“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” ~ Colin Powell
Success is absolutely about preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. As a leader of people, you have taken on the challenge of doing everything within your power to make your people successful. One of the best places to start doing that with your officers is in the briefing room. In law enforcement, the time that you get to spend with your entire squad together is extremely limited; therefore, it is up to you to make the most of it.
In my department, each patrol shift starts with a 30 minute briefing conducted by the squad sergeant. This is the only time that the squad has the opportunity to be together in same place at the same time without the next call for service pulling us away. (Most of the time.) There are many purposeful activities that can fill this time, but unfortunately they often just turn into “bull sessions” with no real purpose and become a waste of everyone’s time. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to have unplanned, open discussions in briefing so long as there is a purpose to it and it is not just a default due to a lack of planning on the part of the supervisor.
Prior to being a police officer, I was a math teacher for just shy of 7 years. I was educated on the importance of lesson planning, building themes, identifying “teachable” moments, and organizing curriculum. When you walk into a classroom of 30+ teenagers every day, you quickly come to understand how important organization is to facilitating effective learning. When I promoted to sergeant, these same lessons came flooding back to me and I found ways to modify the concepts to work within the given 30 minute briefing times I had.
As a patrol sergeant, I work four 10 hour shifts a week. I try to stay at least one week ahead with whatever I am planning for briefing training so I have some idea of where I am going and have time to gather resources or create them. With that being said, it is vital to not be overly invested in the briefing plan because things occasionally come up that may take precedent; such as a major call for service that needs to be discussed that offers some “teachable” moments. Below is an example of the form I used to plan my briefings . . .
Here was the thinking behind how my weekly planning was organized. DAY 1 was typically reserved for administrative topics. All of the emails, criminal info bulletins, policy updates, and more that needed to be to be shared with the whole squad were saved over the weekend for this day. The last thing I ever wanted was for administrative stuff to take over all of my briefings. I also found that the first day back to work for the week was usually not the best day for conducting briefing training. Once the admin stuff was out of the way, then I would end the briefing by recognizing some of the good work from the week before to start us off positively. This recognition was with the express intent of wanting to see those specific actions, attitudes, or efforts repeated by the squad.
DAY 2 and DAY 3 were reserved for Briefing Training. These could include any number of topics and may involve bringing in a guest speaker from another part of the department, using a short PowerPoint, leading a discussion on our successes/failures from a call, conducting a demonstration, putting together a scenario, watching a police-related video then discussing how it relates to our policies/practices/state laws, etc. There are so many great topics and activities related to our profession that can fit into a 30 minute time period to instigate learning and/or create culture. Ultimately, when planning briefing training, we are not trying to certify officers in anything, just share information so we are all on the same page.
DAY 4 was usually more relaxed. I would lead a discussion called “What did you learn?” in which each member of the squad would talk about one thing they learned or did differently this week on a call and if it was or was not successful. Finally, I would always end the last briefing of the week by recognizing some more of the fine work that had been done by my officers that supported our positive squad culture. There would also be an opportunity for them to recognize each other for things I may not have seen.
At the bottom of the weekly plan was a list of all of my officers. This gave me the ability to know who was or was not in briefing on a given day so either myself or an informal leader on the squad could follow up with them later regarding what we covered. As mentioned above, the power of having briefings with purpose comes from everyone being on the same page. Without this follow-up, you fall short on one of the best parts of having organized briefing plans.
With purpose, there is power. Time with the entire squad together allows a leader to communicate specific messages that puts everyone on the same page. This creates opportunities to share the mission, build squad culture, recognize good work, educate on policy/legal updates, discuss success/failures, and much more. Having these types of purposeful briefings are especially beneficial for newer officers, but also serve the purpose of being a reminder to the more senior officers about what is important.
I challenge you to find the time and make the effort to plan briefings with purpose and see the many positive benefits that come from it.
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.
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Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!