Tag Archives: police

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!

Good to Great: A Law Enforcement Leadership Interpretation

Jim Collins starts his book, “Good to Great,” with this simple quote: “Good is the enemy of great.” That quote struck me like a lightning bolt because, all too often, law enforcement gets stuck in the rut of thinking that good is a fine place to be. How often have you heard the phrase, “Good enough for government work” thrown around the department? We, as first-line supervisors, preach to our officers about avoiding complacency, but if we allow our squads to just be good then aren’t we exemplifying complacency in our leadership?

Good-is-the-Enemy-of-Great

Whenever I read a book of this type, I am always thinking about how I can apply it in my role as a sergeant of eight officers that are within my span of influence. So, I decided that I would write this blog to share my thoughts on the major concepts described in “Good to Great” and how I see those applying to law enforcement leadership.

Before going any further, let me give you an idea of how the “Good to Great” concepts were formulated. Jim Collins and his research team conducted a detailed analysis of over 1,400 Fortune 500 companies looking for ones that demonstrated a very specific pattern of growth: At least 15 years of good results, a clear transition point, followed by at least 15 years of great results. Great results were defined as having a total stock return of at least 3 times the general market over the same period in time. Of the 1,400 companies they looked at, only 11 met that very specific criteria. They then began the lengthy process of analyzing what the distinctive traits were that those companies had in common which took them from good to great.

GoodToGreatBreakthrough1

Now the question becomes, what does this business mumbo jumbo have to do with policing? Following the success of “Good to Great,” Jim Collins began hearing a similar question from multiple areas of social sector work – law enforcement, non-profit organizations, hospitals, education, etc. In 2005, he released a monograph (like an additional chapter) to supplement the book entitled, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors.” This supplement is geared specifically to the social sector and the unique constraints faced by these types of organizations such as hiring, firing, compensation, etc.

As he did in the original book, Jim Collins starts the monograph off with a profound statement, “We must reject the idea – well-intentioned, but dead wrong – that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become ‘more like a business.’” Business concepts on leadership have their place, but they must be properly interpreted in order to effectively be applied in law enforcement. Law enforcement must be led in a way that only a law enforcement leader can; by someone that has handled calls, made arrests, used force, and been in situations that they will never forget. The bottom line is this . . . law enforcement measures greatness through their service to the community, not profits.

Before proceeding into the “Good to Great” framework, the question law enforcement supervisors must answer is how do you define greatness in policing at your department? What specifically defines a good officer and what specifically defines a great officer? The only way to determine that answer is to look at your department’s mission statement, goals, strategic plan, performance evaluation process, etc. and understand how those things are measured at the officer level. Once it is understood what your officers must demonstrate in order to be considered great, under the guidelines of your department, then you can proceed in applying the Good to Great concepts.

Just a quick note to any chiefs or command staff that may read this . . . if you cannot define greatness in your organization in concrete detail, then neither can your officers or first-line supervisors. Honor-Initiative-Excellence are great qualities to put on the side of a patrol car or hang on a wall in the briefing room, but if you don’t define them in concrete, “this-is-what-it-looks-like” terms; then they are just words.

STAGE 1: DISCIPLINED PEOPLE

Level 5 Leadership: For a squad to go from good to great, it is first necessary for them to have what Jim Collins refers to as a Level 5 Leader at the helm. A level 5 leader is ambitious and initiative-driven when it comes to applying their department’s definition of greatness to their work as a police officer. I say police officer because regardless of rank, we all started as police officers and that is the common denominator when it comes to the reason we started in this career. Level 5 leaders demonstrate that it is more about the job and their officers than themselves. They share a passion for learning, teaching, and leading other officers in the proper way to police. Ultimately, level 5 leaders realize their success comes through making those they lead successful. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “The 10 Law Enforcement Leadership Commandments.”)

level-5-leadership-hierarchy

First Who…Then What: The most valuable resource in a police department is not people, it is having the right people. The only way to take a squad from good to great is to have the right people on it; ones that are willing to get on board and make the transition to greatness. Unfortunately, due to the structure of police departments, we cannot always control who we have on our squads. Therefore, it is incumbent of the first-line supervisor to do everything within their power to mold their officers into being the right people. This will not always work, but it is an effort that must be made. Developing the right people can be accomplished through training, honest evaluations, handling call with them, briefing discussions, assigning them to ride with more experienced officers, good field training officers, etc. Once you have the right people on your squad, then you have to get them into the “right seats on the bus.” Assess the skills and talents that your officers possess and assign them to beats where those skills and talents can be best applied. Then, help direct those officers into specialty units that fit their skills and talents to benefit the department as a whole. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “6 Ways to Positively Influence Officer Behavior.”)

