Tag Archives: leader

Creating “Wow” Moments in Policing

Why does the general public like the fire department better than the police department? The simple answer is this, the fire department is better at creating positive “wow” moments – saving lives, putting out fires, and of course getting cats out of trees. Sure, as law enforcement, we have our positive moments too, but we also have the disadvantage of having to hold people accountable for their unlawful actions by making traffic stops, writing tickets, placing people under arrest, and occasionally using force.

rock-and-a-hard-place

It would seem that law enforcement is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Therefore, it becomes imperative of law enforcement leaders to support, recognize, reward, and promote their officers when they have the opportunity to take initiative and create positive “wow” moments for those they serve.

I would like to share a story that occurred a couple of weeks ago which represents the concept of creating a “wow” moment in policing. Anyone who has ever worked overnights can sympathize with the call that comes out with only 30 minutes remaining in the shift. The call that you know is going to unexpectedly cause you to stay late.

This particular call happened to be a 90 year old male who was having difficulty breathing. The two assigned officers arrived at the nursing home to find the fire department doing their best to save the elderly gentleman’s life, but ultimately learned that this medical call had become a death investigation. As the primary officers, they both knew they were now going to be on this call for at least a couple of hours past their regular time off.

The officers began doing their due diligence with the investigation – speaking to the reporting party, taking notes, locating a doctor to sign the death certificate, and so on. After just over two hours, they had everything completed with the investigation and were ready to go home to get some much deserved sleep before coming back that evening to do it all again.

As the two officers were getting to the nursing home’s front doors, they heard one of the nurses mention that the deceased’s wife was on her way there. The nurse mentioned that the couple had been married for 67 years and she still lived on her own just down the road. The officers spoke briefly and then asked one of the nurses if they could go back up to the room before the wife got there.

In order for the fire department to do their job, the elderly gentlemen had been placed on the floor, his clothes removed, LEDs placed all over his body, and an oxygen mask put over his face. That is how he was left by fire and after completing their investigation that is how he was left by the officers to wait for the mortuary company to pick him up . . . until they heard about his wife.

The two officers returned to the room and carefully moved the elderly gentleman’s body up into his bed. They removed the LEDs, rebuttoned his shirt, took off the oxygen mask, pulled up the covers, and made him look as if he was comfortably sleeping. They passed by the wife without saying a word about what they had just done and for all she knew this was exactly how he had passed.

That is how you create a “wow” moment in policing. While the wife will probably never know what they did, every employee at the nursing home that saw the actions of those officers experienced a “wow” moment. Service to the community that goes above and beyond what you could ever ask for or expect; service that makes the average bystander step back and say, “wow.”

How many times do you think the nursing home employees shared that story? What do you think the positive trickle-down effect is from this one event? We’ll never be able to quantitatively measure it, but just knowing the power that negative police interactions can have gives you some idea. The key is that we, as law enforcement, need to continue getting better at creating these “wow” moments.

Here are 5 ways that law enforcement leaders can help officers become better at creating positive “wow” moments:

  • Point out opportunities that present themselves. The first step is just recognizing opportunities that are there. Being a supervisor that is out on the road with your officers puts you in the position to see the potential and help lead your officers down the path of creating a “wow” moment, if they don’t see it themselves. Think positively outside the box.
  • Support your officers when they find an opportunity. Inevitably, opportunities to create “wow” moments are going to come when you are slammed with calls for service or are running under staffed. Being a leader means that you are willing to take on extra work when needed to support officers that find an opportunity to create a “wow” moment. You may have to help cover calls or do other work to make up for their temporary absence from the road, but in the end it will be well worth it.
  • Recognize “wow” moments when they occur. To reinforce the effort made by officers to create positive “wow” moments, you must keep a watchful eye out for when they occur and note them for future reward.
  • Reward officers for their effort to create “wow” moments. Once you recognize that an officer has gone above and beyond to create a “wow” moment, it is imperative that you reward it in some way as soon as possible through whatever means of recognition your department has. If there is no formal way through the department or it doesn’t rise to that level, create an informal way to recognize the effort within your squad.
  • Promote both the officer and the “wow” moment. Publicizing the exceptional work done by one of your officers is not only good for the officer and his/her career, but also for the department. The more often “wow” moments are recognized, rewarded, and promoted both internally and externally, the more likely they will be to be repeated. Once this is done effectively enough times, the momentum will help to keep the “wow” moments coming without nearly the effort it took to get them started. In addition, as other officers hear about the varying ways “wow” moments have been created and were rewarded, the more innovative they will be in finding their own opportunities to create “wow” moments.

