The Key to Creating High Performing Officers

HOW can your put your beliefs and expectations into action to create high performing officers?


Last month in an article entitled The Power of Belief--YOU Can Create High Performers we looked at how your beliefs and expectations--as a law enforcement leader or trainer-- can predestine recruit and officer performance. This month we take up the challenge of how to put your beliefs and expectations into action to create high performing officers.

Call Your Recruits and Officers to BIG, HEROIC Challenges

Some years ago, Time magazine wrote about the problem our "all volunteer" military was having filling their enlistment quotas with recruits that met minimum standards. Can any of you relate?

The military pointed to the economy--blaming low unemployment and a private sector that offered flex-time, profit sharing, better benefits, career changes and advancement. They considered a two-prong approach. First, they tried to compete with the private sector by touting sign up bonuses, paid college tuition, and career training that could later be parlayed into big bucks in the private sector (presumably when the soldier declined to re-enlist). And, they looked at their standards. Can any of you relate?

Faced with this dilemma, what did the Marines do? They raised their standards. Let's get this straight. The Marines said, "We don't pay any more than those other branches. We don't offer any more educational or other benefits. In fact, we're harder to get into and harder to stay in. But join us, because we expect and demand more of you." Yeah, right. So which branch of the armed forces has consistently met or exceeded its recruitment goals with soldiers who meet higher standards? The Marines.

What's the lesson here for law enforcement leaders and trainers? Whenever you have a goal you want to enlist recruits or officers to work towards, frame it as the biggest, toughest, seemingly impossible goal possible. People are drawn to grand, heroic adventures more than small tasks. That's the problem with "dumbing down." Asking small things of people, makes them feel small.

George Orwell said it,

The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil, tears, and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.

The best leaders understand that calling people to big, tough challenges signals a belief in their heroic potential. This belief by their leader enlarges the spirit and strength of people. Calling people to noble endeavors does something else. It creates meaning in the work being done. People want deeper meaning in their lives.

What's that some of you Baby Boomers (41 to 60 years of age) and Veterans (61 years and older) say? Gen X and Gen Y don't want anything tough? You can try telling that to the Marines, but they're not buying it. One of their recent commercials shows Marines in the mud, in the cold, sleep deprived, straining, grimacing. In exchange the Corps offers simply, "Duty," "Honor," "Country." The Army isn't buying it. One of its recruitment ads after September 11th showed Army soldiers throughout history answering the call to protect and serve at great hardship to themselves. The ad ended with "Every generation has its heroes. This one is no different."

And I'm not buying it. I train recruits and officers all over the country--including men and women in their 20s and 30s. I tell them that Teddy Roosevelt, who was once the top cop of New York City, described well the path they've chosen,

The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena; whose faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strive valiantly; who err and come short again and again...who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at least know in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
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