Sunday, April 30, 2006
Leadership Issues: Managing Change Managing despite the 3% at 50 rules and changing generations; From Boomers to Nexters What's next?
by Rick Michelson
Changes in Latitudes, changes in Attitudes
Perhaps Jimmy Buffet had it right; ones attitudes will change with ones perspective. Leadership in public safety agencies, particularly police agencies, is at a critical crossroads. Early retirement incentives have enticed experienced personnel to leave their departments in mass numbers, creating a shortage of experienced supervisors. In addition, there has been a graying of the department with the majority of the existing leaders in the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1943 and 1960) all reaching retirement age at or about the same time. A third contributing factor in the leadership crisis is budgetary constraints as a result of less government funding and under-funded pensions, resulting in fewer dollars for training. The exodus of experienced supervisors has created a unique challenge for law enforcement agencies to fill openings quickly, while continuing to manage the daily operations (both administrative and tactical). Unfortunately, little has been done to develop the next generational pool of candidates in terms of succession management or career development; many agencies have taken a laissez-faire approach to this growing crisis in public safety. Without effective oversight from supervisors, police agencies leave themselves vulnerable to liability and lawsuits. The Impact of Early Retirement Incentives
In the early 1990s, state, county and city budgets (particularly in California) were typically at a surplus and, consequently, police unions created early retirement incentives for its members. Many agencies adopted what is coined, the 3% at 50 program. This program allows any employee over the age of 50 to collect an annual retirement salary calculated by multiplying 3% times the number of years they have been employed by the department (i.e., 3% x 25 years = 75% of their existing salary as their new annual salary). For many, this is an offer too good to pass up, given the option to begin a second career.
To counterbalance the exodus created by 3% at 50, some departments, such as San Diego Police Department, created a Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) Program. The DROP programs allows city executives to collect both their regular pay and retirement pay during the last five years of their employment (essentially allowing employees to double-dip) for continuing to work in the City after retirement eligibility. Unfortunately, financial analysts miscalculated the impact this expense would have the on the City of San Diegos budget, resulting in a massive pension liability of 1.4 billion, ballooning to $306 million annually by Fiscal Year 2011, which is 21 percent of the City's General Fund (Roberts, 2005). Clearly, for government agencies already in a budget crisis unrelated to retirement programs (as a result of reduced legislative funding and grants that have been diverted to Homeland Security), finding the monies to recruit, train and retain qualified leadership candidates has become an even greater challenge.
As a result of the 3% at 50 retirement incentives, agencies are feeling the pinch of having to replace veteran leaders with younger candidates who have not had the length of service in the field, and without experience in leadership positions. Consequently, the need arises for more concentrated efforts to identify leadership traits, to create a career development path, and to prepare those replacements as supervisors.
For agencies, the cycle of bringing people into the organization, preparing them for the job, and then keeping them in the organization, is divided into three areas: Recruitment, Training and Retention. Each of these areas could have a significant impact on the other, particularly with leadership training and how it relates to promotions or employee development. It is this issue that is the core of my thesis: that law enforcement agencies should do more to develop their leaders. Studies show that many public administration academics are, at best, ignoring leadership issues and, at worst, rejecting the concept. Practitioners, on the other hand, are trying to gain sufficient training or grounding in leadership to deal with the relationship-based issues they face daily (Fairholm, 2004).
When considering promoting individuals to leadership roles, the pool of candidates may vary greatly in their values, behaviors and commitment to the department. The issue of how committed they will be to the organization pivots on whether the individuals needs are met; those needs are based on their shared experiences as cohorts relating to the sociological, economic, and technological developments during their formative years. Police managers need to adapt their recruitment and development styles to match and motivate the different workplace generations. To hire them is one thing; to keep them is another. When we look at the four generations of cohorts that are working together, there are:
1. Veterans: those born between 1922 and 1943 (52 million people). These cohorts were born before or during World War II and their earliest experiences are associated with that world event. Some also remember the Great Depression.
2. The Baby Boomers: those born between 1943-1960 (73.2 million people). These people were born during or after World War II and raised in an era of extreme optimism, opportunity, and progress. Boomers, for the most part, grew up in two-parent households, safe schools, job security and post-war prosperity. They represent about two-thirds of all U.S. workers. On the job, they value loyalty, respect the organizational hierarchy, and generally wait their turn for advancement.
3. Generation Xers: those born between 1960-1980 (70.1 million people). They were born after the Boomers into a rapidly changing social climate and economic recession, including Asian competition. They grew up in two-career families with rising divorce rates, downsizing, the dawning of the high-tech age, and the information age. On the job, they can be fiercely independent, like to be in control, and want fast feedback.
