Category Archives: Squad Culture

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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 Loop

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

1

Briefing with Purpose

“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 . . .

lesson

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.

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!

1

Predictive Policing

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”   ~ Henry Ford

 

Within the P-R-I-D-E Adaptive Decision-Making Model, the first step to making sound decisions, especially in moments of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and anxiety), is to Predict. Continuously predicting potential outcomes, solutions, reactions, perceptions, importance, and viability of decisions is how a person starts down one decision-making path or another. Because of this, predicting is a vital cog in the machine that is the human brain and it’s processing of stimulus when trying to make decisions. Unfortunately, the overall importance of predictive policing, in these terms, is rarely recognized properly in law enforcement discussions, debriefs, or trainings.

Below are 5 points to consider regarding the power and significance of predicting in law enforcement decision-making along with specific law enforcement examples . . .

  1. As mentioned earlier, predicting starts the decision-maker down a path based upon the goal the decision-maker wishes to accomplish. How an officer believes their initial decision will work out in relation to the goal guides them through their next several decisions until something in the situation changes. Take the act of deciding what to eat for breakfast. That one decision begins an entire path of decisions and corresponding actions that all started with a simple prediction about what would taste good for breakfast.

LE EXAMPLE: When an officer gets in their patrol car and drives away from the station, there are predictions made by the officer to decide where to patrol when not assigned to a specific call. Does the officer choose the busiest area where they are most likely to locate criminal activity or do they choose the slowest area where they are least likely to locate criminal activity? The officer is predicting criminal activity and that prediction starts them down a path for the entire shift. Make enough of these types of predictions one way or the other and suddenly the officer has started down a path for their entire career. They have created a reputation. Are they a go-getter or a member of the R.O.D. (Retired on Duty) Squad? Law enforcement leaders must assist officers in seeing beyond just what is in front of them and learn to think 2, 3, or even 4 steps down the road of their careers.

  1. Accurate predicting of possible outcomes shortens reaction time. When entering into any situation, predicting narrows the list of possibilities that may be faced which decreases an officer’s reaction time to whatever comes next. When a quarterback walks up behind his offensive line and surveys the defense, he is narrowing down the type of defense he is about to face once the ball is hiked. He will put receivers into motion, locate the middle linebacker, and look for any sign that may give away a possible blitz. If the quarterback’s prediction is correct, then his reaction time will be reduced which increases the likelihood of completing the play successfully. Hence the reason the best quarterbacks in the NFL practically live in the film room when they are not on the field. More experience equals better predictions.

LE EXAMPLE: Predicting  possible outcomes that could occur when conducting a traffic stop reduces an officer’s reaction time to how the situation actually plays out once the emergency lights are activated. Based upon how humans respond to high levels of stress, there are three options that can manifest themselves to varying degrees – freeze, fight, or flight. Based on this, an officer should predict that the driver could pull over normally to submit to the stop, pull over to commence an attack, or flee in the vehicle. Once all of those options are considered, then the officer’s reaction time to respond to the driver’s actions will be quicker. Accurate predicting greatly increases officer safety in any situation because law enforcement is always reacting to the actions of others. If action is always faster than reaction, then law enforcement officers must do everything possible to reduce their reaction times. It starts with predicting. Law enforcement leaders can support this type of predictive thinking by playing the “what if” game with their officers and table-topping scenarios with varying circumstances to cover a broad spectrum of predictions.

  1. Predicting and weighing both sides of an issue is another form of predicting that occurs before nearly every decision. The greater the decision, the more time that should be spent predicting possible pro’s and con’s for comparison. The key is to recognize that pro’s and con’s are just predictions and not reality; at least not yet. They must be weighted based upon their reasonableness of occurring which leads to more predicting.