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 TBLL 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, let’s explore 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 the feeling of security that allows officers to take initiative and 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. They are focusing on solutions instead of complaints. When this environment is effective, the innovators of the team will naturally try 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 and complaining.

  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 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; assist them in recognizing their purpose. 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 themself, then they will be more motivated, productive, and fulfilled 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; not at their expense.

  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 or 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 trust, loyalty and appreciation; then your officers will reciprocate by showing you trust, loyalty, and motivation. 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 environment of uncertainty.

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.

If you find yourself in the position of having made one or more of these errors, there is a solution . . . all is not lost. Stand tall in front of your team, admit your mistake, and apologize. Then give a vision of where you would like to go from here and ask for their assistance in getting there.

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!

The 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement leaders to be better than they were yesterday. Sharing positive leadership tactics and creating a positive law enforcement culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position.

Here are 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments . . .

  1. Emphasize good culture over rules. Good culture will take care of the rules.
  2. Create and train your officers to be the next leaders of the organization. Develop them through mentorship.
  3. Remember your “why” and share it often. Also know your officers’ “why” and don’t let them forget it.
  4. Your officers will only be as good as they are trained to be. Under stress they will default to their lowest level of understanding.
  5. Emphasize the value in doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.
  6. Teach your officers not to operate in fear. Fear breeds hesitation.
  7. Recognize, reward, and promote good police work as a matter of routine.
  8. Be purposeful in your briefings. Don’t let the little time you have with the whole squad go to waste.
  9. Create influence through contact, communication, and connection. Then you will get their contribution. Get out of the office and handle some calls with them.
  10. You will succeed the most through your officers succeeding. Don’t put personal gain above their needs.

Have something that you would have added to this list? 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!

Commandments

Change and Reputation

Reputation1

As a police sergeant, I have 2 primary goals regarding the officers on my squad: 1. Keep them safe. 2. Assist them in being successful at reaching their goals. To assist them in being successful with their goals, I find it is necessary to help give them perspective on the “big picture.” In law enforcement, it is easy to get caught up on short-sighted issues that demoralize a squad like staffing, compensation, negative public perceptions, etc. With that being said, I wrote this and read it in one of my recent briefings.

Change and your reputation go hand in hand in any organization, but in a mid-sized police department it is even truer – there is nowhere to hide within a 400 person department. We all know the phenomenal street cop whose career was or is being derailed by their poor reputation/attitude. More times than not, their poor reputation/attitude is related to their inability to deal with change effectively.

Change is inevitable. The only thing that stays constant is that circumstances and situations are always changing. How you deal with change comes down to your own personal responsibility and accountability – What do you expect of yourself? This defines not only your ability to deal with change, but also develops your reputation within the organization. Are you a whiny victim of change or are you someone who can deal and work within the system that is present?

The sooner it is accepted that the system is what it is and will always be slow to respond, the easier it becomes to deal with organizational lapses. Organizations, like people, are inherently flawed – no organization is perfect because they are run by human beings who are made up of attitudes, egos, and emotions. To move beyond the lapses, though, you have to take the long view and not be focused on just the short-term. So, the question becomes, how can you react to change to get the best outcome and solidify a reputation as a positive, forward thinker?

First, when change is approaching, ask this question of yourself, “What can I do?” This is the most direct and proactive response you can have. Sometimes you’ll have the ability to affect change before it is upon you and sometimes you won’t. The key is to remember that working within yourself is the only thing you actually have true control over. By taking initiative and working from the front, you can often help direct change in a more palatable direction.

Reputation2

But, what if there is nothing you can do to directly affect the change that is coming? I answer that question with a quote from Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

If you can’t effect the situation directly, then whining, complaining, or having beat office bitch sessions will do nothing but hurt YOUR reputation. The perceived “problem” will rarely be blamed because it is so ambiguous and comes from “they” levels. You know who “they” are, right? I implore you not to see change as something that is out to get you – it is vital to your career success to be a person who can identify the positives and opportunities that come with change.

There are 3 things you are always in control of when it comes to change – your actions, your attitude, and your effort. The common denominator to all 3 of those is YOU – you are in control and no one can take that away unless you let them. It is all about being proactive, not reactive.

