Category Archives: Squad Culture

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 they are physically present around those they are “leading” to enforce their expectations. Once the leader become 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, it is all about me.

METhe truth about leadership accountability is that it is all about ME. It start 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 MY actions, attitude, and 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.

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5 Basic 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, teacher, and many more.

Here are 5 basic 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 of 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 you 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 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!

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 led 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 rigid 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!

10 Tips for New Sergeants

For the last 4 years, I have been a Field Training Sergeant. It is truly a pleasure knowing that I am having an impact on the future of my police department by training these new leaders. I see this responsibility as a vital one. If I do not do a good job, I am not just affecting that new sergeant, but every officer that serves on his or her squad.

Just so we are on the same page, here is how my department handles sergeant training. Sergeant field training is a 5 week process – 2 weeks with one training sergeant, 2 weeks with a different training sergeant, and then one final week back with the first training sergeant. At the end of each shift, the Field Training Sergeant completes a daily observation report (similar to FTO) that summarizes and scores everything the prospective new sergeant did throughout that shift. While writing these daily activity reports, I have noticed that there are certain bits of advice that I seem to be repeatedly writing for every sergeant I help train.

So, here are my 10 tips for new sergeants . . .

  1. Successful sergeants spend 80% of their time working with people and 20% doing everything else. Sergeants that fail to inspire, have a poor squad culture, and breed negative officers focus more on everything else rather than people and building relationships.
  2. Successful sergeants find ways to teach their officers to be adaptive decision-makers; not robots that only understand “if – then” statements. When opportunities present themselves, sergeants explain their process for making difficult decisions and everything they took into account. Then, when their officers face similar situations they are taught to apply their own similar process.
  3. Successful sergeants never waste briefing time. There is always something that could be discussed, debated, trained, or learned in briefing. This is one of the few opportunities when sergeants have their entire squad’s attention at one time; make the most of it.
  4. Successful sergeants understand that policing is a complicated profession. Both sergeants and their officers are going to make mistakes at some point. Do not hide mistakes, share them openly and turn them into learning opportunities focused on improvement. Mistakes are fine, just don’t make the same one twice.
  5. Successful sergeants recognize, reward, and promote good police work by their officers. They use whatever methods are available at their department to make this happen anytime an officer goes above and beyond. Not only does this create a more positive culture, but it also spurs on more officers to look for opportunities to go above and beyond. What a sergeant rewards will be repeated.
  6. Successful sergeants have a vision of the culture they want to have on their squad. Squad culture is defined as the conglomeration of your officers’ actions, attitude, and effort. If you asked another sergeant to describe your squad in 4 words, what words would they use? That is your culture. If you don’t like those words, do something about it.
  7. Successful sergeants do not lead from their desks. They get out on the road with their officers and find ways to serve them throughout each shift. They never believe themselves to be too good for the “grunt” work of being a patrol officer; they get in there and get their hands dirty occasionally.
  8. Successful sergeants recognize that their actions, attitude, and effort tell their officers what is important to them. If a sergeant speaks negatively about their schedule, some situation at the department, or some aspect of the job, then don’t be surprised when the officers have that same opinion or are representing that opinion openly. Negativity breeds negativity.
  9. Successful sergeants know what they do not know, then they find ways to compensate for those areas. If they are not good at tactical situations, they talk to the department’s SWAT officers about various scenarios and how they would handle them. If they are not good at traffic or investigations, they build relationships with motors or detectives that are respected. The most important aspect of this tip is that a sergeant never fakes knowledge and gives bad advice to an officer. This will kill their credibility. If an officer has a question that the sergeant does not know the answer to, the best thing they can do is say, “That is a great question, I don’t know, but I know someone who will. Standby and I’ll call you right back.”
  10. Successful sergeants never allow themselves or their officers to stop learning. The minute a sergeant thinks they know it all is the moment they begin sliding towards mediocrity. A sergeant values training and realizes that the more training they can get for their officers, the better their officers will be on the road.

Got a tip you would give to a new sergeant?

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!

