Publish goals in writing. Discuss them in roll-call training sessions. (Photo Bob Vernon)
FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I had a lot of anxiety when I faced my first day of working solo after completing my field training with an experienced officer. Late in the afternoon I received a radio call to investigate a 415b incident. I remembered that 415 in the California Penal Code involved a disturbance of the peace. I couldn’t recall a subsection ″b″ of that law. All the way to the call I racked my brain for an explanation.
As it turned out, the dispatcher was saying ″415 bees.″ Thousands of bees swarmed around a fruit tree in the yard of the complainant. She objected and built a small fire beneath the hive. This angered the bees. In their fury they had stung the complainant and several of her neighbors. She called the police.
I’d been trained to assess each request for service through a practical grid. Did the situation involve a violation of the law, or was it a civil dispute? This event involved neither. Initially, I was somewhat confused about what to do. Then I remembered one of our goals clearly explained by Chief Parker at the academy: ″Our job is to protect and to serve. We must have the approbation (approval, consent, support) of the people in order to be effective. As much as is reasonable and within your ability secure their approbation by providing service to the best of your ability, even when not required.″ Technically, this wasn’t a situation demanding police action. But I remembered the admonition of Chief Parker. I had to do something.
I called the seasoned desk officer at our station. He gave me the telephone number for a ″bee man″ who would be delighted to acquire a new hive of bees. About an hour later he drove away with most of the bees swarming around the queen bee in his panel truck.
Chief Parker was more than a manager, he was a leader. He communicated principles. He had convinced me to serve the public even though a given situation may not demand police action. That’s what leadership is all about. Leadership is having the ability to convince people to follow as an act of their free choice. In that sense, leadership is superior to management. Management works when the boss is around, or there’s a good chance the boss will become aware of your actions. Leadership works when the boss is not around because the follower is convinced that following the boss is the best route.
Leadership involves many factors. These include:
- Clear goals or objectives and communicating them clearly;
- Your choice to model or demonstrate the goal (leading by example);
- A sincere interest in your followers and a desire to help them achieve their full potential; and
- The ability to inspire people to achieve excellence.
In this column, we’ll look at the importance of developing and communicating clear objectives. This isn’t a simple process. It should involve a lot of effort. Some leaders try to accomplish this important task alone and in a vacuum. Effective leaders involve others. They recognize that there’s wisdom in many counselors. It’s more likely that an organization’s goals will be relevant, effective and inspiring if its development involves the input of several minds—especially if some of those individuals are part of the team working for their achievement.
One of the biggest mistakes in setting goals is focusing on efforts rather than results. Example: Focusing solely on increasing traffic citations (efforts) rather than reducing injury and fatal traffic collisions (results) usually leads to questionable enforcement and a disgruntled public. On the other hand, focusing on results can lead to targeting enforcement that’s related to the type of violations causing the collisions at the locations where many of these collisions are occurring. Try to frame your goals in terms of results. Means to achieve those goals will probably involve a discussion of efforts, but the emphasis should be on results.
An organization can be very efficient (doing things right), but not be effective (doing the right things). Many organizations fail because, although they’re doing what they do extremely well, they’re doing the wrong things. Developing goals is important.
Once the objectives and goals are set, the job of the leader is just beginning. The objectives must be communicated to the entire team. Wise leaders recognize that true communication is very difficult to accomplish. Therefore they employ many tactics including:
- Variety of media: Publish the goals in writing. Discuss them in roll-call training sessions. Prepare visual displays (e.g., PowerPoint presentations, posters, charts).
- Repetitive efforts: Initial presentation, discussion groups and reactions, follow-up meetings and one-on-one discussions.
- Test for understanding: Ask selected individuals to explain each of the goals or objectives to you, then see how successful you were in communicating.
- Retaining focus: Attention to goals can be easily diverted or forgotten. Successful leaders are creative in keeping the goals front and center.
Effective leaders recognize the importance of clear objectives and goals.