STAGE 2: DISCIPLINED THOUGHT

Confront the Brutal Facts: Confronting the brutal facts is all about retaining unwavering faith in the goal of becoming great while at the same time recognizing the challenges to that goal. They may stem from the community, the department, policies, staffing, politics, compensation, or internal squad issues.  You must possess the discipline to recognize your current reality and work tirelessly to improve the circumstances you find yourself in no matter the difficulties. Find like-minded individuals within the department that also have the desire to be great and collaborate with them to begin tackling the issues that you can control. Don’t waste your time on things you can’t control. Dealing with these issues will take dedication, time, and effort; but as long as your intentions are directed towards reaching the goal, the squad will come along. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “Change and Reputation.”)

The Hedgehog Concept: The Hedgehog Concept has to do with having simple, basic principles for your squad to follow that support the goal of becoming great and maintaining that greatness. These principles should be the intersection of the 3 circles – what you can be the best at, what you are passionate about, and what drives your department’s vision of greatness.

good-to-great

The first two circles are pretty self-explanatory, but measuring a police department’s vision of greatness can be difficult because it is not as simple as measuring profits in a business. A police department’s vision of greatness comes through in their community’s perception of them. Does the community trust that the department is there to protect them and act in their best interest with the power and authority that has been granted upon them? Like the Colorado River slowly forming the Grand Canyon, the thing to remember about the Hedgehog Concept is that the simple, basic principles of your squad need to be applied and reinforced on a consistent and on-going basis. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “Culture in Just 4 Words”)

STAGE 3: DISCIPLINED ACTION

Culture of Discipline: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. As law enforcement, we have a great deal of power and authority and we must be constantly accountable to the community we serve. There are many pressures that can instigate the slide down the slippery slope of dishonesty, malfeasance, and abuse of power. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the first-line supervisor, to nurture a culture of discipline within their squad that does the right things, at the right times, for the right reasons without emotion or prejudice and for the good of the community at-large. If a culture of discipline is set in place from the beginning, then having to deal with actual discipline will be limited to the minor mistake that can be handled and put into the past. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “The 3 Accountability Relationships in Law Enforcement.”)

The Flywheel: The flywheel is about consistently applying the concepts listed above in such a way that you start the flywheel of greatness spinning. The more the above concepts are applied, the faster the wheel begins to spin, and the less effort necessary to make it continue. Eventually, so much momentum is gained that it generates its own energy. The patrol culture you create is the first-line supervisor’s version of a flywheel. By putting the time and attention necessary into nurturing the right patrol culture, the first-line supervisor can start the flywheel of greatness spinning. If focus begins to slip and the Hedgehog Concept gets muddled up, the flywheel will begin to slow and greatness will begin to slide back to good or worse. Therefore, the entire process must be internalized by the first-line supervisor and assume their role to actively lead their squads towards greatness. (For more similar to this, see our blog entitled, “A Law Enforcement Leadership Reward.”)

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

A Law Enforcement Leadership Reward

“Leadership is not a license to do less. Leadership is a responsibility to do more.” (Simon Sinek) The results of your leadership, no matter how hard you work, cannot be easily measured. But every now and then you receive something like the letter below and know that all of the effort that has been put into leading your officers is worth it. These are the rewards of positive law enforcement leadership.

The names of the subject, officer, and police department have been removed for privacy.

Letter

One final note regarding a leadership reward of this nature. Always be sure to appropriately recognize, reward, and promote the officer that earned this kind of respect from a subject they arrested. Recognize them by reading the letter in front of their squad mates and reward them with whatever means your department provides or you have developed within the squad. Promote the officer by forwarding the letter up the chain of command so their name gets attributed appropriately to this type of excellence.

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

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!

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

Intentional Culture

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.

For demonstrative purposes, I am going to discuss culture as it relates to the position of a sergeant with his/her squad, but these concepts are applicable at any level within an organization. When speaking of culture, I am specifically defining it as the prevailing actions and attitudes that a group demonstrates on a consistent basis. Actions and attitudes are the building blocks of culture and both must be guided in a desired direction.