4. Generation Nexters: those born between 1980-2000 (69.7 million people to date). Those born of Boomer parents and early Xers into our current high-tech, neo-optimistic times. Although the youngest workers, they represent the most technologically adept. They are fast learners and tend to be impatient (Zemke, 2005).
Cultural diversity and sensitivity training should be expanded to capture the internal cultures created by the generational variances in the workplace. This concept is foreign to law enforcements paramilitary, hierarchical structure of leadership, which typically purports top-down communication according to rank. The Gen Xers and Nexters typically prefer to work in teams with more bottom-up (open) communication channels. As a result of natural attrition and retirements, law enforcement agencies are attempting to replace their Baby Boomers with Gen Xers or Nexters and are challenged by each generations perspective on leadership, teamwork, desire for autonomy, and most importantly, commitment to the organization and the profession.
Organizational commitment can be divided into two dominant dimensions: Affective commitment and calculated (or continuance) commitment. The first form of commitment (affective) is essentially an attitudinal phenomenon related to personality traits and job-related factors, and leads to the willingness of an employee to support organizational goals (Brown, 1990). This applicant is driven by their own altruistic passion and will seek out the position based on their intrinsic qualities and desire to effect change. Typically, this individual is self-motivated, stable, and exhibits a higher level of commitment.
Calculative commitment is the result of employees perception that merely by being part of the organization, their self-interest will be served. This commitment tends to be more transitory. The calculative applicant needs to be sold through an aggressive (extrinsic) marketing campaign. They need to be able to identify with a popular or specialized group that exhibits a strong sense of pride and accomplishment. Interestingly, the tougher it is to join certain specialized groups and the higher the demand and mystique of the group (such as the military's Special Forces, or the police SWAT team), the greater the impact on the calculative commitment. In addition, lucrative benefit packages, specialized assignments, and recognition and rewards (coupled with a good match of personality and temperament), can help cement the calculative commitment.
Whether an individual is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, they have similar expectations of their leadership. Six qualities have been identified as beneficial for police administrators in creating a committed workforce. These include:
1. Vision: Having a clear sense of direction, communicating the direction to others and developing a level of enthusiasm among subordinates for the direction.
2. Charisma: Having the ability to interact with subordinates and inspire them toward organizational objectives.
3. Symbolism: Offering special awards and holding ceremonies to recognize excellence and identify heroic or outstanding performance.
4. Empowerment: Delegating truly challenging work and helping others develop (personally and professionally; giving them the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs).
5. Intellectual Stimulation: Creating an atmosphere whereby subordinates begin to think about problems and use their creativity to solve them.
6. Integrity: Being honest and open to all members of the organization and consistently adhering to the high standards of ethics and morality (Gains, 2003).
Beyond the aforementioned ideal characteristics of a leader, the challenge remains: how does a leader keep their workforce engaged? What is it that will motivate employees enough to want to remain in the organization? Empirical studies suggest that the bond between employees and their organization is strengthened by a number of factors including job scope, job challenge, leader communication, participative management, occupational commitment, job involvement, and job satisfaction. Conversely, role ambiguity, conflict, and work overload lower the commitment of the employees towards the organization (Brown, 1990). Ideally, the commitment to an organization or the profession would be considered a desirable trait since it ideally would result in lower turnover and contribute to greater productivity (Hom, 1995). In a sense, commitment should be a dimension desired in recruiting and testing efforts and applicants could be screened for their values, integrity, character, and willingness to serve a long-term commitment. Various psychometric tests such as the Myers Briggs, Keirsey Temperament, and Supervisory Skills Inventory could be utilized in hiring, rather than merely having candidates answer questions from an oral panel (which is considered subjective in nature) to determine leadership characteristics.
The competition for qualified candidates has grown strong with greater variances in starting salaries, incentives and benefits relating to each departments financial strength. Money is a big deal. It is what is driving some officers to leave the San Diego Police Department as a result of taking pay cuts to offset the pension deficit (Hasemyer, 2005). In the midst of recruitment and retention efforts, some departments are facing cutbacks due to the municipal or county financial woes and are losing experienced officers based solely on dollars and cents. Police Chief, William Lansdowne, fears the resignations have just begun, stating, "We have to fix this problem. We can't continue to lose the most valuable members of our police department." The salary and benefit rollbacks spurred 15 officers, to leave as of October of 2005. Eighteen left last year. By comparison, only eight officers left five years ago, when the City's financial future was brighter (Manolatos, 2005). As a leadership issue, the retention of personnel has become a primary concern.
Circling back to the issue of attrition, in one California city, city leaders realized they were facing a potential leadership vacuum when, within four to five years, 11 of 15 department heads would become eligible to retire. The city recognized the impending loss of these key leaders and considered these two questions:
1. Did the city have qualified people ready to fill key positions now and grow the organization in the next three to five years?