Here are 5 steps to help deal with change in a positive, forward-thinking manner. These steps are adapted from the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

Change Awareness

  1. Accept that change happens.
  2. Anticipate change.
  3. Affect change, if possible.
  4. Adapt to change quickly by adjusting your perspective.
  5. Enjoy change by being in personal control of your response to it.

Ultimately to succeed, not just within an organization, but in life, it is about survival of the fittest – your ability to adapt and overcome to change. Just like responding to a call, the situation is always going to be fluid. How you respond is your choice and builds your reputation either for better or for worse!

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 by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. By discussing topics like this, law enforcement leaders are tending to the welfare of the “whole” officer, not just the one in uniform.

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!

Don’t Get Captured

“Work hard, have fun, be safe, and don’t get captured.” I end every patrol briefing with those four simple requests. The first three are pretty straightforward. It was the last one that generated snickers from my patrol officers, but that was fine by me; I knew they had heard it. Each briefing for a month and a half ended in the same way, but the snickers slowly faded. I assume they probably thought I was nuts to continue making the same dumb joke every shift. Then, I shared the meaning . . .

A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room watching one of the best television shows ever made, HBO’s The Wire. Jimmy McNulty, played by Dominic West, and the group of characters that had come together to run a wiretap had been disbanded and reassigned back to their old assignments. The scene opens with a Baltimore Police Department lieutenant giving a patrol briefing. At the very end of the briefing, he closes by saying, “Don’t get captured.”

As a patrol officer at the time, I thought that was a pretty funny way to end a briefing. The simplistic meaning I came up with was that it was a comedic way for the writers to get across the danger that exists on a daily basis working patrol in Baltimore. For some inexplicable reason, this phrase stuck with me. I decided, years before promoting, that I would end every briefing I lead with “don’t get captured,” but for very different reasons than the simplistic one I thought of the first time I heard it.

Don’t get captured truly has a much deeper meaning. Think about it, what does it really mean to be captured? Here are my two reasons for ending each briefing this way:

First, to be captured means you or someone leading you has created a situation that is beyond your control; too far behind enemy lines, surrounded. In law enforcement, it is very easy to metaphorically get too far behind those lines. It could be walking into a domestic violence call without backup, trying to break up a fight without recognizing the encircling crowd, or getting pulled into a foot pursuit without knowing what is around the corner. These are all situations that good patrol officers need to learn to recognize and respond to appropriately so they don’t get behind those lines. The same sentiment holds true for law enforcement supervisors that are running emergency traffic and leading officers during the most volatile moments policing has to offer.

Second, to be captured also means that you gave up and stopped fighting. As officers, we all accept the reality that we may have to physically defend ourselves and survive long enough for backup to arrive. If we give up, quit, and stop fighting; then the consequences could be life threatening. Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Could there be any truer statement than that for the patrol officer that is in a fight for their life?

So, why do I end every patrol briefing by saying, “don’t get captured?” I do this because it serves as a subtle reminder to the men and women I’m leading to always be cautious of what they are heading into and to never give up. Backup is coming . . . just keep fighting.

Thank you for reading our blog. 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 by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. Development of a positive culture must be intentional; otherwise, who knows what will develop in its place.

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!

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!

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 Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement – Part 2

10 Steps

This is Part 2 of 10 Steps for Teaching Leadership in Law Enforcement. To read Part 1, click here.

  1. Leadership-Based Promotional Processes

When it comes to promoting higher in rank, every department seems to have their own unique process; usually some combination of written tests, assessment centers, oral boards, etc. Most of these evaluation tools focus more on the managerial qualities of rank rather than leadership qualities. In order to promote the continual learning of leadership, promotional processes must be based upon leadership demonstrated in the past, present, and most likely into the future. That is what a leadership-based promotional process must be based upon; the prediction of continued leadership into the future. I will not try to give a generic process that a law enforcement agency should duplicate, but I will try to make a few points that any agency should focus their process upon in their own way.

(1) How has the promotional candidate represented the definition of leadership as described in Step #2 in their current and past assignments?

(2) Has the promotional candidate contributed to the future of the agency as a Field Training Officer and how have their Officers-In-Training turned out?

(3) Is the promotional candidate an instructor of anything; do they share their knowledge and expertise with others to make those around them stronger?

(4) How has the promotional candidate responded to failure and/or correction in the past?

(5) How does the promotional candidate make others feel around them?

(6) Does the promotional candidate lean more towards being an optimist or a pessimist?

