Understanding Leadership


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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Lessons I Learned From My Career In Law Enforcement - Pick The Right Path

Lessons I Learned From My Career In Law Enforcement - Pick The Right Path

I spent 20 years in law enforcement. My career had its bumps and bruises, figuratively and literally, but I had an upward trajectory the entire time. I started as a patrolman like everyone else. I became an FTO. I made my way into the detective bureau. I was promoted to sergeant and ultimately lieutenant. I put in my time and I put in the work. During my career, I witnessed other officers that had a similar path as me. I also witnessed some that started out great, but went down some bad paths, which stunted their professional growth. I even witnessed some that could never really get their "you know what" together; thus, they had a bumpy career at best.

My observations led me to some analysis of what works and what does not, with respect to a joyous and positive law enforcement career. For purposes of this article, I am focusing on internal matters and decisions that officers make that influence their trajectory, which, I believe, is primarily what distinguishes one's path. Thus, I will discuss my observations and what I feel are the best paths to follow, and of course the ones to avoid.

Path 1 - Focus on the Positives
Just as in life, you should do your best to focus on the positives. It is human nature to dwell and pay more attention to the negative things that happen to us. It takes effort to stop and actually look at what is going well in your life. Some people are better at it than others. The next time you have some bumps in your career, say you damaged a cruiser or the sergeant is kicking a lot of your reports back, before the negativity overwhelms you, take a moment to recount what is actually going well in your career. AND, if you think that there are no positives, you are not looking hard enough. You have a job, right? You more than likely have benefits and you have comrades, correct? Never lose sight of the positives in your life.

Path 2 - Run Your Race
I can remember being envious of other officers that seemed to be getting more positive attention due to what I considered luck. In other words, they responded to the call where they did something that got them positive attention or awards. What I was not looking at was what they actually did and I never considered that I may not have done the same thing if in the same situation. I once heard that envy is the art of counting someone else's blessings. What I soon realized was that if I worked hard and did the best I could, the praise and awards came my way eventually. It all evens out in the end.

Stay focused on your career and not the career of your peers. I'm not saying to ignore them or to avoid helping them. I'm simply saying that you need to focus on doing your part and doing it to the very best that you possibly can. Instead of being jealous or threatened over someone else's praise, congratulate them and truly feel joy for their accomplishments. This sentiment will be reciprocated in due time. 

Path 3 - Be a Student of the Game
When I was a young patrolman, a coworker recommended that I purchase a Cabler Press book called "The Tactical Edge". I actually purchased the three-book set. It was one of the best book purchases I ever made. At that point, I caught the police learning bug. I became a sponge and read other books. I was a student of the policing game. I later read books on interviewing, gangs, emotional survival and other police related material. I feel that by embracing learning more and more I became a better police officer. Never stop learning. The moment you feel you know everything is the moment you should step away. To quote Tony Robbins, "if you are not growing, you are dying".

In our leadership course, we teach supervisors to embrace the rookie mindset. What that means is to always be curious and have a hunger to learn more. This curiosity will make you a better officer in the long run. We also teach leaders to avoid the comfort zone. You are probably thinking, why avoid comfort? Well, comfort is good when you are watching a movie, but it is not always good in your career. Let me explain.

When we start our careers, there is so much to learn. We are squarely in the "learning zone". Eventually, we learn how to do our jobs. We then move into the comfort zone. We can handle most calls and issues with relative ease due to our experience. But when you think about it, your learning has almost ceased. Think about the amount of growth that occurred while in the learning zone. My point is, you should strive to always learn something new so that you grow. Stay curious and avoid the comfort zone as much as possible - the exception of course is when you are watching a movie with your significant other.

Here is a link to an article on this very topic:

[Learning Zone](http://sethsandler.com/productivity/3-zones/)

Path 4 - Stay Within the Lines
There probably is not a single police department out there that does not have polices, procedures, rules and regulations. I know that policies and procedures can seem like a hindrance, but they are protective tools. They protect the department and they protect you if you follow them. If your actions are within policy, you have protection. If the policy is found to be wrong, that's on the department, not you. I'm getting a little off track here. My point is - follow the rules.

It always intrigued me when officers would violate policy or intentionally steer outside the lines and then complain when they were caught. They knew going in what the rules were; thus, it should have been no surprise that they found themselves in trouble for violating said rules - duh!