2. Will there be a sufficient number of qualified candidates ready to fill key positions in five to ten years?(Western, 2001)
The answers to these two questions led to the creation of a program to identify, develop and support the citys future leaders. Through interviews with the citys department heads, the following eight dimensions were identified as crucial to the success of future city leaders: communication; decision-making; interpersonal effectiveness; leadership style; administrative effectiveness; flexibility; planning and organization; and developmental orientation (Panza, 2003). These qualities and capabilities can be measured in an Assessment Center setting. Assessment Centers as a Screening and Development Tool.
Many police agencies utilize assessment centers, managed by outside consultants, as a promotional process. An assessment center is typically an eight-hour interview comprised of job-related activities designed to assess an individuals knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) as they relate to the dimensions of the next promotional rank. Multiple assessors observe and score candidates in simulations, mock-subordinate counseling sessions and community meetings (with role players), a timed in-basket, and writing exercises (such as a squad briefing on a new policy or a press release). Most agencies still incorporate some form of an oral interview requiring the candidate to provide an overview of his or her readiness and accomplishments, although this is unrelated to the KSAs, and is the most subjective and least quantifiable aspect of a promotional process. Unfortunately, oral panels have eliminated many very qualified candidates as potential supervisors simply because they could not talk about themselves in describing their accomplishments. The obvious question remains: if the assessment center is effectively utilized as a screening tool for promotional purposes, why are not more agencies also using it as a preparatory/screening tool to identify their future leaders? Currently, this opportunity is untapped in the public sector, yet it has been highly utilized in the private sector, and was originated by AT&T.
William Byham, Chairman and CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI), a leading-edge human resources consultancy firm that specializes in the identification and development of leadership talent, addresses this in his book, Grow Your Own Leaders. Byham proposes Acceleration Pools as a new method of nomination for succession management. (Byham, 2002). In these pools, people who show high potential can have their development needs diagnosed and an individualistic outline can be designed for purposes of mentoring their strengths and coaching their weaknesses. Expectations of Leaders in a Changing Environment
Contrary to popular belief, leaders are typically made, and born (Bennis, 1989). In law enforcement, officers must learn to grapple with constant evolutionary changes in an effort to meet the public expectations, address new and evolving threats to public safety, manage governmental and political mandates, and contend with changes in management and philosophy. Only with coaching and professional development, can staff contend with these issues and a multi-generational workforce during the changing-of-the-guard from seasoned, veteran leaders to the next generation. Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard describe this phenomenon as Situational Leadership, wherein a supervisor must assess each subordinates readiness to follow instruction based on their confidence and competence in their effort to be effective in policing (Hersey, 1988).
Police leaders are concerned with being effective as well as efficient. The measurement of effectiveness is arguable. Productivity in policing can often be a tenuous term and spurns the question: how does one measure an individuals effectiveness in policing? Is it simply based on productivity (i.e., the number of citations and arrests)? Perhaps effectiveness is measured in the absence of citizen complaints, or more importantly, the absence of crime.
Most agencies produce an Annual Report which highlights their accomplishments and gives the public an overview of the departments activities. It will generally include a statistical presentation of their cumulative activities and includes the number of sworn and non-sworn personnel, number of crime reports taken, the number of arrests, and expenditures. Featured programs, such as Juvenile Delinquency Prevention, and the Gang or Drug Awareness programs, demonstrate the wide diversity of local policing efforts. In response to citizen concerns about locally-based issues, many agencies have partnered with the community, and diverted resources toward Community Based Policing (COP) and Problem Oriented Policing (POP) programs.
The leadership competencies required of a candidate for law enforcement to be successful in managing a COP/POP project, as ranked by police managers and chiefs are: (1) Communications and related interpersonal competencies; (2) Problem-solving competencies; (3) Motivational competencies; (4) Planning and organizing competencies, and (5) Actuation/ Implementation competencies (Ortmeier, 1996). You will note in the ranking of these competencies, the ability to demonstrate effective verbal communication skills was at the top of the priority list by respondents (police managers and chiefs). Ideally, these competencies could be identified early on and mentored as an officer progresses in rank and faces new challenges. To truly be effective, officers must operate collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders to work through and with others in a constantly changing environment. The planning, organizing, problem-solving, implementing, and communicating skills involved are essential in effecting organizational change, and all are measurable in an assessment center setting.