LE EXAMPLE: Predicting and weighing both sides of an issue can be exemplified in making the decision to go for a promotion or not. This is a huge decision that undoubtedly requires great consideration of all the possible good and bad that could come with it. A thorough comparison of possible outcomes, leads to making a better overall decision. Law enforcement leaders can help their officers with making predictions about major decisions like this by being accessible to their officers as a person, not just a boss. Be the kind of leader that is available as a mentor and willing to share thoughts on the topic at hand. When going into the unknown, everyone values the experience of someone who has been there and done that because it assists with making their predictions more accurate.

  1. Predicting what other people will think about a decision also greatly influences our decisions. Humans have a tribe mentality because, back in the day, tribes were a way to keep us safe from danger. Therefore, humans are greatly concerned with what others may think of their decisions. The underlying fear is that if other members of the group do not agree with my decision, then I may be shunned by the group which inherently makes me isolated and unsafe. As kids, everyone remembers being told that their decisions should not be based upon what others think, but let’s be realistic. Every decision ever made, at least to some degree, includes predicting what someone else will think about it – boss, fellow officers, friends, mother, wife, etc. As kids it was called peer pressure and it still exists as adults.

LE EXAMPLE: This type of predicting can best be exemplified through a squad culture example. If a new officer gets assigned to a squad where the entire squad always talks in briefing about misdemeanor crimes being a waste of time and that felony crimes are the only “real” crime, then that officer is going to be influenced into minimizing or ignoring misdemeanor crimes and only look for felonies. While felonies encompass the most serious crimes, there are important aspects to the job of a patrol officer that require investigating and arresting for misdemeanor crimes. But because this new officer does not want to be risk being shunned by those in his “tribe,” he may neglect misdemeanors even if he personally does not believe the same thing. This is the power of predicting and why law enforcement leaders must be extremely careful with the culture they create and/or condone within their squads. Everyone reading this should be able to recall any number of bad law enforcement cultures that have made it into the news at one time or another. Predicting social isolation by the “tribe” is what allowed those bad cultures to continue to exist as long as they did instead of someone stepping up to stop them.

  1. Predicting sets a tone. If after receiving the initial information regarding a situation an officer’s first thought is “this is going to suck,” then a negative tone has been set. The reverse is also true. If after receiving the initial information regarding a situation an officer’s first thought is “this is going to be awesome” or “I can handle this” then a positive tone has been set. This is such a powerful example of predicting because tone casts a shadow over everything that follows it. This is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy and it is all based on predictions.

LE EXAMPLE: When an officer goes to training there will be immediate predictions made. Either this training is going to suck or this training is going to be awesome. How do you think it ends up? The vast majority of the time it will end exactly as it was initially predicted no matter how good or bad the training really was. If the officer’s mind was changed from one way to the other, how much work did that take to overcome the prediction? A lot. This is the power of the Predict Phase and how it can set a tone. This is the primary reason law enforcement leaders must be aware of the tone they set in briefing because soon afterwards their officers will be hitting the road making situational predictions that originate from either the positive or negative tone set by the leader. Leaders must also help officers recognize that having control of their actions, attitude, and effort empowers them and alleviates negative victim thinking which gets replaced by a powerful sense of positive self-control. This line of thinking sets a positive tone for even the most challenging of circumstances.

To support and develop sound decision-making, law enforcement leaders must get into the habit of having conversations with their officers regarding decision-making that goes all the way back at the Predict Phase. This can be done by asking questions such as . . .

“What did you think this incident was on your way there?”

“How did you think they would respond to that action?”

“What was your intent before you did that?”

“How did you prioritize your response?”

By asking these types of questions, law enforcement leaders can ascertain who is predicting and who is not. What they will discover is that officers that get the most complaints, violate policies/procedures routinely, and negatively impact the team usually do little, if any, predicting. On the other hand, officers that are great beat cops, effective communicators, tactically sound, and positively impact the team in multiple ways do an excellent job of predicting.

If a law enforcement leader want good decision-makers, then they must teach, share, and discuss predictive policing. Every decision starts with Predict.