This one is a no-brainer. keep your nose clean. Don't violate department policy and your days will be much easier. If the rules are too much for you, maybe seek another job. Policing is fraught with liability. Policies are pretty much mandatory.

Path 5 - Admit Your Mistakes & Learn From Them
It is cowardice to make a mistake and then not own up to it. And yes, I admit that I have done it. And yes, it was cowardice. As a supervisor, I used to see this issue with minor cruiser damage. A real man or woman admits when they are wrong and they admit their mistakes. NO ONE IS PERFECT. We all make mistakes. I have made PLENTY of them. But at the end of the day, when you do mess up, you have to have the courage to admit it. Put your pride in your back pocket and step up - own it! That's the first step.

The second step is learning from it. Not learning how to do it again and get away with it, but learning why it was a mistake and take steps to not repeat it. That is how we grow to be better officers and better people.

Path 6 - Avoid Complaining
I'm sure you all know people, at work and in your personal lives, that complain all of the time. Now, there are times when issues and problems need to be discussed. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the negative people that CONSTANTLY complain about _everything_. These people are toxic. They are draining on our psyche. Now that I've illuminated these people, avoid being one of them. I used to steer clear of these people because they annoyed me. If you find that people do not want to be around you, you may be a complainer. Or, if you find that every conversation you have with a coworker is to complain and crap on the agency where you work, then you are a complainer.

I worked for a Master Diver in the Navy that had the best advice. He said, "if you come to me with a problem and no solution suggested, then I see it as nothing more than bitching!" That advice resonated with me and I have carried that advice with me to this day. I used it as a tool, with positive effect, as a police leader. The best way to avoid the complaining bug is to stay optimistic. Winston Churchill once said that optimists find solutions to problems while pessimists find problems with the solutions. I had a friend and coworker, Sgt. Jason Breen (now Lieutenant), that called the complainers "boo-birds". What a fitting title.


Path 7 - Have Fun
Not much to say here. Try to find the positive and enjoy in what you do. I know there are stressful times. I know there are terrifying times. I know that you see people at their worst. But there are good people out there too. Don't miss an opportunity to make someone smile. Have a little fun.

Path 8 - Embrace Your Time Off
Everyone needs a break from work. That's why there are days off. If you fill your days off with overtime and/or details, then you do not get time off. Yes, I have been there. I know that finances can be tight for some families and extra work helps to ease the burden of bills. But if you are always at work, you risk losing your family in a sense that they only see snapshots of you before and after work (when you are tired and grumpy). Your family needs you and they need quality time with you.

If you are single, use your days off to get errands done AND to have some fun. Go to the beach, visit family, catch a movie. Something besides work. It will help you decompress and you will be more refreshed when do return to work.

Path 9 - Stay Healthy
I'm not beating around the bush here. Move your body. Exercise routinely. I have read from many sources about the physical and mental benefits of exercise. Pick your poison - running or strong (person) competitions - do something. Also, by staying physically fit, you have less risk of common injuries, such as slips and falls, combative suspects, training injuries, etc., etc. Get out there and exercise. Your mind and body will thank you.

Path 10 - Love
I recently attended the retirement ceremony of my former agency's Deputy Chief, Gerard Dussault. Gerry is a good friend and mentor. Gerry served for 33 years. In his closing remarks, he gave all of the officers there some advice. He said that to have a happy and healthy career, you have to love - love what you do, love the community you serve, love your coworkers and embrace & reciprocate the love from your family. I couldn't have said it better myself Gerry.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why Training Evaluations Are Important

