Wednesday, January 17, 2018
As a person who has spent the last couple of years teaching and discussing the foundations of good leadership, said discussions inevitably turn to department evaluations. I hear from some officers who say that their departments have evaluations but often forget to evaluate their personnel; thus, leading to a feeling that if the department cannot remember to complete them, then they must not be very important. I also hear from agencies that have robust evaluation systems in place, with monthly or quarterly evaluations that involve good discussions between supervisors and subordinates. And I hear about evaluation systems that fall somewhere in between.
One of the most frequent complaints that I hear regarding evaluations is the heavy reliance on statistics. What do I mean when I say statistics? It is the low hanging fruit that so many departments turn to in order to create a measure of efficacy. Why do I consider statistics low hanging fruit? Well, let's face it, pulling up "numbers" from an agency's RMS is relatively easy these days. We can pull up car stops, tickets issued, arrest numbers, and the list goes on. While I can see some uses for statistics, I personally feel that a supervisor, and their agency for that matter, is being a bit lazy when they rely heavily on numbers for officer evaluations.
Here is my argument - let's say I have an officer that LOVES doing motor vehicle work. The officer may stop 20 cars per shift. We all know this person. The people who stop many cars are generally active officers. They may be doing some drug interdiction as well. When one stops 20 cars per shift, one is bound to get arrests, such as operating after suspensions, DWI's, open containers, etc. This officer, statistically speaking, is a rockstar. The numbers play well with the active motor vehicle officer.
But what about the officer that stops 5-8 cars per shift but also patrols the neighborhoods, stops to talk with citizens, checks on businesses after they have closed? Statistically, there is nothing there to measure, but this officer is performing a very important police function. Here is another example: say an officer takes a theft report. The officer looks into the case and after a few weeks develops a suspect. The officer then asks the subject to come in for an interview and the suspect ultimately confesses. Statistically, a supervisor will see a case number and an arrest. But what the supervisor should be paying attention to is the good police work that went into solving the case. This part, the actually paying attention to work quality and effort, requires work on the supervisor's part. Simply pulling up stats would not show the officer's effectiveness.
So, what is the take away here? If your agency is heavily reliant on stats to show officer efficacy, then in order to stay in the good graces of the supervisors, the officers may look to put up numbers and nothing else. Good leaders will look at the big picture and note ALL of the work the officers are doing, not simply the numbers that can be spit out of an RMS.
I found an article regarding police evaluations that was published in the '70's. As I read it, I noticed that not much has changed over the last four decades. Here is the link if you would like to read it: http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/alt.html
If you are considering a remake of your evaluation system, let me give you some practical advice. First, ask the people that are getting evaluated what they would like to see in an evaluation system. Don't be afraid to ask your patrol officers. They are the ones with boots on the ground. They may very well have some good suggestions. Second, your evaluations should be more about the future than the past. A very good friend of mine, and good leader as well, uses the 25/75 rule. He feels that his evaluations on his personnel should be 25% about the past and 75% about the future. What do I mean about the future? I'm talking about setting goals and steps to achieve them.
When you think about it, a good leader will deal with problems and mistakes as they happen (DON'T EVER WAIT UNTIL EVAL TIME TO HIGHLIGHT MISTAKES). Therefore, there is no need to rehash mistakes that have been corrected. Why not use the evaluation as a platform for a leader and an officer to discuss where the officer wants to go, what s/he wants to be, etc. Why not use it as a platform for the leader to help the officer lay down some ground work for their ultimate goals? For example, if the patrolman says that s/he wants to be a sergeant, then the leader can recommend books to read or consider delegating tasks designed to enhance and develop the officer's skill set. In this manner, they will become better developed officers so that when they decide to go for a sergeant position, they are better equipped and more confident.
If you get anything out of my rantings here, I ask that you take a look at your evaluation system and ensure that they are painting a true picture of an officer's efficacy and not just funneling him/her into a numbers game. Remember, good and effective evaluations require work, but the pay off can be phenomenal.
True Leadership Begins When You Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Recently, Josh and I decided to add some important material to our first-line supervisor leadership class. While reviewing some material on leading up the chain of command, Josh disagreed with the tone of some of my slides. I saw his point, but I wanted to shake things up a bit and get people on their heels in thought. Basically, I wanted to get them out of their comfort zone. Well, this led Josh to look into the concept of comfort zones and leadership. What he dug up in his research is the topic of this month's leadership article - COMFORT ZONES are nice and cozy, but they kill many important characteristics that make someone a good leader.
We all like feeling comfortable. Whether it's our home life, our recreational life or even our work life. When one works hard to know their job and develop professional relationships, one also enjoys sitting back and living in the comfortable and competent world he/she has created. One of the most difficult times for a supervisor is when he/she is first promoted. Talk about being outside a comfort zone! There are so many challenges and new ideas to process and implement, it can be overwhelming at times. But, the supervisor learns the job, learns the team, learns how to work with his/her supervisor and ultimately becomes "comfortable" with the position.
The supervisor is so engaged with learning the new position and how their leadership style works within it, they often fail to notice how the learning process is what has made them better. It was the discomfort that developed them. Because of their blindness to "how" they have become who they are, and with their focus on "what" they have become, he/she may decide to live in the comfort zone, or the "I made it" zone. The comfort zone is nice, but as I said earlier, it is not where development takes place.
To quote Tony Robbins, "if you are not growing, you are dying". I can attest that this statement is true. As humans, it is our nature to better ourselves. Whether it is through pushing our bodies or our minds, We only become better when we push ourselves to new and better levels.
Josh sent me an article regarding leadership and the comfort zone. The author, George Ambler, discusses the three zones of leadership. In the illustration at the top of this article, one can see the three zones illustrated as a bullseye. The center is the comfort zone. This is a cozy place where we can handle what we know. But when one is confronted with a task or situation that one does not know, he/she is then pushed into the "learning zone". Many find this area to be uncomfortable. One is forced to learn something new. When I was a drum instructor, I would make my students do much, much more with their non-dominant hand. Talk about being out of a comfort zone. It was always awkward at first, but the benefits, in the end, were immense.
When Josh and I teach leadership, we tell our students that they need to constantly learn. Whether it's leadership techniques, technology, or the names of their subordinates' children, a quest for knowledge should never cease. This is living in the learning zone. I feel that we should all make the learning zone our comfort zone.
Ambler further talks about going beyond the learning zone and slipping into the "danger zone" (I dare you to not say danger zone without thinking of Top Gun!). This is the zone where the leader takes on too much. For example, an eager sergeant who truly wants to learn may volunteer to take on too many peripheral responsibilities or assignments. Although his/her intentions were good, the eager sergeant may soon learn that he/she cannot adequately run their shift and complete the tasks he/she volunteered to do. The end result is undue stress and the possibility of not learning the tasks as adequately as he/she planned.
So what is the end game here? Whether it is leadership, sports, a musical instrument, a new language, etc, you MUST go beyond what you already know (comfort zone) and embrace the occasional uncomfortableness of learning. One must be cautious and not take on too much for the sake of learning. If too much stress kicks in and one becomes more focused on the stress than the task itself, then adequate learning is not happening.
Article by George Ambler
Tim Jones, GSPCC