The concept of organizational change refers to planned, organization-wide change. How is that change managed in police agencies? Are agencies actually working toward training and developing their succession management to anticipate the need for change and to develop strategies for implementing those changes? In addition, are the tools of leadership development honed to a fine art within the organization or left to the vagaries of personalities and competing agendas within the criminal justice system (i.e., police, courts and corrections)? Police managers and supervisors must be ready to address the challenges facing policing today including: restricted budgets, population demands (i.e., politics), change in priorities, succession management, and frequent changes of leadership (Mitchell, 2004). Many agencies must contend with a resolving door in the position of top-cop or sheriff with the job-hopping occurring with chiefs of police. With a change in leadership, each chief brings a new vision and mission. Supervisors must be able to adapt and implement those changes for homeostasis to occur within the department.
William Bratton, formerly the chief of police for the New York Police Department, created the following mission statement just after being hired as Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department: It is the mission of the Los Angeles Police Department to safeguard the lives and property of the people we serve, to reduce the incidence and fear of crime, and to enhance public safety while working with the diverse communities to improve their quality of life. Our mandate is to do so with honor and integrity, while at all times conducting ourselves with the highest ethical standards to maintain public confidence. (http://www.lapdonline.org). This mission statement abides by the concerns of the community for oversight and accountability. By comparison, his mission at the New York City Police Department was, The Mission of the New York City Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in our City by working in partnership with the community and in accordance with constitutional rights to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment.
(http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/mission.html). Conversely, much of Brattons call for change when he took over the NYPD was the quality of life issues that plagued New York. Since moving to Los Angeles, his message to the community and his officers is similar, but due to local politics, and the ever present specter of racism and abuse of force issues, Bratton had to adjust his mission to reflect realistic conditions in order to affect change. Accountability and Supervisory Oversight
The Los Angeles Police Department has had its own challenges for years, and has taken severe criticism for the now infamous Rodney King (beating) incident, the resulting riots after the LAPD officers were acquitted in a local court of abuse charges, the resulting Christopher Commission report, and finally the Rampart Executive Report, ten years after the King incident. The Rampart Report revealed systemic abuse and corruption within a relatively small group of officers in the CRASH Unit (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums). In fact, every commission created to study police misconduct or corruption as far back as the Wickersham Commission in 1931, has cited the crucial role of the police supervisor in detecting and preventing unethical behavior.
The former Los Angeles Police Chief, Bernard Parks, now a Los Angeles City Councilman, blamed, in large measure, the lax departmental management for allowing misconduct within the Rampart Division to occur. The report offered 108 recommendations, including the improvement of hiring practices, supervisory oversight and police training. Ironically, some of the same recommendations (related to the crucial role of the first-line supervisor in terms of oversight) have been found to be true in other commissions on police misconduct, starting with the 1931 Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement by the Wickersham Commission
It was the first systematic investigation of police misconduct and became a catalyst for reforms involving new forms of accountability for the police, although at times, it may appear that contemporary police may be unaware of it or its impact (Wickersham, 1997). While there were earlier studies, such as the Chicago Crime Commission (1919), and the Cleveland Survey of Criminal Justice (1927), which served as the model for the Wickersham Commission, it is the Wickersham commission that conducted the first national study of the administration of justice in the United States and was a precursor to the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1965-1967), popularly known as the President's Crime Commission. Misconduct can only be mitigated by effective and consistent oversight, with supervisors who hold their officers accountable. This will only become a priority at the behest of the chief or sheriff. The chief must make it a priority to proactively train supervisors to recognize the red-flag warning signs (such as: absenteeism, a sense of entitlement, misuse of the badge, accusations of excessive use of force, and bad arrests) which typically precede misconduct. Too often, newly promoted supervisors are sent to supervisory training months after they have assumed the role. This lack of experience can leave a department vulnerable to mistakes and liability from the consequences of apathy. Ultimately, recurrent transgressions can place a police department under federal consent decree.
To create change within an organization, such as creating a leadership development program, an agency must have a clear vision of the need for change, a base line from which to start, and a barometer by which to measure the results. To develop their employees into leaders, organizations must use the available tools to assess leadership potential and growth. In developing leaders, psychometric instruments, such as the Leadership Skills Inventory could be used to help develop leadership potential. Early feedback indicates that police agencies have not validated the relevance of early identification of leadership potential to actual future leaders. Ideally, departments should follow a blueprint designed by James Collins in his book, Good to Great, wherein the goal is to get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, and get the right people in the right seats (2001). Without solid leadership, and the knowledge, skills and abilities to plan, organize and direct others, an organizations ability to even recognize the need for change, much less the ability to carry it out, can be jeopardized.