Here are 4 ways to develop an intentional culture . . .

  1. Cultural development begins the minute you assume a leadership position. The minute you walk into your first briefing, you are already beginning to develop the culture of the squad. Were you early, late, or right on time? Officers are watching every step you take and are trying to decipher what you like, what you don’t like, what you expect of them, and what they can get away with. You must know within yourself what direction you want to go or a power vacuum will form. The squad is seeking direction and leadership, either you give it to them or someone else will. There is not a minute to waste.
  2. Your style will teach your officers the culture. To be intentional about your squad’s culture, you must feed them examples of how you picture the culture. This cannot be done from the office. It requires being out on the road with them and demonstrating your style in action so they aren’t having to guess. Contact, communication, and connection between you and your officers is key. While in briefings, encourage your officers to ask “why” so they can better understand your decision-making process. The more they understand, the more the culture will begin to reflect the style you desire.
  3. What you reward will be repeated. You must reward desired actions and attitudes consistently. When you know within yourself the direction you want your squad to go, you will be able to easily recognize behaviors that deserve rewarding. This needs to be done even more blatantly if the desired behavior is a significant change from how things were prior to your being there. Positive reinforcement is a very powerful tool for a leader, but you must be careful in what you reward because that behavior will be repeated. When giving compliments, specifically define what was good. Instead of just saying something like, “Nice job;” specifically define the action or attitude that you observed. For example, “Nice job, I like the way you kept your cool back there when that guy was yelling at us. You didn’t lose your temper and maintained officer safety without lowering yourself to that level.”
  4. What you ignore, you condone. When taking over a leadership role, such as a sergeant starting with a new squad, there are always going to be things you see that you don’t necessarily agree with and differ from your desired culture. It is incumbent of you to not ignore them. Ultimately, what you don’t address will be assumed to be acceptable. On the flip-side, you must also be careful not to just bark orders about how you want things done or you’ll very quickly take on the persona of a micromanager. To make your redirections acceptable, you must define why it is important to you and why it should be important to that officer.

Before your can have any effect on the culture of a squad, you have to know what the culture is that you would like to have. If you cannot picture in your head what the perfect squad culture would look like, then how can you lead other people in that direction? Take the time to write out your thoughts and think about what has or has not worked in your previous assignments. What qualities made up the best squad/unit you have been a part of? This is your squad’s culture, be intentional about it!

What do you do at you department to be intentional about culture?

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!

A Law Enforcement Recognition Idea

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. One way to do this is by recognizing and rewarding great police work on a routine basis. Here is an idea that came to me the other day.

I found myself watching a college football game last weekend and was noticing the band, the cheerleaders, the crazy student section, the mascot, and of course the players. A thought struck me at that time regarding the strength of culture at these collegiate institutions. Then I began to pay particular attention to the helmets of the Florida State Seminoles and noticed that there were little tomahawk stickers on the player’s helmets. This was not something new as I have seen them on many other college team helmets, but today I guess it just struck me at the right time.

helmet

A Wikipedia search of “helmet stickers” revealed that recognition or pride stickers have been rewarded to players since the mid-1950’s for making excellent plays, selfless plays, and even for hard work at practices. The idea stemmed from fighter pilots that marked their planes to signify the number of kills or successful missions they had flown. Then I started to make a connection to police work.

Most police departments have awards that are given out on an annual basis, but if you really want to positively reinforce behavior then it needs to be done on a much more consistent basis than that. So, I created some law enforcement recognition stickers using the Thin Blue Line of Leadership logo and had them printed at evermine.com.

sticker

For a very small cost ($15+shipping), I received over 100 custom recognition stickers (1″ diameter) to give out in briefings to reward the great things that officers do on a daily basis. I am not selling anything or being paid by evermine.com to tell you any of this; I am simply sharing an idea and evermine happened to be the website that popped up first.

Walking into briefing with a couple of recognition stickers immediately makes everyone wonder who is being recognized and for what. It provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce more of the “smaller” things that do not rise to the level of an official ribbon or annual award.

If you catch an officer changing a flat tire, give them a sticker. Have an officer that routinely volunteers to hold over a couple of hours to accommodate staffing needs, give them a sticker. If an officer does an amazing investigation or writes a great report, give them a sticker after they talk about it with the squad so everyone has a chance to learn from that officers great moment. Any action that supports what the squad is all about, the desired culture, should be recognized. This sticker is only given out when I, the sergeant, want to personally thank them or recognize them for some good work or a sacrifice they made for the squad. What gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated.

