Officers, have you ever told the hard truth to power and been unappreciated for doing so?
“Lieutenant, I know that’s the policy, but that’s not how it’s being done on a daily basis.”
“Lieutenant, you’re under arrest for domestic battery to your wife.”
“Lieutenant, that was a cluster. We’re lucky to be alive. We need to sit down and debrief this.”
Commanders, do your officers appreciate it when you’re brutally honest with them?
“Officer, you are not living up to your potential.”
“Officer, your drinking has become a problem. It is jeopardizing your career.”
“Officer, that was a cluster. You’re lucky to be alive. We need to sit down and seriously debrief this.”
Whether you’re a street officer or a commander, do you prefer to surround yourself with straight talkers who tell you the hard truth, or do you prefer “Yaupers?”
“What,” you ask, “is a Yauper?”
Knowing Our History
In 1864 General Ulysses S. Grant reviewed his new troops of the Army of the Potomac just prior to taking them into combat for the first time. As General Grant slowly rode his horse past each unit, cheers and hoorahs were showered upon this newly appointed commander.
One cheering formation after another offered up feigned — but also mandated — adulation. Remember that up to this point in the Civil War, the Army of the Potomac had little reason to cheer its generals.
Grant then came upon the “Iron Brigade.” This brigade was the most storied and respected unit in the Army of the Potomac. Instead of cheers, he was met with a silent fighting unit standing at attention in perfect alignment.
The only noise made was the sudden loud snap of a crisp and precisely performed salute in unison. Grant recognized the black hats of the famous “Iron Brigade,” and knew of their exploits. In recognition of their faithful service — in spite of their decision to withhold cheers for their general until he earned them — Grant doffed his hat and bowed low to these indomitable warriors.
The Iron Brigade knew then that the Army had a real commander who preferred honesty and valuable service rather than the prattle of phony adulation.
These men of iron observed, “Grant wants soldiers, not Yaupers.”
Yaupers or Straight Talkers
Some of today’s recruits, having been raised by Yaupers, come to police work unprepared for simply honest — much less harsh — critique.
As children, they were often awarded medals even when they stank up the playing field and lost.
They’ve been raised in a world where any honest critique may be interpreted as damaging to one’s self esteem (or is just plain politically incorrect).
Giving and accepting honest critique must be a part of communication if individuals and agencies are to improve. Stagnation and deterioration are the byproducts of rule by Yaupers.
It is important to note that straight talkers are not negative people. Straight talkers will praise when warranted and polish when appropriate.
Someone who is only capable of negativity is just as unproductive to your agency as the Yauper.
Sergeant Compton’s Perspective
The fictional character Sergeant David Compton from The Calling book trilogy was destined to remain a sergeant for his entire career, because he told the truth to power. His fictional academy mate Captain Hale, on the other hand, managed to Yaup his way up the command ladder.
Compton was undeterred because he held the opinion that the only way to improve the performance of others was to tell even the most difficult truth. He understood that the only way to improve yourself is to accept the difficult truth (when others care enough to tell you).
Compton would say, “I’m not here to be your buddy, I’m here to make you better. If I can be your buddy and make you better all the better, but I am going to make you better.”
Then he would respectfully tell the truth to everyone from the newest patrol officer to the mayor of his city.
The fact is, straight talking not only requires courage, but it also is a selfless act designed to ultimately improve performance, whereas the insincere praise of Yaupers is self-serving.
Norman Vincent Peale once said, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”
Do you want straight talkers as commanders, peers, and subordinates? Or do you seek out Yaupers?
You can answer this question only by answering another question first. Can you handle the truth?