About the Author
Richard, Rick Michelson, MPA, and PhD candidate, has a background in law enforcement spanning 30 years, starting with the San Diego Police Department. His experience includes, SWAT sergeant, Crime Prevention Unit director, Community Relations, Emergency Planning and Hostage Negotiations. He has served as a Lieutenant and as an interim Chief. He has written numerous articles on related policing topics, and has co-authored the text, Preparing for Promotion: A Guide for Public Safety Assessment Centers, published by Law Tech, who publish the Qwik-Codes. He is a criminal justice professor for a community college in San Diego. He is an adjunct professor for both the Union Institute & University and Webster Universitys Graduate Program in Security Management. He is also the director of KSA, Ltd., a training company that conducts workshops for agencies and future police/corrections and fire service leaders to help them develop their leadership skills. He may be reached at (619) 203-3073, or through email, at email@example.com. The website for KSA, Ltd., is http://assessmentcenter.org
This article examines the effect of the recently updated U.S. Army Field Manual 22-100, Army Leadership, on situational leadership theory. It reviews the development of adaptive leadership models and theory and considers how refinements in situational leadership theory might affect combat leaders in today's contemporary operating environment.
Adaptive leadership in today's Army is increasingly important with technological changes and the force-structure downsizing that all military services are experiencing. Adaptive leadership is necessary in today's complex and ambiguous military environment. Technology and the availability and flow of information contribute to a very fluid operational situation.1 US Army Field Manual (FM) 22100, Army Leadership, has added transactional and transformational leadership styles of directing, participating, and delegating. These styles add to the leader's arsenal of leadership styles that can be used to shape behavior, emotions, and the organizational climate.
FM 22100 stresses that leaders must be able to adjust their leadership style to the situation as well as to the people being led. Leaders are not limited to one style in a given situation and, with the nature of the battlefield today and tomorrow, being able to adapt appropriate styles will influence soldiers' success. Techniques from different styles are used to motivate people and accomplish the mission. A leader's judgment, intelligence, cultural awareness, and self-control "play major roles in helping you choose the proper style and the appropriate techniques for the task at hand."
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Friday, April 28, 2006
The beatings will continue until morale improves
Often times, people consider morale the same as motivation. But, morale is not about motivation. If it were, negative discipline could improve morale. There are times negative discipline is used to improve performance. Negative consequences can be a powerful tool in shaping behavior. So, if morale were about behavior or performance, negative discipline might be a tool for improving morale.
That is not to say that improved morale does not improve performance; it does. The point is that there is a clear separation between morale and motivation. High morale can be very motivating. High motivation can improve performance. There is a linkage between morale and motivation but they are not he same.
It’s not about individuals
Traditional definitions of morale include: the mood of individuals in the workplace; attitude or spirit; how a unit feels about itself and its abilities; and even, a state of individual psychological well-being. As you can see, these definitions go back and forth between the individual and groups. We all have good and bad days. Yet, as individuals who occasionally wake up on the wrong side of the bed we generally don’t affect the mood of the entire unit. As our personal attitude ebbs and flows, the morale of our unit is marching to a different drummer.
Morale is about groups and it might be defined as how a group feels about what it does. For instance, this group feeling can be an expression of how high or low the group values an activity. If a group of detectives has their job suddenly changed and they find themselves working in uniform and issuing traffic citations they may have lowered morale because they place a low value on working in uniform and issuing citations.
For the detectives, their normal working conditions do not involve uniformed activities nor issuing citations. The activity is outside their group norm and not highly valued. Morale is about sub-group norms and values and their alignment with larger organizational norms and values. For our hapless detectives, working in uniform and issuing citations is not the norm nor highly valued by the group. Therefore, when the larger organization imposes new norms and values, if the group maintains its previous norms and values there is a misalignment which manifests itself as low morale.
Norms, values and morale
Let’s explore how a well delivered “pep talk” before the big game can improve morale. What coaches tell players is that they can win, they are the best, winning is important, etc. During a “pep talk” a coach is not motivating players, rather he or she is reinforcing that the norm is victory and that it is highly valued. The job during a “pep talk” is to align team attitude with the larger organization norms and values. Again, morale is expressed as high or low alignment of norms and values between an organization and its sub-groups.
Of course, if the team doesn’t win it reverts to the norm of a losing and is out of alignment with the larger norm. The team’s morale is lower after the loss. Conversely, a win could serve to reinforce the team belief in the norm and value of victory. After a win, we would expect high morale.
A norm is the behaviors expected within a group of individuals. It is a belief shared by the group about what is normal and acceptable. In groups we establish norms so that we can anticipate and judge the actions of other group members. In law enforcement we have a strong safety norm. We expect our peers to be tactically sound and safe. We place a high value on this norm. Value is an expression of worth we place on an activity. In other words, groups can have many norms (safety and productivity) and they can place differing values on those norms. For instance, we generally value safety over productivity.