After the success of the above recognition sticker,  I created a second sticker for our squad. These stickers can only be received by officers that are being recognized by a person outside of the squad or directly from another officer on the squad.

r1lion

The second sticker is a squad logo created of a lion (think LE Memorial) and stars to represent the people on our squad. These stickers are used for two purposes. First, when someone from outside the squad wants to recognize a member of the squad for something. These commendations could come from citizens, other supervisors, upper staff, etc. Secondly, the most interesting use for these stickers was for officers to internally thank each other when someone sacrificed to help them out personally. For example, when an officer found a good arrest and had a ton of items to impound and their squad mates stayed late to help them get done quicker. The next shift, they would come ask me for however many stickers they needed and in briefing would thank the officers that helped them out. The coolest part of the stickers is that they ended up perpetuating officers going above and beyond for their fellow officers to a whole new level than I had ever seen in policing.

Officers decide where to collect their stickers, but my suggestion would be their ticket clipboards to display their accomplishments proudly. Some put them on their locker or other place they see on a daily basis. This serves as a consistent reminder of their many accomplishments and makes a statement about the positive squad culture that is being nurtured.

clipboard

Do you have a similar way of rewarding officers in your department?

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!

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!

Advanced Officer Training Day

“If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”    ~ Thomas Jefferson

Recently, I participated in a testing process to become the supervisor of our police department’s Advanced Training Unit. This unit’s mission is to provide training on every major topic within law enforcement to 400 sworn annually – firearms, tactics, driving, reality-based training scenarios, legal updates, defensive tactics, etc.

As I was preparing for the testing process, I spoke to the 3 officers and 2 civilians that are assigned to the unit to assess what the biggest challenges are. In speaking with each of them individually, the one common theme was the perspective that department training had become something officers “have to do” and not something they “get to do.” I recognized this to be a culture issue throughout the department because, I too, had experience some of these same feelings as an officer and a patrol supervisor. Trainings felt like they were just the same old thing, but a different year.

When I was given the job of Advanced Training Unit Sergeant, I knew that the first significant move needed to be finding a way to help alter the department’s culture regarding training. It does not do any good to have awesome training activities/classes if only 30% of the department shows up and officers are looking to just do the minimum in order to stay certified.

I first met with the unit’s primary instructors as a team. We discussed what we believed may be the various causes of this culture that is so stagnant to learning. Then in response to those, we looked at what we could control in order to start addressing some of those issues. First, we discussed altering the times training was available. Instead of doing things on “banker’s hours,” we needed to be flexible and offer learning opportunities at various hours, including nights and weekends. It also meant leaving the training building and taking learning out to the 4 districts throughout the city. Then we talked about how we could apply our 4 Squad Culture Tenants of Positivity, Activity, Teamability, and Humility as instructors. This was going to be our new P.A.T.H. If we wanted the officers to demonstrate this kind of culture as learners, it was necessary for us to recognize that it starts with us demonstrating Positivity, Activity, Teamability, and Humility first. Lastly, we came up with the idea of creating the Advanced Officer Training Day because it was not going to be enough to talk about it; we needed to show everyone what was happening in the training unit.

The Advanced Officer Training Day was designed to be an internal conference-style training event to make learning policing fun again and share our new training philosophy. It order to avoid issues with staffing and overtime, 2 months prior to the training, every sergeant of each squad/unit was asked to nominate one person to attend the training. We asked for them to send who they considered to be the most hard working, informal leader of their squad/unit. This created a recognition opportunity for the sergeants and guaranteed that our audience would be comprised of the biggest line-level influencers in the department. The total number of officers was capped at 42 so we could make each class a small, intimate learning environment where they were encouraged to work as a team.

