important to that officer.

Before your can have any effect on the culture of a squad, you have to know what the culture is that you would like to have. If you cannot picture in your head what the perfect squad culture would look like, then how can you lead other people in that direction? Take the time to write out your thoughts and think about what has or has not worked in your previous assignments. What qualities made up the best squad/unit you have been a part of? This is your squad’s culture, be intentional about it!

What do you do at your department to be intentional about culture?

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

A Law Enforcement Recognition Idea

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics and training ideas with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are ongoing commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. One way to do this is by recognizing and rewarding great police work on a routine basis. Here is an idea that came to me a while back.

I found myself watching a college football game and was noticing the band, the cheerleaders, the crazy student section, the mascot, and of course the players. A thought struck me at that time regarding the strength of culture at these collegiate institutions. Then I began to pay particular attention to the helmets of the Florida State Seminoles and noticed that there were little tomahawk stickers on the player’s helmets. This was not something new as I have seen them on many other college team helmets, but this day I guess it just struck me at the right time.

helmetA Wikipedia search of “helmet stickers” revealed that recognition or pride stickers have been awarded to players since the mid-1950’s for making excellent plays, selfless plays, and even for hard work at practices. The idea stemmed from fighter pilots that marked their planes to signify the number of kills or successful missions they had flown. Then I started to make a connection to police work.

Most police departments have awards that are given out on an annual basis, but if you really want to positively reinforce behavior then it needs to be done on a much more consistent basis. So, I created some law enforcement recognition stickers using the Thin Blue Line of Leadership logo and had them printed at evermine.com.

sticker

For a very small cost ($15+shipping), I received over 100 custom recognition stickers (1″ diameter) to give out in briefings to reward the great things that officers do on a daily basis. I am not selling anything or being paid by evermine.com to tell you any of this; I am simply sharing an idea and Evermine happened to be the website that popped up first.

TYPES OF STICKERS: Walking into briefing with a couple of recognition stickers immediately makes everyone wonder who is being recognized and for what. It provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce more of the “smaller” things that do not rise to the level of an official ribbon or annual award. If you catch an officer changing a flat tire, give them a sticker. Have an officer that routinely volunteers to hold over a couple of extra hours to accommodate staffing needs, give them a sticker. If an officer does an amazing investigation or writes a great report, give them a sticker after they talk about it with the squad so everyone has a chance to learn from that officers great moment. Any action that supports what the squad is all about, the desired culture, should be recognized. This sticker is only given out when I, the sergeant, want to personally thank them or recognize them for some good work they did or a sacrifice they made for the betterment of the squad. What gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated.

After the success of the above recognition sticker,  I created a second sticker for our squad. These stickers could only be received by officers that are being recognized by a person outside of the squad or another officer on the squad.

r1lion

It is a squad logo created of a lion (think LE Memorial) and stars to represent the people on our squad. These stickers were used for two purposes. First, when someone from outside the squad wants to recognize a member of the squad for something. These commendations could come from citizens, other supervisors, upper staff, etc. Secondly, the most interesting use for these stickers was for officers to internally thank each other when someone sacrificed to help them out personally. For example, when an officer finds a good arrest with a ton of items to impound and their squadmates stay late to help them get it done quicker. The next shift, they would come ask me for however many stickers they needed and in briefing would thank the officers that helped them out. The coolest part of the stickers is that they ended up perpetuating officers going above and beyond for their fellow officers to a whole new level than I had ever seen in our department.

The officers decide where to accumulate their stickers, but consensus seemed to be their ticket clipboards. Some put them on their locker or some other place they see on a daily basis. This serves as a consistent reminder of their many accomplishments and makes a statement about having a positive squad culture.

clipboard

Do you have a similar way of rewarding officers in your department?

UPDATE: Here is the funny thing . . . I have since spoken to others around the department that knew of these stickers. When asked what the external perspective was of this idea, they all tell me that at first they thought I was crazy. Giving stickers to grown adults had a little too much of an elementary school ring to it. BUT, when they looked into it further, came into briefing to see it in action, and talked directly to the officers what they found out was that this wasn’t elementary or condescending at all. They all found themselves wishing they had done something to be recognized for. Here is the KEY TAKEAWAY, people long for attention, acceptance, and appreciation.  If a leader can find a way, even a way as simple as stickers, that addresses their officers’ needs of attention, acceptant, and appreciation; then they will have found a catalyst for positive culture, change, reinforcement, and team building. It doesn’t take much, but a little effort.

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

5 Simple Leadership Lessons

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. The minute an officer decides to promote to a supervisor position within a law enforcement organization, they have chosen to take on the great responsibility of being a leader, coach, caretaker, psychologist, mentor, teacher, and many more.

Here are 5 simple leadership lessons for new law enforcement supervisors.