Changes from the top, within and outside
If your organization developed a new rule, policy or procedure that seemed to value productivity over safety morale would be lower. Employees would have the previous value scheme wherein safety was more important than productivity. They would not feel good about the change. Also, like the detectives who were asked to issue citations, if the organization rapidly changes the norm, employee morale falls. It is the imposed change in the value or norm that lowered morale.
Changes and challenges to sub-group norms sometimes come from outside the organization. If a police officer is killed, especially in the line-of-duty, many group norms and values are challenged. Daily, police officers face dangerous situations. The norm is that we, as individuals or members of a team overcome those dangers. The death can represent an inability to overcome danger thereby challenging the norm. Moreover, we value human life, the individual person who died and safety. An on-duty death can shake all three values. This outside challenge to the norm can lead to a lowering of morale.
Sub-group changes from within are somewhat more subtle. A sub-group with high congruence to organizational values can find itself drifting towards new sub-group norms and values and experience lowered morale. As an example, weak small-unit leadership can lead to deviant peer group behavior becoming the norm. Perhaps the leader allows a clique to grow within a watch. A clique will develop its own norms and values. Typically, it will value clique membership more than watch membership. This change in values leads to a change in normal behavior which manifests itself as a reduction in watch morale.
Alignment is more than motivation
When groups feel good about what they do, they experience high morale. Certainly, high morale can lead to improved productivity and quality. If we accept the proposition that morale is an expression of sub-group alignment with larger organizational norms and values an increase in productivity and quality makes sense. As an example, if the sub-group and the larger organization both value traffic citations, traffic citations will be issued.
For law enforcement, sub-group alignment with larger organizational norms and values is even more critical. Police officers work in a high discretionary environment. Basically, we choose when to intervene and what to do. The use of discretion is driven by our norms and values. In other words, our decisions will reflect our alignment with organizational norms and values. Consider the impact of norms and values alignment on high discretionary activities like the application of reasonable suspicion, probable cause, use of force, and vehicle pursuits. Simply put, high morale leads to greater group and individual integrity.
How small-unit leadership impact morale
Because morale is an expression of how well your unit has incorporated organizational norms and values morale is critical part of your leadership. First, you should seek clarity in understanding your organization’s norms and values. You should understand how your organization’s mission, goals or objectives support the norms and values. After it is clear to you, express it to your unit. Use your roll call time to incorporate a discussion on norms and values.
To lead a small unit you must be a story-teller. When you train or debrief during roll call emphasize how actions reflected your organization’s norms and values. Be specific. Every action can be interpreted through your organization’s norms and values. Let your people know specifically how their actions reflect positively or negatively on the overall norms and values.
The next time your offer praise consider that you are not praising the action so much as praising how much the action reflects the norms and values. In law enforcement, your unit is performing much of its critical work without the benefit of your on scene leadership. The only way you can influence them at critical moments is by reinforcing their understanding and commitment to your organization’s norms and values. It must be in their heart and only you can put it there.
You don’t have any control over outside influences. You are going to face the implementation of an unpopular change in the norm. Somebody is going to dictate a new policy or procedure. While you can’t control the outside influence you can control your unit’s interpretation of it. Minor changes are fairly simply. Introduce the new policy or procedure, provide your employees with as much background on why the change is necessary, train them and then follow-up with praise or sanction. Larger or dramatic changes are more difficult.
As with smaller changes to the norm, you must first seek clarity. Find out as much as you can why the change is necessary. Make sure you know as much as possible. I am always honest with my people. When I don’t like something or think a change is going to be difficult I admit it. As a follower, I have sat through too many gratuitous roll calls where the sergeant or lieutenant is giving us happy talk. I recommend you say something like, “I don’t like this anymore than you do. But, this is how we are going to do it.”
This admission is actually an emphasis of the norm of obedience to orders and the value of you place on it. After you have made this admission, adopt the new norm and place the appropriate value on it. Don’t undermine yourself or your organization by rolling your eyes or somehow expressing that you don’t believe the new change should be implemented. As with the minor change, provide your employees with background information, training and follow through.
It is very likely that by addressing difficult issues head on you will improve morale. Your leadership is a reflection on your ability to maintain alignment between your unit and the larger organization. By praising actions as an expression of organizational norms and values you will be providing your employees with leadership during whatever situation they face. Morale is your job.
About the Author
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster retired from the Los Angeles Police Department after 24 years of service. He is the author of “Police Technology (Prentice Hall, July 2004) and number articles on technology, leadership, terrorism and policing. Raymond is a part-time lecture at California State University, Fullerton and a part-time faculty advisor at the Union Institute and University. He has three current book projects. They are on terrorism, policing and leadership.