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!

miserable

3 Signs of a Miserable Law Enforcement Job

“High school kids at In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A are doing largely the same job that kids at any other fast-food restaurant are doing, and yet there are a lot fewer miserable jobs at In-N-Out and Chick-fil-A. The difference is not the job itself. It is the management. And one of the most important things that managers must do is help employees see why their work matters to someone. Even if this sounds touchy-feely to some, it is a fundamental part of human nature.”     – Patrick Lencioni

3signs

The premise of the book “3 Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni is simply this – staying in a miserable job can have severely negative consequences on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. These consequences can affect a person’s life both personally and professionally and it does not have to be that way. The good news is that, as supervisors, we have the ability to combat the 3 signs of a miserable job and it really is not that complicated.

Here are the 3 signs of a miserable job . . .

  1. ANONYMITY

“People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. . . . People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.”

  1. IRRELEVANCE

“Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.”

  1. IMMEASUREABILITY

“Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.”

In relation to law enforcement, if an officer is miserable in their job due to the factors of anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability, then what is the cost to them personally, their squad, their department, and the community they are supposed to be serving? Personally, they carry their misery home which adversely affects their family life. They become the salty grump in the back of the briefing room that complains about everything and sucks the energy out of all around them. To the department they are a liability because of the negative impact on the culture and the unpredictability of their actions on the road. The community suffers because the miserable officer represents the worst of the police department which erodes public trust and makes the job that much more difficult for the officers that are not miserable. How many officers are you picturing in your head right now that match this description of a miserable officer?

Here are 25 ways law enforcement supervisors can combat anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability . . .

ANONYMITY

  1. Create a team atmosphere within the squad where it is believed that we is greater than I.
  2. When you get a new officer, meet with them individually and get them on board with the squad culture from day one.
  3. Recognize good police work in briefing. What you reward will be repeated.
  4. Have officers debrief good calls for service and share their expertise and successes with others.
  5. Get out of the office and on the road with your officers. Try to get on a call for service or backup each of your officers during each shift, if time allows.
  6. Rotating having officers conduct briefing training based upon their policing strengths and interests.
  7. Meet with officers regularly to discuss their career goals and seek out opportunities to help them fulfill those goals.
  8. Get to know your officers’ families. Create opportunities for them to all get together with the other families of the squad.
  9. Send handwritten thank you notes to your officers’ spouses or significant others to let them know that you appreciate the commitment that the families make to law enforcement, too.

IRRELEVANCE

  1. Making policing relevant is about getting back to the “why.” Know why you chose to become a police officer. Know why you chose to be a supervisor. Share your why with your officers. Get to know their why, find opportunities to relate their why to calls for service, and discuss the relationship in briefing.
  2. As a supervisor, you set the tone and create value in community service. If it is important to you, it will be important to them.
  3. Promote public commendations in briefing by reading them aloud for all your officers to hear.
  4. Teach your officers to be good beat cops and take pride in their assigned part of the city.
  5. Get away from the term customer service and focus on community service. The term customer service cheapen what we do as police officers and builds irrelevance.
  6. Have discussions in briefing regarding who your officers serve. Point out that they serve not only the community, but they also serve each other. Discuss that you, the supervisor, are there to serve them.
  7. Teach your squad to have a focus on finding solutions while on calls for serve; not on producing statistics, being a band aid, or handling them as quickly as possible.
  8. Exemplify and promote a culture of positivity on your squad through your actions, attitude, and effort.
  9. Provide good feedback and evaluations to your officers. In return, ask for them to do the same for you.

IMMEASUREABILITY

Of the 3 signs of a miserable job, immeasureability is the most difficult for law enforcement supervisors to deal with directly. There is no limit to the number of statistics that can be measured for each officer: calls for service responded to, self-initiated activities, arrests made, tickets written, response times, amount of time spent on each call, number of community policing activities, etc. The question becomes, are we measuring the right things?