The next question became what did we want to teach? We reached out to our various connections throughout the department and came up with these 6 learning opportunities:

  1. Officer Down and Contact/Crisis Team Decision Making – This was an interactive class that took place in and around the department’s shoot house. The officers would be put into multiple scenarios with ever changing details that would force them to make quick decisions and implement plans regarding saving a downed officer or making entry into a structure. Once inside of the structure, they were then pushed to making more decisions regarding pushing, holding, or tactically retreating based up the circumstances.
  1. Effective Courtroom Testimony – This class was developed by an officer with a vast amount of courtroom testimony experience and two attorneys from the city prosecutor’s office. There was a quick presentation regarding testifying in court and then the students were each given a mock departmental report. They were to review the report as if it were their own and then would be put on the stand in the mock courtroom that had been set up in the back of the classroom. One of the attorneys played the part of a prosecutor and the other played the role of a defense attorney. Debriefs, questions, and comments were made after each officer had their turn on the stand.
  1. Drug Impairment Beyond DUI – This class was prepared by the department’s most experienced Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Officers reviewed the signs/symptoms of the 7 major drug categories that cause impairment and then discussed what other uses there are for this type of information beyond DUI enforcement. They discussed use of force reporting, interviewing techniques, identifying search/seizure opportunities, articulating the development of PC for searches, and multiple officer safety considerations. This classes was specifically designed to take very specific information usually taught in reference to DUI enforcement and generalize its application to all of policing.
  1. Advanced Pistol Range – The Firearms Staff was given the opportunity to present some fun, challenging firearms drills to push the students to the limits of their shooting abilities. These drills while fun and challenging still forced the shooters to focus on the basic fundamentals of marksmanship while also utilizing movement, cover, distance, etc to successfully complete the drills.
  1. Traffic Stop Quick Reaction Drills – On the driving track, officers were placed into a fully marked patrol car, asked to drive ¼ lap around the track, and then pull up behind the mock offender vehicle. They then were expected to react to whatever occurred from there. Scenarios ranged from a regular traffic stop where nothing of consequence occurred all the way up to one where the suspect jumps out of the car and rushes the patrol car. This was done in a fast paced, small group format and each scenarios was debriefed with the group using a Socratic questioning method to bring out the information the instructor was looking to emphasize. If mistakes occurred or there was a better suggestion for handling the situation, officers were given the chance to redo it and learn from the first attempt.
  1. P-R-I-D-E Adaptive Decision-Making – This class introduced officers to the P-R-I-D-E Adaptive Decision-Making Model and the utilization of “Policing Priorities” to guide their decision-making. This model discusses situational awareness and making both fast and slow decisions. Being introduced to this model provided the officers with a common language to discuss the various decisions they were making in the other classes throughout the day. This model was developed by Thin Blue Line of Leadership and you can read more about it here.

This is what the schedule of the day looked like . . .

0800 – 0830         Welcome/Sign Up for Breakout Sessions

0840 – 1030         Breakout Session #1

1040 – 1230         Breakout Session #2

1230 – 1330         Lunch

1330 – 1520         Breakout Session #3

1530 – 1720         Breakout Session #4

1730 – 1800         Conclusion/Feedback Critiques

As you may be noticing, there are only 4 Breakout Session times, but 6 classes offered. This was a key factor in getting buy-in from the officers by giving them the opportunity to develop their own day of training. They got to pick the 4 classes they were most interested in attending.

Three of the classes were more firearms/tactical outdoor oriented and the other three classes were more traditional classroom-based learning opportunities. So, if an officer leaned heavily one way or the other, they were forced to try at least one other style of activity and push them outside of their “comfort zone.” Sign-up sheets were utilized to organize distribution of the officers among the classes and were capped at 7 officers per class.

In order to help spread the lessons learned, the officers that attended were given network access to all of the lesson plans, PowerPoints, and reference materials so they could create small blocks of briefing trainings for their squads/units to help spread the information further. The training made use of these influencers to not only spread the word about the changes going on within the training unit, but also the actual lessons taught in the classes. If officers do not feel comfortable teaching the information, then they had at least developed a connection to an instructor that could.

The Advanced Officer Training Day was run for the first time on Wednesday, April 19. It was an extremely successful event and was very well received by the officers in attendance. Anytime an officer leaves a comment that says lunch was too long and we could have saved time there to make the classes longer, then you know you have done something right. As expected, getting to pick the classes they wanted to attend was recognized as an integral piece to the success of the day. Other comments also recognized the instructors for representing the P.A.T.H. Instructor Philosophy which assisted in making the entire environment a more positive one geared towards learning. The department plans to run the Advanced Officer Training Day twice a year, so this will become an expected event and something others will be clamoring to attend all because they “get to,” not because they “have to.”

Well, this is not the typical leadership blog that comes from Thin Blue Line of Leadership, but packed within this blog are multiple leadership lessons and it also shares a tangible idea for other departments to consider as a unique training option. If you have questions about the Advanced Officer Training Day, feel free to comment at the bottom of this post or DM us on Twitter.

