Law enforcement agencies across the United States are facing personnel shortages and many are operating at critical levels.
Because of the shortages, many departments are trying to convince officers from other departments to join their department. They are not adding to the overall ranks, just taking who they can from each other. Bonuses, shorter academies, laxed policies on grooming and even reduced physical fitness standards, everything is on the table.
We assume officers that “jump ship” are just tired of the profession. No, not always. When they leave a department for another, its often for other reasons. It is the discussion no one is having because it is easy to say all the external factors like the defund the police movement, horrible and lazy prosecutors, or bad city managers (don’t call them leaders) are the reason.
As much as we want to hide behind the external factors, and yes, they are important, the internal ones also matter. And it is often the internal politics or struggles they run from. When officers leave one department for another, ask why. Is it the external factors or is it because of a lack of leadership? Leadership matters.
I know many officers leaving because of the latter. They are looking for greener pastures. As one officer recently told me, “I can deal with the outside nonsense, it sucks but I can do it, it’s the toxic bosses within my ranks that I need to escape.” And when other departments are dangling carrots like signing bonuses, they take that chance.
If I am a department stakeholder, I am investing in my employees so that they do not want to leave. Or if they do leave, it’s not to another department. It is called retention, and it matters.
And investing is not promotion. Sadly, too many departments – organizations for that matter – think that employee development is through promotion. They are wrong. Development is not simply promotion.
When organizations are operating at critical levels, training and development tends to take a back seat.
I had a chief recently tell me he “could not afford to lose anyone to training even for a few hours.” How can he afford not to? By investing in that person and making them a leader in the organization, odds are the employee will stay and become a force multiplier for a culture that fosters growth and opportunity. These are environments people are less likely to leave. More importantly, these are the types of cultures we need, maybe now more than ever.
I see it all the time with the organizations and teams I work with, both within and outside of law enforcement. Not having a plan to develop your most important resource – your people – is dangerous.
Invest in your people.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training
One of the easiest ways to be an effective manager is to provide regular feedback. Yet, one of the biggest complaints we continue to hear from employees is that they need to receive more of it.
For some people, feedback comes once a year during an annual performance review. I would argue this is not really feedback and more of a required, “sign this,” procedural task.
Could you imagine a coach not providing feedback to their team? Or waiting until the end of the game or season to correct bad behavior? Of course not. The coach may even bench the player because performance matters and impacts the team. The coach is responsible for that.
If you manage people, you are responsible for that. You are the coach. Good coaches, and good leaders, will continually provide feedback for both good and bad behavior.
Feedback should praise good performance and acknowledge bad performance.
We like good feedback, the praise. It feels good to hear we are doing a good job. This is not only good for the employees receiving the feedback, but for the team and organization. You are communicating what good behavior looks like. Praising good behavior sets the tone of what the culture should be. I have said it before, behavior drives culture.
Good managers should use feedback to correct bad behavior. Unfortunately, this is difficult for many managers and must be actively built into their operations.
If the behavior or incident is flagrant or egregious, it is easy. Often, the employee will expect some type of response or discipline.
What I am talking about is poor performance, the conversations that can be uncomfortable. Unfortunately, because this can be hard and makes people uneasy, we avoid it.
It has been my experience that many people welcome this feedback but seldom get it. This is what separates good coaches and leaders from the rest. The feedback is not to ridicule or tear down people, it is intended to help make them better. To help people improve and grow.
If you are authentic and trusted, know that regular feedback will be accepted. Your people already know you care about them, and they want your feedback.
If you want to provide regular feedback and are not sure how, consider these suggestions:
-Be transparent. Everyone should know your vision and what you expect of them. Communicate your goals and expectations and make sure everything is clear.
-Don’t wait. I had a friend who told me during his annual performance review his manager told him that his performance at a specific event several months prior was not acceptable and one of the reasons for his lower rating. As a coach or supervisor, you must provide feedback as soon as possible.
-Be specific. Address the specific behavior or action.
-Be consistent. Remember, this is continual. Good or bad, feedback should be on a regular basis. In addition, consistency also means you are providing this type of feedback throughout the team or organization. Everyone is held to the same standards.
-Listen. Maybe a decline in performance can be explained because of outside factors. Listen to your people, not for excuses but for struggles.
-Follow-up. Is the employee implementing feedback and improving? Do they need additional help or support?
I was fortunate to have been on many good teams, at work and otherwise, in my life. Although most employees will cherish the memories they make in their job as I have, it is the coaches and leaders that usually make a mark.
Be that person. Inspire people. Help them grow. Be a part of positive change.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training
If you go to a gym, I am sure noticed an increase in people after January 1st. By now, many of these faces have disappeared.
