Understanding Leadership


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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

We Are the Light in the Darkness

The law enforcement community has experienced some saddening and even deeply concerning events as of late. Outside of the usual dangers and issues we face on a daily basis, police officers are being outright disrespected and insulted in the news and on social media. Recent events, such as police officers having water thrown on them while trying to do their jobs, officers being verbally harassed by onlookers while trying to do their jobs, or even being asked to leave a business because someone is “intimidated” by them, cause us to shake our heads and ask, “why am I even doing this?”. When I see these videos or read the articles, I am relieved that I am no longer wearing the badge (retirement has its perks), but I am deeply concerned for those of you who are still out there fighting the righteous fight.
In my patrol days, I rarely considered that anything I did could, or would, be recorded. Cell phones with good cameras were more ubiquitous later in my career (during my admin days). It is quite easy now to see police incidents on the news or social media – often recorded by many bystanders. But we all know that the recordings posted are sometimes edited and typically only show the event the publisher wants to illustrate, not all of the details that led up to the actual event. This of course is where body worn cameras are becoming a necessary part of an officer’s equipment.
But, I am not writing this article to discuss how my patrol days were less encumbered by the constant phone being shoved in one’s face; rather, I am writing to make sure that all of you who still wear the uniform know that despite what the media may try to portray about you, and despite what social media is trying to portray about you, please know that all of you are noble guardians that do what so many would never attempt. You are the ones that run towards the gunshots, not away from them. You are the ones driving around when everyone else is sleeping, ensuring their safety. You are the ones that endure scrutiny, and even physical injuries, in order to ensure our communities are safe. And most importantly, you are the ones that may have to make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. You are the definition of honor.
Law enforcement has always stood as the gatekeeper of justice. But beyond a procedural definition, law enforcement is much more than a person with a badge. To many, law enforcement is the light in the darkness. It is the beacon of light that your community can look for when the darkness of evil is upon them. Law enforcement is the sheepdog that keeps the wolves away. You, my police officer brothers and sisters, are the safe harbor in the storm. Never forget that.
So, when you start to question your career choice as you watch officers being verbally harassed, when you see the disrespect, when you feel that the world is against you, remember that your calling is of a higher purpose and far more noble than you may think. Never forget why you became a police officer and pay attention to the good in your communities (the people, the culture, the pride). Pay attention to the good that you do each day. Just remember that the sheep sometimes do not like the sheepdog, but they would rather live with it than without it. Stand tall and know that there are many that love and respect you. You are all heroes; the light in the darkness – never forget that.
Thank you all,
Tim Jones, GSPCC

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Law Enforcement Promotion Recommendations

Joshua and I recently taught a class on getting promoted. This class is not as easy to run as one may think. It has been our experience that in non-civil service states, every department runs their promotion processes differently. Some are simply a written test and an interview. Some require project submissions or essays on various topics and some may even sprinkle in an assessment center. Given the wide diversity of promotion process requirements, it is not so easy to create a curriculum that helps officers with their respective promotion process.

Despite the wide range of promotion process steps, there are some foundational components that anyone seeking a promotion should consider. Also, there are study habits that can help with obtaining a competitive edge. Let’s discuss some of these steps and approaches.

1. Make sure you are promotable. I have seen officers get passed over many times for promotions due to mistakes that they have made along the way. Your department’s administration needs people in supervisory positions that they can rely on. People that are onboard with the department’s mission, not the candidate’s own private mission. To this end, if you wish to be promoted, do not be a pain in the ass for your administration. Do not talk negatively of the administration. Do not subscribe to the “us vs. them” mentality. First-line supervisors must be unified with their bosses. I am not saying that you must drink their proverbial Kool-Aid and be a drone. You can certainly disagree with your boss, but at the end of the day, they out rank you and what they say goes. If you are the type that disagrees with the administration just because you wish to aggravate them or to be a contrarian, you greatly decrease your chances of getting promoted. Put yourself in their shoes, would you promote someone who has opposed you on everything you do?

2. Take on extra responsibilities. Supervisors have added responsibilities. It is part of the burden of command. Administrators seeking to promote someone need to know that the candidates can handle the added responsibility. One way to demonstrate one’s abilities is to take on extra duties well before the promotion process – not when the promotion has been announced. It is too late by that point. Also, extra responsibilities help prepare you for supervision. For example, FTO’s have had experience with direct supervision, training, report approvals, mentoring, coaching, etc., well before the promotion process. As you can see, FTO experience is an outstanding pathway to a promotion. Other responsibilities can include, but are not limited to, training positions, department committees, RAD training, explorer volunteering, or anything your department has to offer. On a personal note – taking on added responsibilities just for extra pay will probably not help you on a promotion process. Supervision & leadership are about service to the people that work with you. There is no room for greed or selfish endeavors.

