Using IBM's playbook in police management
Let’s take a page from the old IBM playbook and let our troops — and their families — know how much we appreciate them
While going through a box of things from my childhood, I came across a little brown leather notepad with the word, “THINK” embossed on it. Anyone who was ever associated with IBM immediately knows where that notebook came from; Thomas Watson, Sr. coined that one-word company motto and it’s still in use to this day.
My father was an “IBM-er” and he gave me about 20 THINK notepads. Upon finding one in that dusty old box I decided to re-commission it for use at work. As I did I thought, “What can we take from IBM and apply to our jobs as a police managers?”
One of the things that came immediately to mind is how well IBM treated its employees. One of our jobs is to create an environment where employees feel important to the mission — that their contributions are recognized — and IBM did this incredibly well. Let’s that a page from the IBM playbook and see how it may apply to police organizations.
IBM Idea #1: Organizing Group Events
The LE Application
As an around-the-clock venture, not all our employees will be able to attend, but as leaders we can take steps to ensure as many people as possible can get there. Perhaps you can even work a few hours of their shift so they can go to the event with their family.
IBM Idea #2: Recognizing Individual Milestones
When he finally did retire, IBM hosted a dinner for him and all of his co-workers along with their spouses (as well as me and my wife). Managers from across the company sent letters describing how they enjoyed working with my dad. Every person who sent a letter — all the way up to the CEO — took the time to convey a personal story. These were not form letters. They communicated a sincere appreciation for a lifetime of service.
This was significant because my dad was never a “boss” — he spent his entire career working as a repairman for the company, arguably at the lowest rung of the organization.
The LE Application:
Come up with a reasonable number of attendees and ask the retiring officer who he or she would like to invite. Then make it happen.
Officers will see that they are valued, and they can look forward to the same great treatment upon retirement.
Also you can collect all orders cut that pertained to that officer and make a “memory” book. At my department I have gone back and found the orders that followed certain officers through their entire careers. I then presented them with these as a memento of their service.
Quietly solicit officers to write letters to your retiring officer and don’t forget to get command staff involved. Put everything in a book and present it to the retiree along with their badge and gun if that’s your custom.
IBM Idea #3: Getting Creative
The LE Application:
But don’t stop there. IBM included families in their appreciative efforts, and you can (and should) too. Presumably you have a shift or line level file on your officers with personal information such as emergency contacts and home address and the like. If you don’t, then start one — you’ll be glad later.
Use the file to send a personal letter to the spouses of your officers. Be brief, but explain to them who you are, and how grateful you are to them for the sacrifices that they make as a family with their officer husband/wife/father/mother on patrol when so many times the family might wish they were at home with them.
This will pay dividends both to you and your officer.
One Generation to the Next
At shift level, you can let your officers know just how much you appreciate them, and let them know how important their contributions are to the mission of the agency.
Don’t overdo it, but always look for ways to communicate to your officers how important to the department they are.
Thomas Watson, Jr. — who succeeded his father as President and CEO of IBM — said, “No subject occupies more executive time at IBM than the wellbeing of our employees and their families.”
We can take that quote verbatim, and apply it in our law enforcement organizations every single day.
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