  1. Know the mission! As a leader in a law enforcement organization, it is your responsibility to know your department’s mission statement and goals. When guiding officers through calls, handling complaints, or evaluating a situation; the department’s mission is the guide. It should be more than just a few sentences in a general orders book or a framed picture on the wall; make it real by speaking of it regularly in briefing. Give examples of what it looks like on the road.
  2. Set clear expectations! This lesson is not referring to setting quotas or other quantitative measures. It is about clearly defining a path to success for your officers’ careers. It means defining how to treat people, use force appropriately, conduct thorough investigations, think critically under stress, and remembering that this is a career of service. The culture, your squad’s actions and attitudes, will be a reflection of the expectations you establish. (More on expectations.)
  3. Set goals! As a leader, you should obviously have your own goals, but this is specifically referring to assisting your officers in developing their own short and long term goals. Your own personal success will be derived from helping your officers reach their goals. Goals should be forward thinking and in agreement with department/district goals. In the short term, have your officers establishing goals they would like to accomplish in the next year that correspond to beat issues, crime trends, or other defined problems within their areas of responsibility. They should also consider trainings they would like to attend or other personnel development toward future assignments they would like to obtain. For the long term, discuss where they see their career in 5 years or 10 years; what specialty assignments they are interesting in, are they interesting in promoting, etc. Then you must assist them by providing training opportunities, helping them develop their strengths, and make connections with people that work in the officer’s area of interest. Use their goals as a springboard for having consistent, on-going evaluation conversations.
  4. Set the example! As a supervisor, it is vital that you are out with your officers on the road as much as possible. Not only does this show your willingness to be involved and “get your hands dirty,” but it also gives them the perfect opportunity to observe you in action setting the example of how they should be – representing your own expectations. Your officers will be watching closely to see how you treat people and make decisions; especially in the tough situation where they may not be sure how to act or react. When you come across a situation where your officers are unsure of a solution to their call, it provides the perfect opportunity to teach them your decision-making process. Ask a standard set of questions to walk them through problems: What do you know? What do you think? Have you considered this? Then let them make the ultimate decision . . . example set!
  5. Recognize, reward, promote! As a supervisor, it is easy to see all of the things going wrong because typically you have just finished studying every nook and cranny of department policy to pass your supervisor test. The challenge is in stepping back and recognizing the good. Purposely train yourself to identify not only things that need fixing or reeducating, but those things that are being done above and beyond what you would expect normally from an officer. Once you begin recognizing the good, it is imperative that you find ways to reward those behaviors. (An idea on rewarding officers.) It does not have to be anything fancy or of monetary value, but simply telling an officer that they did a good job and specifically defining what they did good can go a long way. After recognizing and rewarding, it is just as important that you promote them. In terms of promote, that means to mention them to upper staff, bring it up in briefing, etc. Bringing these positive behaviors to light, will not only help the officer’s career, but will give other officers something to strive for.

Columnist Ann Landers once wrote, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” These 5 simple leadership lessons are nothing fancy or complicated. Years of research and development have not been done to come up with them. But, to successfully implement these leadership lessons in your daily routine as a supervisor it will take effort, time, dedication, and desire. As a supervisor, it is your job to recognize the opportunity.

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

The 3 Accountability Relationships in Law Enforcement

Accountability is defined as the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and disclose the results in a transparent manner. There are 3 primary accountability relationships within law enforcement:

  • Department <–> Community
  • Department <–> Officers
  • Supervisors <–> Officers.

Each accountability relationship is a two-way street that must be equally travelled on both sides in order for there to be shared successes.

Department <–> Community

The relationship between a community and a police department is vital to both the safety of the community and the success of the department in providing that safety. Police departments are funded by tax dollars from the community they are entrusted to protect. The community is accountable to the department by giving them the funding to hire the proper number of officers, compensate them appropriately, and obtain the necessary resources to meet the needs and expectations of the community. In turn, the department is expected to serve their community by treating them with dignity and respect at all times. Communities accept that police departments must at times use force, but expect it to be done with the utmost responsibility. Support from the community ultimately gives police departments the authority they need to get the job done. There cannot be an “Us versus Them” mentality in order for both side of this relationship to succeed.

Department <–> Officers

The relationship between a police department and their officers must be one of mutual respect and understanding. Officers must be accountable to the department that has hired them to hit the streets each day and keep the community they serve safe. The department must provide the necessary equipment, training, recognition, and pay to give their officers the most advantageous position possible for dealing with the law-breakers of the community. In other words, departments must take care of their officers and find ways to set them up for success. In order to demonstrate their success, officers must show through their community interactions and production that they are working for the wage they are being paid by meeting the mission and standards set forth by the department. Officers must have respect for the power bestowed upon them and be diligent in upholding the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Without officers there is no police department and without a police department there are no officers.

