The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics within law enforcement. Positive leadership starts by creating a positive squad culture. In order to develop a positive squad culture, everything starts with the actions, attitude, and effort demonstrated by the sergeant or first-line supervisor on a day in, day out basis. They must demonstrate TRUST, CONSISTENCY, and SUPPORT for any positive squad culture to take hold . . .
1. TRUST – To do what is necessary to develop a positive squad culture, you must trust in the process of creating culture and the success that it can bring your squad. If you do not buy into it completely, then neither will your officers. Trusting in the process means keeping your sights set on the goal and not being distracted by outcomes. A positive and productive squad culture serves in the best interest of both the department and the community. Consider what your 4 Words of Culture would be and then do what is necessary to start moving in that direction.
It will take time, there will be difficulties, there will be dissent, and until it is solidly established will require constant effort from you. Ultimately, what you get out of it will be well worth the time and effort given because your officers will succeed and enjoy being a part of a squad on a mission to serve. What 4 words would you want the culture of your squad to be described as?
2. CONSISTENCY – For anything to be effective, it must be practiced consistently. Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” postulates that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything. Accomplishing the goal of creating a positive and productive squad culture that serves in the best interest of the community is no different. Being with the same squad for 10,000 hours is highly unlikely; so you must make every hour you are with your squad count.
Whatever the 4 words are you would want your squad to be describe as, they must be referred to on a consistent basis so your squad witnesses the trust and value you place in it. Establishing it starts by introducing the model to your squad, clearly explaining each piece, giving examples from previously shared experiences, and then explaining how it will define their actions and attitudes in the future. Finally, demonstrate its usage on a routine basis when out handling calls with your squad, dealing with citizen complaints, writing evaluations, and assessing production. The power of a defined culture is established by routinely reminding officers that this framework is the expectation that governs everything they do, how they react to situations, and how success will be evaluated.
3. SUPPORT – Every great structure begins with support. Whether it is a simple card house, residence, or skyscraper; without a properly established support structure, it is only a matter of time before it crumbles to the ground. To support the desired culture, you must establish the support structure and continue to build it up over time. Start by posting the 4 words in your briefing room, or at least near your desk, so your officers see it on a daily basis. This shows value in the model and serves as a constant reminder of your squad’s belief system.
Should issues or situations that are in conflict with the expectations arise, address them promptly and in a direct manner. Being direct does not mean being rude as long as the conversation serves for the betterment of the officer and contains no ulterior motives. Address the conflict by discussing the issue/situation using the exact expectations and terminology born out of the model – Positivity, Activity, Teamwork, and Students.
The TBL Leader must be out in the field as much as possible demonstrating the application of the 4 words chosen to describe your culture. When you catch one of your officers properly applying the model, it is vital that they are recognized for doing so. Reward behaviors you want repeated! John Lubbock once said, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” Are you looking for the good or the bad when in the field with your officers? Each shift, the TBL Leader needs to go out looking for behaviors worth rewarding. Once your officers see what winning looks like under your supervision, they will reciprocate those actions and attitudes. If there is one trait that defines police officers, it is that they like to win. Show them how.
What else would you need to do to implement a positive squad culture?
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