TBLL – Leadership Reading List

Culture can be nurtured within a law enforcement organization in a number of different ways. I have been fortunate to have multiple opportunities to positively affect my department’s culture by being involved in the Field Training Officer (FTO) Program, as a trainer of Field Training Officers, as a Sergeant, as a Sergeant Field Trainer, and by assisting in the develop of our department’s leadership-based sergeant selection process. All of these opportunities have enabled me to develop a level influence within the culture of the department that I take very seriously. So, when I was asked by a sergeant test candidate what has influenced my personal leadership style and what resources I have used to develop the material that comes out on Thin Blue Line of Leadership, I decided to provide my recommended leadership reading list.

These books have been vital in the development of Thin Blue Line of Leadership content, my own leadership style, my community interactions, how I operate within my department, and also how I operate with my squad of officers. I can vouch for the value in all of them as there are multiple concepts that I have implemented from each of the books listed below. If you are not a big reader or just do not have the time, all of these books can be purchased and listened to by using the Audible app on both Apple and Android devices. About half of these books I listened to while driving in to work and the rest were read the old fashioned way.

These books were all written from the perspective of the business world; not policing. Therefore, as I read each of them, I continually asked myself “How does this apply to policing?” and “How do I incorporate these ideas into my squad/department?” Then I molded the ideas I liked into my leadership style, community interactions, department interactions, and/or squad expectations. For two of these books I have written a law enforcement synopsis and those are linked in the book titles. I have also linked each book’s picture to Amazon in case you are inspired to buy any of the books mentioned.

In case you are wondering, I do not work for Amazon or any of these publishing companies. I simply want to share some good leadership knowledge with you. Enjoy . . .

Start with Why     Leaders Eat Last     Entreleadership

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey

First fast fearless      Energy bus     Training Camp

First, Fast, Fearless by Brian Hiner (Ret. Navy Seal Lieutenant Commander)

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon

Training Camp by Jon Gordon

Hard Hat     Soup     You Win

The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon

Soup by Jon Gordon

You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon

Turn Around     Failing-Forward     Miserable

Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet

Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni

Five Dysfunctions     The ideal Team player     Good to GReat

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Currently I am reading “Building Shooters: Applying Neuroscience Research to Tactical Training System Design and Training Delivery” by Dustin P. Salomon and believe that it will soon be at the top of this list. I truly hope you get as much out of each of these books as I did. Please let me know if you have any reading suggestions for me and I’ll check them out.

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!

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!

10 Steps for Growing Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 1

“The rank of office is not what makes someone a leader. Leadership is the choice to serve others with or without any formal rank. There are people with authority who are not leaders and there are people at the bottom rungs of an organization who most certainly are leaders. It’s okay for leaders to enjoy all the perks afforded them. However, they must be willing to give up those perks when it matters.”

~ Excerpt from Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

 

A couple of weeks ago, I received a direct message on Twitter that asked the following: “I was in the military and have been a police officer for 10 years. I would love to hear how you teach leadership. I’m not trying to be a doubter, but I work for some non-leading people who don’t know or understand leadership or how to lead.”

First, let me say how unfortunate it is that you are currently working for “some non-leading people.” I can empathize with how you are feeling and guarantee you are not alone in that feeling. In fact, most law enforcement agencies have their fair share of “non-leaders” who are in positions of higher rank. Policing is a noble profession with an amazing purpose and plenty of fun, exciting moments; but all of that can be overshadowed when working for a “non-leader.”

Law enforcement agencies hire people from many different facets of life. Some come from the military, some come from the business world, and others come straight out of college. Every one of these people enter the law enforcement profession with many different prior experiences and therefore different definitions of leadership and what it should look like. To teach leadership within a law enforcement agency, this fact must be addressed.

It is imperative that law enforcement agencies develop a strategy for teaching leadership and developing leaders within the organization from the moment an officer is hired and throughout the entirety of their career. Only then can an agency begin to achieve leadership excellence throughout every level of rank.