Although twenty years old, the United States Army “Leadership in Action” book provides nearly fifty leadership success stories from every rank, including civilian. The short vignettes, from “The Hanger Queen” to the “Doing More with Less….and Liking it” provide interesting and salient leadership stories and advice. Moreover, the stories are examined in the light of different leadership challenges and solutions. There is tons of practical advice for use in any organization.
These case studies, presented in interesting narrative form, provide the depth necessary for personal leadership development.
A complete copy is available free at the Armed Forces Reading List
It’s your first day in your assignment. Perhaps you are a newly appointed leader, or you have been transferred into a new assignment. How do you establish leadership? How do you get things moving in the right direction? You have the positional authority, the stripes or bars or whatever symbol of leadership. The position is only one type of leadership power and for the most part the weakest.
As you study your craft, leadership, you will find that there are several types of leader power. Many people have a difficult time with the word “power;” It can carry negative connotations. Recall our first article and think of our definition of leadership – “The art of influencing human behavior toward organizational goals.” In the leader realm, power is the amount and type of influence the leader possesses. First, let’s define four of the power bases you can work from as a new leader and then we will explore how to combine them into a plan to “jump start” your leadership.
- Compensatory Power - The ability to reward team members. Rewards can be praise, cash, a corner office, a title, control over schedule and priorities, recommendations, choice of the next assignment, promotion, or any number of things. In the police service, compensatory rewards are usually recognition and special assignments.
- Expert Power – Knowing the task, especially when you know the task better than the subordinate.
- Referent Power – Respect of your subordinates. Usually developed when you have a track record of making successful decisions and you develop bonds with your subordinates.
- Positional Power – Authority based solely on your job description.
There are several other types of leader power, but for a “jump start” we are going to combine position, compensatory, expert and referent types. Your “jump start” strategy begins by establishing a training program within your new unit. We are not talking about a formal training program. You are going to use a short period of time during briefings and in the field to combine these four types of power into a leadership jump start.
Teach to Lead
Consider that from the Kindergarten through your senior year in high school you were programmed by the state to respect the teacher as the leader. A teacher combines the four powers to influence your behavior. Indeed, next time you attend a training seminar watch how people react to the teacher. Even the “hardcore” eventually sit down and display respect. They listen and often learn. Teaching is perhaps the simplest way to combine multiple powerbases and jump start your leadership.
Begin by observing your unit as they work through field problems. For instance, imagine one of your units becomes involved in a somewhat complex felony arrest. What you are looking for are incidents wherein your officers did an outstanding job. You don’t need to be present; you can see their good work from their arrest reports or comments from their peers. During the next briefing, recognize them by asking them to tell the assembly about the incident. At first, concentrate these briefings on the officers simply telling their peers about the incident. Get them to emphasize their success and share their talent. Compliment them and follow-up on their presentation by adding your own positive comments. After you have done five or six of these, change the “de-briefings” slightly by having the officer present their incident and then ask them, “Is there anything you would have done differently?” You are beginning to lead them toward “de-briefing” their work through self-critique. Keep these “de-briefings” positive.
Clues from their De-Briefing
The officers’ own comments on what they would have done differently are the keys to initial training. Tailor ten or fifteen-minute lesson plans based on their comments. For example, if in debriefing an incident, your officers identify searching techniques as something they would have done differently, you have a training subject. Within two or three days, while the debriefing is still fresh, hold your training. You can hold the training in regular briefing, or alternatively, have one or two units meet you and go over the training in the field.
In addition to their comments, begin to note what you think they should be doing differently. As your training progresses, add your skills, knowledge and observation to the training sessions. After a few weeks, you should change the de-briefs again by asking the assembly to critique the officers. What do their peers think? What would they have done differently? As your de-briefings progress, introduce tactical blunders from outside your agency; outside your state if possible. Make the discussions as impersonal by removing the possibility that anyone present could have been involved. Outline the incident and then ask your unit, What could have been done differently?” By following this formula it will take you about six weeks to get to the point where you can lead your unit through frank discussions about the their own capers, especially the ones that went side-ways.
Different Versus Wrong
Things can always be done differently. In police work there are often no right or wrong solutions to problems. Moreover, people will become defensive when you tell them they were wrong. Most people can tolerate thoughts on how to do something differently. The critical point is to keep the discussions positive by using positive words and phrases.
You should consider almost always approaching any training from the standpoint of safety. That’s right – all training should have a safety component. According to a recent RAND study, “the historical injury and fatality rates for police and career firefighters are approximately three times greater than the average for all professions, and place these careers in the top 15 occupations for risk of fatal occupational injury[i].” Obviously, police work is dangerous, so any training that emphasizes safety is good training.