  1. Clearly define what the “rock star” police officer would do on a “perfect” shift based upon the mission, vision, and operational goals of the department.
  2. Determine what statistics officers and/or the department have the ability to capture that correspond to the “perfect” shift. If part of the “perfect” shift includes community policing and/or positive interactions with the community, then a way to count those interactions must be determined, as well.
  3. Set specific goals based upon what the “perfect” shift would look like that clearly define what success looks like for officers and provide them with a way to track those numbers.
  4. Ultimately, whatever is chosen to be measured must be supported by the officers’ direct supervisors because the direct supervisors will give the statistics being measure their value.
  5. Supervisors must assist officers in seeing the positive perspective to their seemingly negative activities like making arrests or writing tickets.
  6. The question to be answered is how do you measure community policing activity effectiveness? Do you count the number of positive citizen commendations, the number of people that say “thank you” after being arrested/written a ticket, or the amount of time dedicated to solving beat problems? This is where the difficulty in the measurability of policing comes into play and must be answered by departments everywhere.

There are many more ways to combat anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability in policing. If these 3 signs of a miserable job are not addressed by law enforcement supervisors, then they will have to deal with the miserable officers they are allowing to be created.

“If you’re still not convinced that this makes sense or that it applied to you, this would be a good time to consider resigning your position as a manager and finding a role as an individual contributor.”  – Patrick Lencioni

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!

handshake

A Simple Gesture

I am a police officer that just happens to have the rank of sergeant. I have 8 police officers that work with me to keep the community we serve safe on one of the toughest work schedules and largest districts in the department.

One week a few months ago, due to scheduling issues out of my control, my squad of 8 officers was reduced to just 4. I knew that we were going to be slammed handling the same amount of calls for service that usually come in, but with half the number of officers.

At the beginning of each shift that week, I walked into the briefing room and extended my hand to my 4 officers for a handshake. I told them that I appreciated them being there and for all of the hard work that we knew was ahead of us.

What I found was that the simple action of shaking their hands in advance of what was before us served two purposes:

  1. The handshakes demonstrated respect for my officers by showing appreciation for their presence in the face of a tough situation.
  2. The handshakes also negated the negative of the situation and turned it into a positive to be fought through as a team, not to be put out by.

In recognizing the power of this simple action, I felt compelled to find a way to continue building the same connection with my officers that started with these simple gestures. With the busy week over, I had the weekend to consider how I was going to use it going forward.

I walked into our squad briefing the next Wednesday and looked around at my 8 young officers ready to hit the road. Without thinking about it for a second, I extended my hand and began walking around the room shaking each of their hands and saying, “Thanks for being here.”

To this day, I start every Wednesday briefing just like that. Do not underestimate the power of a simple gesture and the positive effect it can have on your officers.

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. 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!

culture

Culture in Just 4 Words

THE SETUP: A few months ago, another sergeant asked how my squad of mostly brand new police officers was having such great success on the road and in the community. I attributed it to the culture that we had created as a squad in the briefing room and then worked hard to exemplify each shift on the road. When he asked what my squad’s culture was, I quickly rattled just 4 words – Positivity, Activity, Teamwork, and Students. As I said these 4 words aloud, the other sergeant looked at me like I was holding out on him and I replied, “No really . . . that is our culture in just 4 words and it works.”

I have previously shared my old squad expectations in the blog entitled: Squad Expectations: THE P.R.I.D.E.S. MODEL. The P.R.I.D.E.S. Model worked well and helped us get where we were, but I knew in my gut that these 4 words I had just uttered in conversation could be even better.

THEN IT HITS ME: The realization that came to me as we continued this conversation was that a strong, sustainable culture should be just that easy to define, explain, understand, and apply. Culture has to be tangible and not just something that is said. It was at this moment that I knew I needed to redo my squad expectations to match what had just been said. Then everything we have been doing on the road would be in alignment with what we have been talking about in the briefing room.

culture1

THE HOW: I pulled out a piece of paper and divided it into 4 boxes. At the top of each box I wrote one of the words that I had told the other sergeant about – Positivity, Activity, Teamwork, and Students. Knowing that culture is defined by our actions and attitudes, I made sure that I could define each of the words in terms of both. Here is what I came up with . . .