Here are the first 5 steps for teaching leadership in law enforcement:

  1. Hire Leadership Potential

Teaching leadership starts by hiring the right people. In order to develop leaders, an organization must identify people in the hiring process that are self-reflective, values based, and authentic. They must possess the capability to assess themselves and their actions honestly. An ability to identify both strengths and weaknesses is vital in the development of a leader. Their values must be clear because as a police officer they are going to be given great power and we all know that with great power comes great responsibility. Clear values also make decision-making easier and good decision-making is a key characteristic of good leaders. Authentic people know who they are. They are comfortable with themselves and can therefore withstand the pressures of the job; both inside the organization and out. If this were easy, every law enforcement agency would do it. In order to find these people in the hiring process, the true leaders within the agency must be involved in the process at all levels. This is key because those that are true leaders and have seen true leadership possess the unique ability to spot other leaders.

  1. Define Leadership

In order to define leadership, a law enforcement agency must start by defining its desired culture. Culture should answer questions like the following: Who do we want to be? and What are we all about? As mentioned in previous blogs, culture is made up of an agency’s prevailing actions and attitudes over time. Defining desired actions and attitudes creates the culture. (Example “Culture in Just 4 Words”) Only when a clear vision of the desired culture exists can specific leadership characteristics be defined. Defining leadership means thinking about the desired culture and asking the following question: What specific actions and attitudes do leaders within the organization need to be exemplifying in order to promote the desired culture? (Example “The 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments”) Do not confuse this with a generic department vision or mission statement. Defining leadership means to identify specific actions and attitudes that leaders and developing leaders should be applying to everything they do and every decision they make.

  1. Learn about Leadership

True leaders are lifelong learners. They recognize that there will never be a point in their career when they can just relax, stop learning, and become stagnant to knowledge. To create this atmosphere of lifelong learning, law enforcement organizations must encourage and provide leadership education. In the same way officers train regularly in defensive tactics, firearms, and legal updates, leadership training should be just as regular. Too often, leadership training is left up to individuals to seek out their own learning. If an agency takes the time to define their own style of leadership, then they should be supporting it with training that builds off of their leadership definition. Departments can encourage discussion groups at each level of rank where similar challenges and successes can be shared with each other. Develop a preferred leadership reading list that contains books that support the definition of leadership chosen by the department. Here are some books that have defined my definition of leadership: Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, You Win in the Locker Room by Jon Gordon, The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, First Fast Fearless by Brian Hiner, EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey, QBQ! by John G. Miller, Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet, Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I have personally read all of these books and this same list is given to anyone within my department that has a desire to learn more about leadership.

  1. Identify Informal Leaders

If a department adheres to Step #1: Hire Leadership Potential, then it is imperative that the current leaders within the organization keep a constant watch for officers that are demonstrating leadership potential from informal positions. Here are a few key behaviors that identify informal leaders: They teach others how to be better officers. They learn from their mistakes. They take the lead on calls for service. They absorb learning about the job. They do not fear hard work. They find ways to help others. They bring others together. They are not scared to give or take advice. They are active participants in briefings. They are always looking to be the best officer they can be. They stay positive and seek solutions when issues arise instead of mindlessly complaining. Once identified, find ways to recognize and reward their leadership behaviors. This will not only reinforce the leadership behaviors of the informal leader, but will also spark other officers to follow their example. (Example “A Law Enforcement Recognition Idea”)  It is also necessary to keep these informal leaders stimulated by involving them in discussions about leadership or introducing them to the department leadership reading list – See Step #3: Learn about Leadership. Finally, challenge these informal leaders to start planning and doing what is necessary to move into more formal leadership roles within the department such as testing for a specialty unit or becoming a field training officer (FTO).

  1. Leadership-Based Field Training Officers

Creating a leadership-based FTO program starts with going back to Step #2: Defining Leadership. Basing the testing and selection criteria off of this definition is key. The defined actions and attitudes that the department identifies as the qualities it wants its leaders to exhibit should be used to create test questions, oral board questions, and/or scenarios. The candidate pool should primarily be filled with the informal leaders identified in Step #4: Identify Informal Leaders. Once selected, FTO School should not only be based upon reinforcing the defined leadership characteristics, but also on instructing/evaluating in one-on-one situations, progressive trial/error based learning, positive engagement, and situational decision-making. Unfortunately, many FTO schools spend the majority of their time on administrative tasks, documentation, and strict policy adherence to mitigate liability. While these are important, leadership-based FTO programs should be built upon the belief that a trainee does not care how much the FTO knows until the trainee knows how much the FTO cares. This belief is most easily ingrained into new FTO’s if they have had it exemplified to them by their FTO’s and experienced the success that can be had from it.