Supervisors <–> Officers

The relationship between supervisors and officers is the most direct accountability relationship of the three. There is direct influence on both sides based on the amount of contact, level of communication, and strength of connection developed while serving the community as a team. The supervisor must walk the tightrope of being the translator between the needs of the department and those of the officers. By taking the time to establish a positive squad culture with their officers and developing trust, the supervisor can take any department initiative, present it to their officers, and get buy-in. In turn, officers must be able to trust their direct supervisor and truly believe that the supervisor has their best interests in mind. As discussed in the blog “7 Macro and 7 Micro Ways of Creating a Positive Squad Culture” it is up to the supervisor to give their squad the “gift of going second” in establishing a trust-based relationship. Each side of this accountability relationship must give a little to gain a lot.

As written in multiple other Thin Blue Line of Leadership blogs, people are policing. Without strong relationships in these 3 areas of accountability; morale, trust, production, compensation and many other areas suffer. It would not be a stretch to say that on some level the events last month in Ferguson, Missouri are attributable to issues in at least one, if not all, of these accountability relationships. This is why these 3 relationships are so vital to policing.

Do you feel there is a more important accountability relationship we missed?

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership cannot be achieved without recognizing the various levels of accountability that exist in law enforcement and learning to work those relationships.

Share your thoughts or comments with us below or on our Facebook page. Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

Leadership Accountability – It’s All About ME

Accountability – the actions, attitude, and effort necessary to merge expectations with performance.

As we move forward with our discussion about leadership accountability, I must address two common myths that often send leaders down incorrect paths, or worse, make them appear to be hypocrites.

MYTH #1: Accountability is a team thing.

WE

When I read books or listen to someone speak about leadership, I notice the theme of building positive, supportive, and unified teams is everywhere. Heck, I often write about the power of teams here on the TBLL Blog and fully endorse the benefits of building strong teams. However, when it comes to accountability, especially leadership accountability, it is not a team concept. The idea of “you hold me accountable and I, the leader, will hold you accountable” sounds great on paper or when said aloud, but there is one significant flaw in this logic. There is a complete lack of internal accountability being demonstrated where I recognize that I have the power to control both my expectations and my performance at all times. If I am relying on someone else to hold me accountable, am I really being accountable at all? The team accountability concept is based upon others controlling or setting my expectations for me. It means I am turning over the power of controlling my actions, attitude, and effort to say I need you to watch me and make sure I stay on the right path or do the right thing. Ultimately, the most significant issue with leadership accountability under this model becomes who is really leading, forging ahead, and setting the example?

MYTH #2: Accountability is something I, the leader, bestow upon other people.

THEMThe second myth of accountability is that accountability is only something I do to other people. Specifically, the people that work on my squad or unit. If my view is that accountability is an external process of me holding others to my expectations or those of the department, then I am creating a culture of “them” and “they.” With this idea of accountability, I believe I must hold them accountable at all times and attempt to control their performance towards my expectations. This often comes across as micromanaging to those being led and to me it feels as if my entire job has become running around putting out fires all day. To those I am holding accountable, their perspective becomes one of contempt and I have now become part of the infamous “they.” The generic pronoun used to describe those higher in power within an organization when we feel there is not a choice in whatever matter is at hand. Ultimately, this style of accountability is only sustainable for as long as the leader can manage the energy to keep it up and are physically present around those they are “leading” to enforce their expectations. Once the leader becomes too tired to keep it up, they retract to the confines of their office to hide because they just cannot manage the level of effort required to constantly hold six to eight people constantly accountable. Worst of all is that none of those on the squad or unit have ever learned how to hold themselves accountable to these expectations because the boss has always done it for them.

TRUTH: Accountability, especially leadership accountability, is all about me.

METhe truth about leadership accountability is that it is all about ME. It starts with ME. It sustains with ME. It grows with ME. It can be ended by ME. The concept of anything in leadership being “all about me” is a colossal departure from 99.9% of what I read and hear about good leadership, but when it comes to leadership accountability it truly is controlling MY actions, MY attitude, and MY effort that dictate my application of accountability. Leadership accountability is an inside out process. It is through internal accountability that I set the proverbial bar or expectations. Those I am leading see what I am doing, how I am doing it, and most importantly I explain why I am doing what I am doing. As the example is set, then I have earned the right to set external expectations of those I am leading because they know that I am not and never would ask them to do something I am not doing or willing to do myself. In other words, I must exemplify accountability before I can ever expect it from those I lead – that is leadership accountability.

Once the example of leadership accountability is set, then it begins to grow. In the next TBLL Blog, we will discuss how accountability grows through the leader’s example.

Questions to ponder . . .

  • In my current leadership position, did I set the expectations first or set the example first?
  • What are the benefits to be gained from exemplifying a solid foundation of leadership accountability?
  • As a leader, do I control those I am leading or do I influence them?

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Your thoughts or comments on this blog are always appreciated either below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!

*** Parts of this blog are paraphrased from the excellent book, QBQ: The Questions Behind the Question by John G. Miller.