I do not know why we choose special dates to start things. The first of the year, first of the month, the week. Whatever. Maybe it works for some people, but it certainly does not work for everyone.
The problem is we get fixated on the starting date and not the actual goal. It is easy to say we are going to start January 1st or some other date. The hard part however is making it a habit. Making a commitment can be difficult.
I certainly struggle as well. I can no longer count how many times I have worked on learning more German (language).
My suggestion is to be as specific as you can with your goal. What is it you want to do or improve?
Be realistic. What is achievable behavior? I know it will take a lot of time and discipline to be fluent in German and that is intimidating. However, it does not mean I cannot be more comfortable with conversational words and phrases and work from there.
Now commit to working on it every day and stay realistic. Start small, maybe 10-20 minutes a day. Not a lot at first, but an easier commitment to help build some momentum.
Sometimes it helps to create a trigger. For example, each day after dinner you walk around your neighborhood for 10-20 minutes as part of your goal to be healthier. Dinner is the trigger.
Track your progress. For exercise, there are a plethora of apps to help you. Or simply use a calendar and place a check mark after each day you have reached your goal. This is a great visual reminder to track your progress and keep you motivated. Many apps help with this now because the concept works. We like our winning streaks.
Be patient and consistent. Frustration is the enemy. You will have setbacks. In fact, I would say to expect it. Be accountable to yourself and persistent about your progress and you will push through.
Habits can be hard. Excuses are easy. Just keep going. The finish line is in sight.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training
Sitting by the fireplace recently, I took delight in watching the fire burning brightly, the sounds of the wood crackling, and the wonderful smell emanating as it radiated warmth throughout our living room. It had taken some time to reach that point; an hour earlier the fireplace was nothing but a cold hearth. Once the fire grew in intensity, it needed only a periodic larger log to be added so it could seemingly burn at a higher rate on its own, white hot from the center of the stack.
The fire did not initially begin that way, as it needed a helping hand to slowly begin burning. If overloaded at the beginning, it would be overwhelmed and would not come to life. First, I purposely laid out smaller logs and then topped them with a row of kindling before igniting the pile. At times, it needed a few breaths of air to provide oxygen so it could gather strength and intensity; only then was it ready to have larger logs added to the mix as the temperature within climbed and thrived on its own.
As I basked in the glow of what I had created, it reminded me of a parallel with effective leadership. Some managers/supervisors believe they need be overly boisterous or to berate their team to achieve results. Some try initially to heap too much on their teams and when objectives aren’t accomplished in a timely manner, they resort to lighting a fire under people to get them going. Will that sometimes achieve team/organizational goals? Sure, but it is hardly the best way to get the most from your team. You may get compliance by barking out orders, but you are not likely to achieve optimal results, especially over an extended period. In such a situation, few would feel the need to go the extra mile and would be more apt to do the bare minimum to avoid the boss’ wrath.
Effective leaders realize that having influence over someone means lighting a fire within them; to stoke their inner drive to reach their best level of performance. Instead of yelling, screaming, or cajoling, sometimes it takes a word of encouragement to get the fire going inside of someone. Only then are they more likely to reach their full potential, along with a desire to achieve or surpass goals because they feel heard and seen, instead of operating from a place of compliance and fear.
To stoke the fire within someone, you first must understand what makes that person tick. Everyone is unique and has different motivational drivers, and it is the responsibility of the leader to identify those drivers. You must learn how to stoke their inner fire. When someone feels valued for their individual contributions and worth, they are more apt to put forth their best efforts and to be more than a mere minimalist. As the wildly successful entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash once said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, 'Make me feel important.' Never forget this message when working with people.”
Be a leader who lights a fire within someone, not under them.
- Dan Mehdi, Eagle 6 Training
A few weeks ago, I was coordinating a leadership class with first-line supervisors and the discussion turned to accountability.
We look at accountability from two different but equally important lenses.
The first is for the individual to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions. Ultimately, this is what we all want. The onus is on the employee to do the right thing.
The next is for the individual’s boss to hold this person accountable. Do you know who wants this the most? The individual’s coworkers. Nothing frustrates people more than a fellow employee who is not held accountable for their actions, especially when it is a performance issue.
The question asked during this training, and something that regularly comes up is how. How do we hold people accountable?
When I think about an answer, I think about communication. Is your vision clearly communicated? Is the work or task clearly communicated? You cannot hold people accountable when the communication is broken.
Some other suggestions about communication -
For some of you, this is hard. It will get easier if you break each of these down and focus on your communication.
The good news is once you develop this culture of accountability, people will work harder and even hold each other accountable. It has a snowball effect on the organization and, ultimately, the culture.
Behavior drives culture.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training