Ladies and Gentlemen,
GSPCC is on its fourth year of providing law enforcement instruction. I started with teaching law enforcement test preparation seminars and leadership for first-line supervisors. Over the years we have added classes and instructors. We now offer nine classes and we have a few more in development. Our goal is to listen to your feedback and do our best to provide the training that is being sought by you.
I’m actually not writing this article to keep you updated on our progress, but to impart many of the difficulties and obstacles that this industry (law enforcement training) faces. I would say that when it comes to developing and ultimately teaching a class, one of the largest issue that we have to deal with is the diversity of the class. Not that diversity is bad, but it can be very difficult developing a class that will be completely satisfactory for every person present. Each class will have students with a wide range of job experience, education, life experience, learning styles, biases, etc, etc.
We have no control over whom departments send to each class. We, Joshua and I, love the diversity because we can draw from everyone’s experiences to help keep the narrative going and relatable. Diversity can also spur some spirited debate (often seen in our leadership classes between millennials and older officers). But, the diversity can also work against us. While a class may be very interesting and influential for the majority, it may be lacking for others who already know and understand the material. Again, there is not much that we can do about that as we have no control over whom agencies send to us. We simply put out what the course will cover and then let each agency decide who should attend.
I’m writing this particular article because I recently received an evaluation that was not exactly positive. In all actuality, these types of evaluations are the most important to us; thus, Joshua and I certainly do not dismiss them. We use them to evolve our curriculum. When we do receive a less than glowing evaluation, we juxtapose the negative with the positive to see if it is the curriculum or the student. In most cases, the overwhelming majority of the evaluations are positive. But, by doing this comparison (negative to positive), we can get a better analysis of our curriculum, teaching styles, etc, and make adjustments as needed. Constantly evolving and developing curriculum is a part of this business. As Tony Robbins says, “if you are not growing [evolving], then you are dying”.
Another issue that we see is that some people just hate filling out evaluations. Unfortunately, we have to hand them out at the end of the course. At that point, students just want to go home (we know, we were there once). Sometimes, we get very minimal input. Again, we cannot make the curriculum better unless we get a good analysis from the students that attend. If anyone has seen other methods of seeking student class evaluations other than a form at the end of the class, we would love to hear about it. You can email either of us at: tjones@gs-pcc.com or jstokel@gs-pcc.com.
Joshua and I want to take the time to thank all of the students we have met over the years and especially thank the ones that took the time to give some honest and professional feedback. We understand that our classes will have varying values for everyone in the class, but we keep swinging for the fences with every student we encounter. We want you to learn so that your career is enhanced. We love what we do and we love meeting all of you and sharing experiences along the way. Thank you to each and every officer that has attended our classes. GSPCC continues to grow in a very positive way and we have YOU to thank for that. We look forward to meeting thousands more law enforcement professionals in the years to come.
Tim & Joshua

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Going from Good to Great, Part II

My post last month came from an outstanding book that I read titled, "Good to Great", by Jim Collins. What I truly enjoyed the most from the book was how Jim's research revealed some particular attributes of companies that went from ho-hum status to rock star status and stayed there. As you may recall from last month's post, of course a piece of the puzzle was the leadership. Jim described the leaders of the good to great companies as "Level-5 Leaders". What are level-5 leaders? Well, for one, they possess HUMILITY. For those of you that have attended GSPCC's leadership class, you know how important this characteristic can be. The second component of a level-5 leader is his/her relentless drive to accomplish goals.
Now, to give even more credit to Jim Collins, he and his research team felt that given their level of questions from people who work in industries other than business, they put together a follow up monograph just for what he calls the "Social Sectors", which are governments, non-profits, and basically any industry where the final product is a service without a profit.
After reading the monograph, I have some good news. The principals are basically the same. With respects to leadership, social sectors, especially police departments, need level-5 leaders. The original book and the monograph discuss another component known as the "Hedgehog Concept". I will let you read that from each book, as it would take much longer to explain here. For now, I want to focus on the idea of what a police department should be focusing on in order to be effective.
When it comes to a for-profit business, the measure of success is profit (there are other factors, but profit is the biggest measure of health). The more profit there is, the better the health of the company. How do we measure the health, or efficacy, of a police department, given there are no profits? Do we use arrests? Reports? Car stops? Pay???
Former New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton shook the status quo efficacy measure and flipped it around. Prior to Bratton, the typical measure of efficacy was......wait for it......you know where I'm going here......INTERNAL NUMBERS! How many arrests, stops, solved crimes, reports taken, calls for service, budgets met, etc, etc, etc. Bratton felt that the only measure to focus on were not the "input" variables (listed above), but the "output" variables, such as decreases in crime and traffic accidents, public opinion, and so on. These variables are often overlooked. This idea goes back to my previous article regarding supervisors that rely heavily on officer statistics for evaluation purposes. What supervisors should be doing is looking at the overall effect of input variables, which are outputs. Basically, is what we are doing having an effect? If the answer is no, then maybe a new approach is needed.
As you can tell, I am a fan of both the Good to Great book, as well as the follow-up monograph. I highly recommend that you read them both, especially if you are an executive level officer at your agency. I wish I had read it while I was still in law enforcement.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


My post this month involves a friend of mine. I attended the 110th New Hampshire Police Academy in 1996. Also in attendance was a guy by the name of James Sartell (Jay). Jay was not in my platoon, so we did not interact that often. When we did, I always liked him and felt he was a very bright and gregarious guy.

