“Sergeant, what if blah, blah, blah, blah…”
If you have never had the pleasure of being a sergeant for a squad of new officers, then that first sentence may not make a lot of sense. But, if you have, then you know exactly what I am talking about. How many briefings turn into “what if” sessions with each situation getting a little less likely to ever occur? Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to be gained by playing the “what if” game in briefing, but sometimes even you, the sergeant, get hit with a question you’re not sure of the answer to…
So, what do you do? You put on your best pondering face and say, “that’s a really good question.” Secretly you’re just trying to buy more time for yourself to create a reasonable response so you can maintain that all knowing aura about yourself as the sergeant. Immediately after giving your best s.w.a.g. (scientific wild ass guess), one of your slightly more experienced officers blurts out, “You can’t do that.” The officer then proceeds to give the correct response. Silence fills the room as everyone waits for your reaction…
Before you continue reading, I want you to pause and consider what would you do? I ask that because in this very moment you are about to make a leadership decision that will have far reaching consequences. Your reaction will answer 3 questions for every officer in the room…
- Do you value different thoughts/opinions than your own?
- Is briefing a safe learning environment?
- Where does your pride and ego stand when it comes to being wrong?
Here is how I replied, “You’re right – I hadn’t thought of it like that.” We then pulled up the applicable Field Order and read over it as a squad while discussing other situational possibilities. What easily could have been viewed as insubordination or a challenge to my authority was turned into one of the most productive briefings I ever had. I valued the fact that he had the gumption to speak up and say something when I was wrong.
Ultimately, if you limit other thoughts and opinions, you limit not only your own growth, but that of your entire squad. Obviously, in police work there are times and places when an officer just needs to do what they are told, but this was not one of them. The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, consider the subliminal messages you are sending to your squad based upon how you respond.
The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement leaders to be better than they were yesterday. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. By discussing topics like this, law enforcement leaders are tending to the welfare of the “whole” officer, not just the one in uniform.
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