POSITIVITY

  • Know your “why.”
  • Community service – treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  • Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.
  • Recognize each other for good police work.

ACTIVITY

  • Strive to be the most active squad in the city.
  • Calls for service are our priority, but initiative fills the gaps.
  • Take pride in your beat, know your beat, and work it as such.
  • Be a leader on calls – step up where others fear to.

TEAMWORK

  • We before I.
  • Many hands make light work – have a “how can I help” mentality.
  • We back each other up – stay safe.
  • No gossip, no complaining – find solutions.

STUDENTS (of Policing)

  • Get involved – policing is experiential learning.
  • Don’t fear mistakes, learn from them.
  • Remain humble and continue learning.
  • Take training seriously; especially use of force and constitutional rights.

The above 4 words and defining bullet points are what best describe the actions and attitudes of my squad and what we want to project to everyone we interact with in the department and the community. The next step was presenting it to the squad.

THE PRESENTATION: On the presentation day, I explained to my 8 officers the conversation I had with that other sergeant and how this all got started. As I spoke about each of the 4 words and their corresponding bullet points, I used specific examples of times when I had seen these actions and attitudes displayed previously by them. I wrote each of the words on the outside of a box that I had drawn on the whiteboard. When everything was said and done, I explained that if everything they said or did on this job could fall into the confines of this box then they would know that they were doing policing the right way. It is only when actions and/or attitudes don’t fit into that box that problems occur and build distrust between police departments and their communities.

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REINFORCEMENT: Whenever a new squad member comes to the squad, I go over these same 4 words in the same way as described above. The only thing that changes are newer, better examples. This serves 2 purposes. First, it reinforces the importance of our culture to the officers that have heard it before and keeps it fresh in their memory. Secondly, by going over this on the new officer’s very first day of joining the squad it solidifies how important we take our culture and begins to quickly assimilate them into the fold. If there are no new officers coming to the squad, then I make sure it gets discussed at least once every couple of months.

Between squad expectation presentations, it is vital to positively reinforce the desired culture. Whenever my officers handle a tough call, solve a problem, or demonstrate a great attitude about a tough situation; I make sure to mention it in briefing the next day and thank them for their outstanding service and commitment to our squad expectations. I make sure to specifically attribute whatever they did to the words it best corresponds to. This has gone over even better than I expected. In fact, they now recognize each other in briefing when they see something on a call that I was not able to get to. This reinforcement creates a positive cycle that just continues building and building and building.

THE CHALLENGE: Obviously, if you are still reading this far into the blog I have peaked your interest. Answer the following questions to get you started . . .

  1. If your squad was running exactly the way you wanted it to, what 4 words would you chose to describe your squad’s culture?
  2. Once you know your 4 words, list 3 – 5 specific actions or attitudes for each word that exemplify specifically how you would like to see that word expressed by your officers.
  3. Present your 4 words to your squad.
  4. Take the time and make opportunities to positively reinforce the 4 words of your culture.

Squad expectations need to be about establishing culture; not rules. Police departments have plenty of rules, laws, and policies to follow; that’s what those big books of general orders and revised statutes are for. If you get the culture right; the rules will take care of themselves. So, I challenge you to discover your 4 words and get them out there to your squad.

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. 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!

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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!

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7 Core Values for Building a Team – Part 1

As leaders, there are terms you hear bantered about on a regular basis that are great conceptual ideas, but often lack real-world practice – culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, value. Typically, it is not the lack of desire to implement these concepts, but a lack of concrete know-how. So, Thin Blue Line of Leadership is going to give away the answer for effectively implementing the concepts of culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value with the least amount of time and effort necessary. Ready, here it comes . . . BUILD A TEAM!

Right about now, some people reading this might be thinking, “Wait, aren’t terms like culture, vision, and mission supposed to build the team for me?” The answer to that question is a simple “no.”