Now, fast forward 20+ years. I had the privilege of meeting with Jay in Townsend, MA a few weeks ago. Jay had recently retired as the Chief of Police of the Hollis, NH Police Department. Jay had an outstanding career and had many personal and professional achievements. It was nice to talk with him and catch up. But this is not the point of this article. While talking, we discussed some our most influential books (Nerd alert). I told him how Jocko Willink & Leif Babin’s “Extreme Ownership” was one of my top five. Jay told me about a book that he highly recommended I read, especially as a business owner. The book he recommended was called, “Good to Great”, by Jim Collins. I took his advice and immediately bought the book.

Good to Great hooked me immediately. The book is a study of companies that went from “good”, or average, and greatly exceeded the world of average. To quickly define the good to great companies, each displayed tremendous positive growtn with respects to revenue produced and how the companies would exceed the yearly stock market average index. But the kicker was that the companies sustained this level of greatness for years and years.

When the research team analyzed data on the good to great companies, they originally left leadership out of the matrix. But Collins’s research team came back to him with overwhelming data that showed there was not only a correlation with the leadership, but what appeared to be a causation. Well, you had me at leadership!

Collins took it a step further and analyzed the leadership present during the good to great transitions. As Collins’s research team looked at many pieces of data, some specific traits of the company leaders began to emerge. As a person that researches and teaches leadership, what was revealed was not surprising to me at all. Collins dubbed these leaders as, LEVEL 5 LEADERS. What was a bit surprising was that the good to great leaders had only two very distinctive characteristics in common:

1.     Humility
2.     Unwavering Resolve – an unquenchable and relentless desire for the entire company to be successful

Let’s break this down shall we? Humility. No one wants to work for a conceded boss – at least I do not. I once had a captain (many years ago) that would only talk about himself and his accomplishments. He did some great things, but he would never discuss the life and achievements of the person he was talking to. It got old very quickly.

Some supervisors will confuse confidence with arrogance. They are the types that feel they need to always talk in any situation, especially meetings or professional settings. These supervisors often miss out on good information because they engage their mouths more than their ears. But the humble supervisor does not wish to “peacock” or constantly talk about their achievements. The humble supervisor lets their achievements, work ethic and work quality speak for itself. As Collins put it, it is the difference between a “show horse” and a “work horse”.

It is absolutely possible to be confident and not arrogant. It is okay to admit when you are wrong to your team. It is okay to apologize to your team. It is even okay to admit areas of weakness to your team. It is okay to ask for help. I ask my leadership students, does your team expect you to be Superman or human? When I think back to some of the great leaders I worked with, humility with confidence was always a defining factor.

The second element of the good to great leaders was their relentless passion to achieve their objectives. Collins stated, “Level 5 Leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results”. We have many names for this characteristic – passion, drive, determination, spirit, etc. This makes perfect sense. Good to great leaders are able to keep their eye on the prize and develop systematic steps to get there. But what separates them from other leaders is their drive to reach that prize. Anyone can develop a strategic plan, but true leaders keep the team focused and push until the prize is achieved. In Robert Sutton’s book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, He calls this characteristic “grit”, and he lists it as one of the top five characteristics of good bosses.

Another interesting characteristic he discovered was that roughly 90% of the good to great leaders were developed or promoted from within the company. This element made me think about leaders within a police or corrections organization. It seems that sometimes, a town or city council will want to “shake things up” and seek a replacement Chief from outside the agency. I realize that sometimes there is no other option. An agency may have a young and inexperienced staff and no one is truly ready to step into driver’s seat. But given this data from Collins, I would caution town or city administrators to look inward at the people within the agency and first seek the “diamond in the rough” before looking outside the agency.

As you can imagine, I highly recommend this book. Thank you, Jay, for recommending it. Its usefulness can be seen in pretty much any industry, public or private. A link to purchase the book via Amazon can be found below.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Are we TRULY Using Our Evaluations Effectively?

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.
Tim Jones

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