(7) Has the promotional candidate shown an ability to bring a team or squad together?

If an agency creates a process that focuses on these 7 questions, they will identify the future leaders that should be promoting and those who should not.

  1. Leadership-Based Sergeant Training Program

First-line supervisors have the most direct influence on their officers and sworn officers make up the largest percentage of any law enforcement agency. Even though sergeant is typically the lowest rank of official promotion, this influence gives them a great deal of power within the organization and in the development of the department’s culture. Therefore, it is imperative that law enforcement agencies have a well thought out leadership-based sergeant training program. The word sergeant comes from the Latin term “serviens” which means “one who serves” and it is important that a sergeant training program emphasizes this belief for the good of the department and the continuous teaching of leadership. Creating a Sergeant-In-Training (SIT) Program for officers that are seeking promotion which occurs prior to promotion and mimics a Field Training Officer Program, provides the agency with consistency in training among their leadership ranks. A good Sergeant-In-Training Program should be built upon the department’s definition of leadership. As the sergeant-in-training progresses through the phases of the SIT Program, the experienced training sergeant must ensure that the SIT adheres to the department’s definition of leadership in their decision-making, interactions with officers, running of critical incidents, and in all other duties of a sergeant. In these actions they will be evaluated and only upon successful completion of the Sergeant-In-Training Program will they officially promote.

  1. Experience on Rookie Schedules

The most easily influenced officers within an agency are the rookies. They come out of the academy full of piss and vinegar ready to save the world only to realize once they step foot on the streets that they really do not know nearly as much as they thought they did. Upon making this humbling realization, they become the most malleable officers with the entire department. Therefore, if there are schedules (ie. nights and weekends) within the agency where rookie officers conglomerate due to their lack of seniority, then there must be a mechanism in place to exemplify the application of the department’s definition of leadership as they learn to work within their new world as police officers. It is vital to have sergeants and hopefully a couple of experienced officers, possibly FTOs, they can work alongside that represent the highest standards of leadership within the agency. Having these models for rookies to watch and emulate at the early stages of their careers perpetuates both the desired culture and leadership style of the department. If change is sought within an agency, start by influencing the rookies. Over the long run, the rookies will work their way through the years of their careers and possible promotion to eventually complete the cycle of teaching leadership throughout the various schedules and ranks of the department.

  1. Mentorship at All Levels of Command

In order to support the department’s definition of leadership at all levels, there must be a trickle-down effect of mentorship. With a single, consistent message being passed through the ranks, the cycle of leadership will be further disseminated. Experienced officers should mentor newer officers. Sergeants should mentor their experienced officers. Lieutenants should mentor their sergeants and so on throughout the agency’s ranks. The key is that the agency’s definition of leadership must be the one consistent message throughout. (Example “Trickle-Down Leadership”)

  1. 360 Evaluations & Feedback

The final step for teaching leadership in law enforcement creates the guidelines for making sure all involved in the teaching of leadership remain true to the message. Having an evaluation system established that takes into account the perspectives of those above, at, and below each rank in the chain of command will provide the feedback necessary to motivate leaders to stay true to the department’s definition of leadership. True leaders should not fear what they may hear from those they work with and around in their evaluations, if they have been true leaders directed by the definition of leadership put forward by the department. They welcome the feedback and opportunity to learn and improve as leaders. If evaluations of a leader are negative, then that should serve as an arrow pointing out the direction in which additional leadership training and mentorship should take place. If negative feedback continues after additional training and mentorship have been given, then consideration should be made into whether or not the department wants that leader to remain in a leadership position because it will be at the expense of those they are supposed to be leading. These evaluations need to be active and on-going. Receiving feedback once a year is not nearly enough to provide an accurate guide for leadership. Once a quarter would provide a more regular supply of information, but the key is that the evaluation process must be quick and simple. A time consuming evaluation process done 4 times a year would do nothing but add more paperwork to an already administratively burdened profession. The key to having success with this type of process is that the definition of leadership is clear, trust in the process is developed, and an environment of education and learning is supported.

By implementing these 10 steps to teach leadership in law enforcement, the department gains a clear and concise message of leadership throughout the organization. Once all ranks within the department share the same message, the effort needed to sustain this culture of leadership will lessen. Inspired leaders will inspire officers which will improve policing and thus improve the community they serve.

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 Teaching 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 by 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!

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 . . .

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.

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 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 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 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!