These are the first 5 of 10 Steps for Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement. The next blog post will continue with Steps 6 through 10.

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. Inspired leaders, inspire cops, improve policing, create better communities. It’s just that simple! 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!

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 them 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 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 Humility. 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.”

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 also has to be easily articulable and reproducible by all that are involved within it.

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 Humility. 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 based on what the squad and I had previously discussed during multiple briefings . . .

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.
  • Control what you can control – Actions, attitude, and effort.

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.

HUMILITY

  • Get involved – policing is experiential learning.
  • Don’t fear mistakes, learn from them.
  • Remain humble and continue learning.
  • Take training seriously; continue growing throughout your career.

The above 4 words and defining bullet points are what best describe the actions and attitudes of our squad and what we wanted 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 7 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.

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 word(s) it best corresponds to. Culture in 4 words 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.

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 and get their feedback.
  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 state 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!

HELP WANTED: Police Officers Needed

In August of 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton led the Endurance Expedition on a voyage to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. Prior to the expedition, Shackleton needed to raise a crew and posted the following help wanted advertisement:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”

Even after posting such an unflattering advertisement of the trip ahead, sailor’s responded. In the book, “Quit You Like Men” by Carl Hopkins Elmore, Shackleton said that the response to the advertisement was so overwhelming that “it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him.”

By January 1915, the Endurance had become trapped in the thick Antarctic ice and began to break apart forcing Shackleton and the crew to abandon it. They had to set out on foot dragging lifeboats and supplies across the ice for any chance of survival. Eventually they located a suitable place to establish a camp. Shackleton realized that in order to survive they were going to need to take matters into their own hands; so they developed a rescue plan to seek out help.

Prior to Shackleton leaving on the rescue mission, a crew leader told Shackleton, “Whatever happens, we all know that you have worked superhumanly to look after us.”  Shackleton replied, “My job is to get my men through all right. Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” To make a great, long story short, it was only through the crew’s dedication and Shackleton’s leadership that they were eventually rescued over a year after the ship had become trapped. This is a fabulous story of leadership, sacrifice, and survival, but what really caught my attention was still the unflattering help wanted advertisement that attracted such a positive response from prospective sailors.

With the current climate surrounding law enforcement, how would a help wanted advertisement have to read in order to be just as truthful and unflattering, yet attract exactly the type of people we want in policing? Maybe it would read something like this:

HELP WANTED: Men and women wanted for hazardous 20 – 25 year career. Long hours during all times of day and night enforcing laws created by politicians you don’t necessarily agree with. Low to moderate wages protecting and serving a community that you may not even live in. Solve problems and risk life regularly for people that you don’t know and possibly don’t even like you while constantly transitioning between the roles of counselor, guardian, enforcer, educator, warrior, caretaker, and community representative. All interactions with the community must be recorded on video. Actions, especially mistakes, will be highly critiqued, criticized, and possibly penalized. Honor and recognition in event of success.

Honor and recognition in event of success . . . is that all it takes? Yep, along with being part of something greater than yourself and believing that on each and every call you have the ability to make a difference in another person’s life. Those are the results that we, those that call ourselves police officers, are looking for when we chose this career. As Shackleton stated, “Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.” That is why we make the “superhuman effort” for a job that has this kind of description.

So, how do we maintain this level of effort? We remember our “why” . . .

Why did I chose to be a police officer?

Why did I chose to be a leader of police officers?

If you read those questions and cannot articulate an answer, or worse don’t remember, then I challenge you to sit down, brainstorm some ideas, and seek the words that describe why you were inspired to choose a career with this type of help wanted advertisement.

As soon as the right words come together and you can clearly articulate them, put them somewhere very safe where they cannot be forgotten. Your “why” will get you through that 20 – 25 years career just as it got Shackleton and his men through their expedition without a single life lost. If you get the privilege to lead officers through their policing careers, share your “why” often to motivate and inspire greatness in them so they too may receive “honor and recognition in event of success.”

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!