The concepts mentioned above are great for formulating the background of a team and defining the reason that a team needs to exist. But, in order to effectively implement culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value with a group of people, each individual must feel they are an integral part of something bigger than themselves. A part of something where each member feels like they truly belong and are among others that believe similarly to the way they do. Only then will they be willing to give their blood, sweat, and tears to make culture, vision, mission, purpose, alignment, and value work effectively for their squad, precinct, department, or organization.

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Here are 7 core values for building a law enforcement team . . .

  1. Know the why.

There are 3 pieces to every team: the what, the how, and the why. What and how are typically the easy parts to understand; they define what the team does and how they do it. For example, we are police officers that enforce the law and here is the ginormous book of General Orders that says how to be a police officer. The why is where it becomes a little more complicated. The why is referring to the reason a person ever wanted to be a police officer in the first place; that core belief inside that drives them to run towards danger for people they have never met. To build a team, the leader must know their why and maintain it as a strength throughout their career in both good and bad times. Then, a leader must learn their officers’ why’s and cultivate them in much the same way the leader does with their own why. Finally, the leader must be willing to talk about it. Talk about their why and their officers’ why’s on a regular basis to keep the why fresh in the front of their minds through each and every shift. This provides purpose, value, and clarity to the members of that team.

  1. Be a leader.

Being a good leader is not a theory. Being a good leader is taking concrete, positive actions for the good of the team and repeating them over and over and over. The key piece to the last sentence is that it must be for the good of the team. The leader must put the needs of the team above their own with the realization that ultimately the success of the team equates to their own success. A good leader must be authentic. They cannot walk around the department pretending to be something they are not because over time everyone will see through the charade. A good leaders knows their own character, strengths, weaknesses, and values to the extent that they can clearly articulate them to anyone who will listen. Lastly, a good leader recognizes that they must give long before they can expect to get from their team. Until a team knows that a leader cares for them and has their best interests at heart, they will still be just a group of individuals. To build a great team, there must be a great leader.

  1. Actively create culture.

Culture . . . one of those magical words that gets thrown about leadership circles, but only a few can define. So, here is the definition of culture – it is the prevailing actions and attitudes of a team demonstrated over time. Actions and attitudes, it really is that simple. To begin actively creating a culture, a leader must first know what they want their culture to be. What are the actions the leader would like to see their team value the most? Once the actions are defined, then a leader must nuture the attitude with which they want their team to carry out those actions. Recently in law enforcement, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the attitudes or mentalities with which officers do their job. Are we warriors or are we guardians? The leader of the team must make that distinction, exemplify it on every shift, and expect the same from their officers. The key is that the leader must be intentional about it. If the leader does not step up and steer the culture in a particular direction, then a culture will still form, but it may not be the desired one. The final question that must be answered is when do law enforcement leaders have the opportunity to actively create culture when officers work the majority of their time as one or two officer units? The answer to that is simple – to actively create culture, it must start in the briefing room or meeting room for leaders that are higher up in the department. By defining the actions and attitudes of the team over time in a briefing setting, where everyone hears the same words at the same time, the leader is able to efficiently share their cultural vision with the team. As law enforcement professionals, we have to win in the briefing room before we can truly expect to win in the community.

This is just Part 1 of 7 Core Values for Building a Team. If you would like to continue to Part 2, click here.

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!

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5 Steps to Develop Squad Culture

Whether you are a brand new law enforcement leader or one that has been around awhile, you must recognize the importance of developing a squad culture. If a squad culture is not developed intentionally, then the leader will be putting him or herself at the mercy of whatever fills that culture vacuum. So, the question becomes, how do you intentionally develop a squad culture?

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of developing a squad culture, there are two things that must be understood. The first thing to understand before developing a squad culture is the definition of culture. The culture of a group can be defined as the conglomeration of a group’s actions and attitudes over time. The second thing to understand in developing a squad culture is that it doesn’t happen in a day, it has to happen every day. It must be taught, explained, reinforced, and made a priority in everything your squad does for it to take hold.

