Oct. 18, 2018 | View as webpage
This briefing brought to you by Axon


In a Harvard Business Review study of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, one factor consistently motivated workers more than anything else – being treated with respect. Your patrol officers may never have been in more need of the “R” word than right now.

With officers reportedly leaving agencies at high rates and a lack of new recruits to fill the gaps, cops are stretched thin answering calls for service at a time when they may feel least supported by the public, the news media and their elected officials. But as a police leader, how do you balance the need to lead with authority while still remaining connected with your troops?

In this week’s Leadership Briefing, Chief Joel Shults, Ed.D., PoliceOne Editorial Advisory Board member and columnist discusses how police leaders can be crippled by the desire to be loved or by the desire to be feared. Public safety consultant Christine Zalar offers four tips to ensure the performance appraisal process for leaders in your department contributes to employee satisfaction, productivity and performance.

The PoliceOne team is planning its end-of-year editorial coverage. As we start to look back over this year, what was your agency’s biggest achievement in 2018? Email editor@policeone.com.

Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, PoliceOne

In this issue:

By Chief Joel F. Shults

Machiavelli famously said, "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both."

As I look back over my career as a leader and a follower, it is hard for me to determine whether more leadership styles have been crippled by the desire to be loved or by the desire to be feared.

Perils of leading by fear

I once worked for an old school ex-military officer who, to this day, is my finest example of leadership by terror. This was the kind of fellow who kept personnel files full of complaints and reprimands and few commendations. He had me write a three-page memo on why I left my jacket hanging in the squad room during my days off. A successful but rather perilous arrest I proudly made was noted by the chief only because I cracked a lens in the patrol car’s tail light during the event that resulted in an $18 deduction from my paycheck.

But it is what those who lead by fear and intimidation don’t know that weakens their influence.

My old boss never knew the good ideas his troops may have had. Although he claimed to have an open-door policy, the officers did everything in their power to keep from walking through it.

He also never knew that his officers were united in strategies to manipulate his wrath. In secret negotiations with the lieutenant we discovered that if the LT got angry about something first, the chief would forego his own rage. Apparently as long as somebody was having a fit about a situation, that was good enough for him. Whether by default or intent, the boss was teaching anger and intimidation as a management style.

When subordinates think they are going to be skewered one way or another, their avoidance behavior can be conspiratorial. For example, on a midnight shift I responded to a silent alarm at a recreation center with my lights off for a stealthy approach. It was a good strategy other than forgetting that there were rows of concrete parking bumpers in my path. I arrived on scene with two blown front tires with bent rims. My sergeant, imagining the chief blowing his stack made certain arrangements with a friend who was a tow driver to have my patrol car repaired. I paid the costs out of my own pocket, then made some runs up and down the interstate to rack up some miles to make up for my time out of service.

Perils of wanting to be loved

For the leader who wants to be validated, adored and revered there is a temptation to give in to any request for time off or special assignments. It is too tempting for subordinates to resist taking advantage of nice guy management.

Giving breaks and doing mini-counseling sessions instead of documenting conflicts and policy violations can allow a problem employee to operate with impunity for too long. When the leader who needs to be loved is forced to apply real discipline, the resentment and bruising of morale will be worse than a leader who consistently applies policy in resolving problems.

Mission first

The leader who consistently keeps the mission first will find the right balance between compassion and command.

How to develop a leadership style that works for you:

Join us for Axon Academy Bootcamp – a two-day course with the latest updates, best practices and training on: risk management, BWCs, the Axon ecosystem, and the new TASER 7 CEW.

Learn more

By Christine Zalar

Every organization has a system for how employee performance is measured and reported. However, many managers are not well prepared for the performance appraisal process beyond knowing how to complete the associated checklists and forms. Christine Zalar, a founding partner at Fitch & Associates, shares tips to avoid common pitfalls in the performance evaluation process.

The performance appraisal process is an important communication event with employees, and if done right, can be a valuable contribution to employee satisfaction, productivity and performance. Follow these steps to conduct a successful evaluation:

1. Prepare

Managers set the stage with pre-meeting communication of the evaluation process and tools. Employees should prepare self-evaluations or similarly written reflections of their performance over the previous year and goals for the next.

Consistency is critical when providing feedback to the employee, starting with ensuring that scores and manager’s comments align. Also, the manager should compare the current appraisal to the previous year. Document any significant negative changes prior to the annual performance review, and ideally addressed during midyear meetings or through formal improvement plans.

2. Be timely

The performance appraisal should not be an isolated event, but the result of a year-long process. Employees generally require ongoing guidance, support and encouragement more frequently than is provided in an annual appraisal.

At the same time, the date of the annual review should be honored. Late performance appraisals indicate to employees that the manager does not consider the process important.

When conducting an annual performance review, the natural inclination is to give greater weight to recent events over those that occurred earlier in the year. Being disciplined about documenting the employee's work throughout the year will help avoid overemphasizing his or her most recent work.

3. Be honest

The most difficult job of a manager is confronting performance and behavioral issues. Do it objectively and without allowing emotion or bias to influence the conversation. Provide data and specific examples of areas for improvement. Reinforce desirable, positive performance.

Some managers feel uncomfortable giving negative feedback and avoid delivering constructive criticism that employees need in order to improve. As a manager appraising someone's performance, you must give an honest, balanced evaluation. Avoid using absolutes such as “always” or “never,” as they can be dismissed with just one example to the contrary. Absolutes are also quite difficult to defend.

Take care not to judge an employee's intent with statements such as “you weren’t trying.” Intent is difficult to prove or measure; focus instead on the employee's actions and their outcomes.

Recognize staff when they perform well throughout the year and include specific examples of exemplary performance in the appraisal.

4. Provide constructive advice

Managers should be careful to balance critical feedback with constructive advice on how an employee can improve. If you don't explain how the employee can improve, he or she is likely to miss the validity of what's being said and simply think they are being treated unfairly.

This holds true for both your highest and lowest performing employees. Your lowest performers may need the most suggestions on how to improve – but often the highest performers are the ones who seek constructive advice.

Measuring what matters when evaluating officers, training:

3 and out …

3. Mainstreaming officer mental health: Services for officer wellness were sprinkled throughout the Exhibition Hall at IACP 2018. Here are five programs that caught our attention.

2. Suicide prevention in policing: The Policing Matters podcast hosts, Doug Wyllie and Jim Dudley, discuss the warning signs of a colleague potentially approaching crisis, as well as available resources for officers to get the help they need.

1. What prevents first responders from accessing mental health care? Shame and stigma surrounding mental health within public safety are still stopping officers from asking for help, according to a white paper commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Share this Briefing

You are welcome to share the PoliceOne Leadership Briefing. Forward this email to your command staff, supervisors and patrol officers; print and post in the roll call room; add a link to your department’s website; or reprint in your organization or regional police association newsletter.

Got a leadership tip, management question, commercial use inquiry, or an article idea? Send me an email, nancy.perry@praetoriandigital.com.

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