3. Do not wait until the test is announced to start preparing. I studied for at least six months prior to being promoted to sergeant at my agency. The more you prepare, the more potential you have for retaining the study material, as well as having a better understanding of what it means and how it applies to the position you are seeking.

4. Study everything, not just what you want. Some departments will purchase promotion tests. With these, there will more than likely be a reading list. You should get your hands on all of the books. Here is a clue, the answers to the test are in the books – all of them. If the books are too expensive, consider going in on half with a peer that is also going for the promotion. You can coordinate the use of the book(s). If your agency has their own test that covers state law, department polices, etc., then hopefully a list of suggested study material will be available to you. Whatever the material is, get your hands on all of it and study! If there is no list available, then speak with supervisors that have gone through the process and see where you should focus your study efforts. If you want the promotion, you will work to find the best way to study.

5. Practice your interviews. When I teach this part for our getting hired seminar at New England College, or for the promotion seminar, I get funny looks from the audience. I explain it this way – we train with simunitions so that we can get as close to real combat as possible. This type of training has a “stress inoculation” component to it. Why not do the same thing for your job interviews? It is not as hard as you think. The first step is to make a list of questions that you think will be on the interview. You can get an idea of what general types of questions may be asked. Speak with supervisors that have most recently been through the process. Once you get an idea of what types of questions may be on the interview, you can start to create a list of possible questions. When you have completed the list of possible questions, practice answering them. Start in front of a mirror. You can check your posture and how you physically deliver your answers (body language). After you have had a few mirror interviews, bring in family and/or friends to assist with a mock interview. Answer the questions just like you would for an actual promotion interview. Maintain eye contact, sit up straight, be passionate with your answers, etc. This works my friends; don’t be afraid to use it.

6. Make working out part of your study routine. There is ample evidence that you can find on the inter-webs that physical exercise, especially cardio, is linked to increases in cognitive function. Pair your study sessions with a workout to help give you the competitive edge. Below is a link to an article on this topic.

7. Look your best at the interview. If you wear a uniform to your promotional process, make sure it is the absolute best uniform you have ever worn. Shine your boots, shine your brass. Consider having your uniform dry cleaned and pressed. Ensure that your pins are not crooked and that your tie is clean and without food stains (I’ve seen it). If you wear a suit, make sure it is the best fitting and sharpest suit you have ever worn. You will be assessed on your appearance whether it is a grading area or not. Remember that a primary component of leadership is being a good example. Ensure that you demonstrate to the board that you are indeed a good example.

8. Know why you want to get promoted. Here is a hint – if you are seeking a promotion for power or money, you are on the wrong path. Supervision and leadership are about selfless service to your people. Know your why so that you can walk with purpose. This is a personal matter. Before you decide to throw your hat into the promotional ring, know and truly understand why you are doing it.

Well my friends, I could go on and on about this topic. If your agency is interested in hosting our promotion seminar, contact Joshua Stokel at jstokel@gs-pcc.com. You are also welcome to email Joshua or me with questions regarding a promotional process. My email address is tjones@gs-pcc.com. Good luck to all of you with your promotion endeavors.  

Tim Jones - Co-Owner of GSPCC.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Resolve to Learn in 2019

I have truly enjoyed reading Jordan Peterson's book, The 12 Rules for Life. In the chapter, Tell the Truth, or At Least Don't Lie, Jordan, in his cerebral manner, illustrates the importance of learning and growing. He explains that beyond the psychological advantages of learning new ideas and approaches, there is an underlying physiological change that takes place as well. Peterson states,"Researchers have recently discovered that new genes in the central nervous system turn themselves on when an organism is placed (or places itself) in a new situation. These genes code for new proteins. These proteins are the building blocks for new structures in the brain".
Imagine that? Our physical mind is built to deal with new experiences. There is a pathway, both physically and psychologically, that enables us, heck, encourages us, to learn something new.
In January of 2018, I wrote an article on why we should always strive to learn something new. We work hard to get into a comfortable area within work and life. But once we get to the comfort zone, which is where you have learned the majority of what it is you do, we no longer develop and grow. This is where boredom and burnout can take root. I thought it would be appropriate to repost the article (below) so that you can start 2019 with a mindset of learning. Make this year the year you learn new concepts about your job, your specific position, something interesting outside of work, something new about friends or colleagues. Remember, "if you are not growing, you are dying" (Tony Robbins).
2018 Article on the Learning 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.