Here are 5 steps for developing a positive squad culture . . .

  1. Know what is already out there.

Before you can begin to establish your own culture, you have to have an idea of what is already out there within your organization. Study what is and what is not working. Then, seek out the leaders that are having success in developing their squad’s culture and talk to them about it. Save yourself some time and learn from their experience. Also, consider your own past experiences with law enforcement leaders. What did your previous sergeants do that made you feel like your work mattered and you were part of a team? Start isolating traits they had or things they did that helped to support the squad culture either positively or negatively. Sometimes your best learning experiences can come from the worst leaders by defining what you do not want to be or do.

  1. Identify what is important to you.

Now that you have seen what is out there and thought about past experiences, it is vital to identify what is important to you. What are the top 3 – 5 traits that you would want your squad to be known for – teamwork, officer safety, problem solving, being active, trust, positivity, treating people right, innovative, hardworking, caring about the community, responsive, rewarding, etc. Those are just a few of many words that could be used to describe a positive squad culture. The key is to settle on the ones that you want to make the focus of your squad.

  1. Visualize yourself in that environment.

After deciding on the 3 – 5 traits that you want your squad to be known for, you must now begin to visualize yourself being in that environment – see it, feel it, hear it. Start making your own personal actions match those traits you selected. If you chose teamwork, then it is imperative that you exemplify teamwork. Remember the definition of culture, it isn’t this ambiguous thing floating in the sky; it is the consistent actions and attitudes of your squad. Just as officers are told to play the “what if” game while thinking about calls they are responding to, the leader must play the “what if” game with the tough situations they may face as a leader and then look at them through the lens of the culture you desire to create. Ask yourself, how would having a strong, positive squad culture help deal with this? Walk through situations like an officer having a personal issue at home, handling an officer discipline situation, one of your officers involved in an officer-involved shooting, or dealing with a year without pay raises. Do the traits you chose to exemplify your squad’s culture support handling those types of scenarios? If not, refine them until they do.

  1. Put your culture into words.

Finally, it is time to take the traits you chose and put them into words that your officers can understand and relate to. Help them to understand why it is valuable to have a well-defined culture. As you create the wording to define your culture, keep the following questions in mind: Are they worded in a positive way? Avoid words like never, no, and don’t. Are they simple to understand? The less complicated the better; not because your officers aren’t smart, but because you want your culture to be easily adaptable to a multitude of situations. The more complicated you make them, the more restrictive they will become. Do they bring value to your officers? If they don’t, then what is the point in the first place? Do they have the potential to motivate and inspire? Ultimately, people decide if they want to be motivated or inspired, but that doesn’t mean your culture can’t be the fuel for motivation and inspiration. Does your culture provide opportunities for feedback? Feedback goes both directions; feedback for you and feedback for your officers. A solid culture is rich in trust which makes feedback able to be given and received without concern about negative ulterior motives.

  1. Develop a mechanism for reinforcing your culture.

As stated earlier, culture is not made in a day, it is made every day. You must teach your squad to look at every situation though the lens of the culture by talking them through incidents, scenarios, and calls for service with their relationship to the squad culture explained. Develop mechanisms to quickly reward officers when their actions and efforts support and build up the desired culture. (Also see blog: Law Enforcement Recognition: Idea #1) Vice versa, be willing to have the tough conversations when officers do things that do not support the culture. But, first and foremost, to support your desired culture, YOU must exemplify it in everything you do. Without that consistency from you, the leader, the squad will not take the culture seriously and you will run the risk of being labeled a hypocrite.

After going through the 5 steps listed above, you should have a good handle on the concepts you would want to base your own squad’s culture on. If you would like to see the results of me going through this same process, read the blog entitled Culture in Just 4 Words. I purposely chose to make my squad expectations the cornerstone for establishing my squad’s culture. Squad expectations should be about the culture; not policies and procedures. Cops know the policies and procedures through their General Orders. A strong, positive culture will support doing the job the right way without making officers feel like the rules are more important than they are as people.