Police work develops a strong safety orientated sub-culture. Because we rely on each other for our personal safety, we reward and sanction behaviors that increase our personal safety. This is one explanation for the “code of silence.” You are simply less likely to expose a peer to administrative disapproval when you depend on that peer for your personal safety. Personal safety may be the strongest motivating factor in changing police behavior. If it is not the strongest, it is at the top. You can teach any subject with a safety component. You need only be creative to teach ethics, community policing, anger management or dispute resolution skills through the lens of personal safety. When you do, your officers will listen and follow.
Identifying Training Needs
There are no high-speed, low-drag, Teflon-coated tactics that will save a street cop’s life; there are only the basics. Read the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s summary on police officers killed in the line of duty. The basics (like searching and weapons retention) are continually among the top elements of police officer fatalities. As your officers identify training needs through their de-briefings you should be looking for common threads. You will see the same issues over and over.
Begin to keep a notebook on your training issues. This will help you refine lesson plans throughout your career. After ten years as a sergeant, I had 125, one-page lesson plans in four binders. Every time I changed assignments or shifts I went back to page one and began to work through the book – updating as I taught the subjects.
In addition to “jump starting” your leadership role, you are also improving unit performance. At some point you are going to begin to turn the training components over to senior unit members. There is nothing better than a watch, or unit, that is so well run the leader need only identify which peer-group leader will be conducting the training. Part Three will look further at the development of peer group leaders.
[i] Latourrette, Tom, D. J. Peterson, James T. Bartis, Brian A. Jackson, and Ari Houser. Protecting Emergency Responders / . Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2003
Using poker as analogy for leadership, Captain Andrew Harvey, CPD (ret.), PhD and Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA found the right mix of practical experience and academic credentials to write a definitive book for leaders. Most often leaders find they are given a set of resources – people, equipment, funds, experience and mission. As Foster noted, “You are dealt a certain hand. And, how you play that hand as a leader determines your success.”
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Our first step will be to work out a definition of leadership. As we progress through this series of articles we will explore how leadership skills can be gained, honed and applied.
Nearly every promotional interview panel asks some type of leadership questions. Indeed, they often simply ask the interviewee to define leadership. Ask someone. They will probably work backwards and use the words lead and leader to define leadership. But, a working definition of the word is critical before we can apply the concepts to small units.
For our purposes leadership is defined as “The art of influencing human behavior toward organizational goals.” Leadership is an art. But, like all art it has its underpinnings in science. Think of a painter. Inside of the painter’s mind the picture is waiting to be expressed. But, the painter must know the science – which brush strokes will attain a certain effect, which colors blend to create the desired color, how is depth obtained, and so on. The art is the interpretative application of the science. For leadership there are a variety of model and theories with which the leader can draw upon. But, to practice his or her art, the leader must know the science.
Influencing best describes the all encompassing behaviors a leader might use. For instance, during a tactical situation wherein the leader behavior is likely to be highly directive, the leader influences by giving orders. At other times, when employees are involved in completing tasks outside the direct observations of the leader, influence may come in the form of prior training, counseling or direction. Our point is that to influence the leader does not need to be present during the completion of the task.
Leadership is about human behavior. For small unit leaders there are two underlying concepts about human beings. First, you can not always predict what a human being is going to do. Certainly, you can make accurate generalizations. But, you cannot know with any degree of certainty how every human will react or act. There are too many variables, too many unknowns. Second, you cannot change people. That’s a newsflash to many! After a certain age (and anyone in our small units has certainly passed the age), people do not change. Now, their may be a pilot light inside of them waiting for a spark. But, if there is no gas running to the pilot light all the fire in the world is useless. A leader must accept that all they can do is modify a human being’s behavior. The key concept is that the leadership task is about working with and influencing human behavior.
In small units, leadership is not about attainment, it is about movement. This is a key concept and the reason the word “toward” appears in our definition. Strategic goals, unit goals, unit membership and the environment are constantly changing. Leadership is a full-time, continuous occupation. Its about preparing for the next tactical incident, inculcating the newest member, attaining the latest measurable goal. It is constant, moving, fluid and dynamic. It is toward.
Your small unit was created by the organization to accomplish some goal. It is critical for the leader to remain focused on the organizational goals, not the leader’s goals. Too many small units pursue the leader’s goals and not the organizational goals. A great leader is always focused on the organizational goals. Some are asking – but what about competing concerns.
So, leadership is the art of influencing human behavior toward organizational goals.
Before you rattle off about “being a company man,” re-read the definition and the explanations. Human beings are in the center of our definition. There is no organization without the people who need it or the people who comprise it. Our central theme throughout this series is going to be - how does the leader balance the needs of the follower, the organization and in policing, the community?