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!

Briefing with Purpose

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” ~ Colin Powell
Success is absolutely about preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. As a leader of people, you have taken on the challenge of doing everything within your power to make your people successful. One of the best places to start doing that with your officers is in the briefing room. In law enforcement, the time that you get to spend with your entire squad together is extremely limited; therefore, it is up to you to make the most of it.

In my department, each patrol shift starts with a 30 minute briefing conducted by the squad sergeant. This is the only time that the squad has the opportunity to be together in same place at the same time without the next call for service pulling us away. (Most of the time.) There are many purposeful activities that can fill this time, but unfortunately they often just turn into “bull sessions” with no real purpose and become a waste of everyone’s time. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to have unplanned, open discussions in briefing so long as there is a purpose to it and it is not just a default due to a lack of planning on the part of the supervisor.

Prior to being a police officer, I was a math teacher for just shy of 7 years. I was educated on the importance of lesson planning, building themes, identifying “teachable” moments, and organizing curriculum. When you walk into a classroom of 30+ teenagers every day, you quickly come to understand how important organization is to facilitating effective learning. When I promoted to sergeant, these same lessons came flooding back to me and I found ways to modify the concepts to work within the given 30 minute briefing times I had.

As a patrol sergeant, I work four 10 hour shifts a week. I try to stay at least one week ahead with whatever I am planning for briefing training so I have some idea of where I am going and have time to gather resources or create them. With that being said, it is vital to not be overly invested in the briefing plan because things occasionally come up that may take precedent; such as a major call for service that needs to be discussed that offers some “teachable” moments. Below is an example of the form I used to plan my briefings . . .

lesson

Here was the thinking behind how my weekly planning was organized. DAY 1 was typically reserved for administrative topics. All of the emails, criminal info bulletins, policy updates, and more that needed to be to be shared with the whole squad were saved over the weekend for this day. The last thing I ever wanted was for administrative stuff to take over all of my briefings. I also found that the first day back to work for the week was usually not the best day for conducting briefing training. Once the admin stuff was out of the way, then I would end the briefing by recognizing some of the good work from the week before to start us off positively. This recognition was with the express intent of wanting to see those specific actions, attitudes, or efforts repeated by the squad.

DAY 2 and DAY 3 were reserved for Briefing Training. These could include any number of topics and may involve bringing in a guest speaker from another part of the department, using a short PowerPoint, leading a discussion on our successes/failures from a call, conducting a demonstration, putting together a scenario, watching a police-related video then discussing how it relates to our policies/practices/state laws, etc. There are so many great topics and activities related to our profession that can fit into a 30 minute time period to instigate learning and/or create culture. Ultimately, when planning briefing training, we are not trying to certify officers in anything, just share information so we are all on the same page.

DAY 4 was usually more relaxed. I would lead a discussion called “What did you learn?” in which each member of the squad would talk about one thing they learned or did differently this week on a call and if it was or was not successful. Finally, I would always end the last briefing of the week by recognizing some more of the fine work that had been done by my officers that supported our positive squad culture. There would also be an opportunity for them to recognize each other for things I may not have seen.

At the bottom of the weekly plan was a list of all of my officers. This gave me the ability to know who was or was not in briefing on a given day so either myself or an informal leader on the squad could follow up with them later regarding what we covered. As mentioned above, the power of having briefings with purpose comes from everyone being on the same page. Without this follow-up, you fall short on one of the best parts of having organized briefing plans.

With purpose, there is power. Time with the entire squad together allows a leader to communicate specific messages that puts everyone on the same page. This creates opportunities to share the mission, build squad culture, recognize good work, educate on policy/legal updates, discuss success/failures, and much more. Having these types of purposeful briefings are especially beneficial for newer officers, but also serve the purpose of being a reminder to the more senior officers about what is important.

I challenge you to find the time and make the effort to plan briefings with purpose and see the many positive benefits that come from it.

The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to inspire law enforcement supervisors to be the best leaders they can be by providing positive leadership tactics and ideas. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time. Thin Blue Line of Leadership is here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have ideas to share or suggestions for improvement. Your thoughts or comments on this blog are always appreciated either below or on our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter at @tbl_leadership.

Continue saving the world one call at a time and as always, LEAD ON!