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!

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5 Killers of Positive Culture

A leader must be intentional in the culture they wish to create, because if they aren’t, then there is no telling what kind of culture may grow in its place. For all of the time and effort put into creating a positive culture, it only takes a few poorly timed miscues to throw away everything.  To help avoid these culture development pitfalls, I want to highlight 5 killers of positive culture.

  1. This is the way we’ve always done it.

One of the greatest benefits that stems from having a positive culture is initiative to innovate. When an officer feels safe enough to share a new concept or idea for improvement with their leader, that is a sign that there is a good, positive culture established. The innovators within the culture are trying to find ways to contribute to the culture’s success. Unfortunately, if all or most new ideas get shot down solely because it is not the way it has been done in the past, then the leader doing the shooting down is teaching their officers not to waste their time innovating. A group that feels as if they do not have the power to assist in improving their current situation is a defeated group that will specialize in mediocrity.

  1. You’re just doing your job.

Any supervisor that feels the need to tell their officers that they are “just doing their job” will never wear the title of leader and will eventually kill any positive culture that may have been present. Leadership 101 states that you should educate your followers on the value they bring to others through their work. The more value someone feels their work has, the less it feels like something they have to do and more like something they get to do. When someone feels like they are contributing to a cause greater than themselves, then they will be more motivated, productive, and happy while doing their work.

  1. It’s all about me.

One aspect of a positive culture is the feeling that they are a part of a supportive, team environment. When those on the team feel that everyone has a “we” before “I” approach to their work, great things can be achieved. But, if the leader of any team has an “it’s all about me” attitude, then the team is sure to fail. An “it’s all about me” attitude can take on many different forms. It may be a leader that only cares about doing what needs to be done to get their next promotion as quickly as possible. It could be a leader that has a C.Y.A. philosophy and does not hesitate to throw their officers under the closest bus should it be needed to protect their own interests. Ultimately, leadership has nothing to do with “me” and everything to do with “we.” The most successful leaders recognize that their success comes through the success of their officers.

  1. It always rolls downhill.

Everything rolls downhill when those at the top want nothing to do with it. So, the question you, as a leader, have got to ask is this . . . where should it stop? A leader must constantly evaluate those things that roll downhill and decide if whatever it is should continue rolling or should it stop at my level? If the answer is that it should always roll downhill until it reaches someone that does not have a choice in dealing with it, then you have found yet another way to kill positive culture. A leadership position means that you take on the role of an umbrella; shielding your officers from having to deal with everything that rolls downhill by truly assessing the best place for things to be taken care of. If it is an issue created directly by one of your officers, then by all means the best learning experience will be for them to deal with it and develop their own solution. But, if it has absolutely nothing to do with any of your officers and it is just a crap job that no one else wants to do, then that is your opportunity as the leader to stand tall and confront the problem yourself. Delegating is an excellent tool, but not one to be taken advantage of just because you have the authority to do so and do not like the task at hand.

  1. Do as I say, not as I do.

As a leader, you set the example. You are the prototype for how you want your officers to carry themselves, treat others, be productive, and handle their work. If you show motivation, trust, and loyalty; then your officers will reciprocate by showing you motivation, trust, and loyalty. On the other hand, if what you say does not match what you do, your officers will be the first ones to pick up on that. Hypocrisy will take any existence of a positive culture and snuff it out like a candle in the wind. Then a culture of self-preservation, fear, and confusion will be what takes root since the actions of the leader do not match the words they are saying which creates an uncertain environment.

These 5 killers of positive culture are not elaborate, complex behaviors. They are simple, basic actions that anyone, if not careful, can make the mistake of committing. No person takes on a leadership role with the intention of destroying or hampering a positive culture, but it is easy to see how simple miscues can quickly lead to that result.

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. Continue reading our Twitter feed and check out our other blogs for tactics on creating positive culture. 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!