As the seven strangers sat in a circle around the table, I briefly looked around and was surprised to see each person’s attention riveted on the speaker. The man in front of us was the team leader. He described a time in his life where he found his only son dead in the house. He then talked about the process of coping and how that eventually led to a career change and to working with groups like ours.
When his 20 minutes ended, one by one, members of the group told their stories. The tragedies, challenges and triumphs. After the leader was so forthcoming, we all felt obligated to refrain from holding back. After that session a weird thing happened. We formed some kind of bond and became a cohesive unit.
As we went through the 12-to-14-hour-a-day, seven-day leadership course last week, we worked together. We supported each other and we were motivated to make sure we each pulled our weight in the group projects.
It even extended to the larger group to some extent. It really made me think about the importance of connecting with all of our groups first on the personal level before taking care of the business at hand. How much more effective would we be if we didn’t waste time competing and posturing?
This strategy was the core of true leadership training. The goal of the course was to give us tools to lead in whatever capacity we had back at home. All were from some type of local governmental entities, so it included city managers, department heads, public safety leaders at different levels, etc.
We’ve known for some time that the best results don’t come from the traditional top down, autocratic leadership model. We also know that the “millennial generation” doesn’t respond well to more traditional models. And in many of our worlds, millennials now comprise a significant percentage of the workforce. In my world they’re almost our complete workforce.
But I was happy to see that the latest leadership theories don’t advocate losing the chain of command strategy so important to public safety groups in managing a crisis.
I also was happy to see that something we’ve been moving toward in the beach patrol for some time is a big part of their strategy. The creation of what they called “micro businesses” targeting specific tasks such as strategic planning, nonemergency tasks, or areas outside of the normal day-to-day operations is a big part of employee engagement.
And time and energy spent on these areas outside of the normal hierarchy pays off exponentially in productivity.
We try to double-down on training during these slower times for obvious reasons. This week I was in the Texas police chief leadership series, which, not surprisingly, focused on similar concepts.
I feel grateful for this training and want to commend both the Park Board of Trustees and leadership for emphasizing the importance of progressive training that will help all departments operate more efficiently and productively.