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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Motivation Comes from Within

I spend a great deal of time thinking about ways to motivate people because my position requires that I get work done through others.  Fortunately, this is not difficult as it sounds because the majority of police officers come to work and do their jobs because they are service-oriented and consummate professionals.

At home, I am constantly trying to motivate my children to do better and to be better.  This is a large undertaking when it comes to matters of household chores.  I used to believe that it should be a quid pro quo system — that one should get something as a result of output.  I’ve since changed my position and now I believe I shouldn't have to pay my kids an allowance for them to carry out basic expectations.  

My original thinking was based on the premise of an occupation.  If you have a job, one assumes you are compensated for that job.  Food and shelter are basic human needs and in order to pay for those goods and services, we need an income.  My children are provided food and shelter so paying them to contribute to the household seems like the wrong message to send.  I don’t get paid to keep my house orderly.  I do it because I take pride in my home and I want it to be a peaceful sanctuary.  If we go through life doing things only to gain something in return, we are constantly chasing validation and we often come up empty.

When I decided to become a police officer, I didn’t consider the salary. Like most who gravitate towards service, I chose it because I wanted to do something meaningful with my life.  I knew I would make enough money to meet my basic needs but there are certainly other occupations better suited for chasing a paycheck.

Those who are motivated by making more money and obtaining more things often find themselves unfulfilled in life.  We tend to believe that the more money we make the happier we will be and as a result, we are always chasing an abstract idea of success.  The problem with that is that we are never fulfilled.  It turns out the happiest and most motivated people are those who derive meaning from their lives.  

So from where does this motivation come?

Contrary to what we have always believed about a reward system, motivation doesn’t come from external places.  In his book, “Drive”, Daniel Pink makes a compelling case against traditional forms of motivating others.  He suggests that if you pay people enough that they aren’t thinking about money and they are thinking about work, they will concentrate on the work.  This is why salary and benefits are important for security.  But once those basic needs are met, Pink suggests that people are in search of three things:  autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Autonomy is the desire to be self-directed.  We want to be able to do our jobs without someone micromanaging us.  

Mastery is the itch to keep getting better at the things that matter to us. 

Purpose is the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful that is bigger than ourselves.

I want our police officers to be self-directed when they do their jobs.  Naturally there are expectations of them to enforce the law and keep the peace in our community but they should be able to carry out these duties with autonomy and we should be able to have faith in them that they will fulfill the mission.

As they find their niche in the department, they should never stop striving for mastery.  That means that they commit themselves to constant self-improvement by feeding the desire to learn more and get better.  A patrol officer has many tasks while on the street while those in specialize units have a more focused job.  No matter what the position, every officer must challenge themselves to learn something new every day and move outside their comfort zone so they grow.

But I believe that a person will not feed the desire for mastery if they lack purpose.  Without purpose, we are simply carrying out sisyphean tasks.  Without believing that the work you do matters and that you are contributing to the greater good, you will lack the motivation to work at all; lest get better at your work.

When you are aligned with a greater purpose, work simply doesn’t feel like work.  Appealing to my children by telling them that they are a part of something bigger - a family - and their contribution to the things that need to be done in our home are indicative of what it means to be a family, works better than barking orders.  Instead of thinking about the things you have to do, start thinking about them in terms of the things you get to do.  Changing that one word can change your outlook.

Yes, people work for a paycheck because they have to support a family and make ends meet.  Receiving this compensation means that they will have to carry out tasks that are outlined in the job description.  But I have learned that you can buy a person’s back but you cannot buy their heart.  People will meet the expectations you set because of fear of punishment but they will meet them minimally.  However, if you instill purpose within them (heart), they will exceed expectations.  Always.

How we find purpose depends largely on where we look.  Sometimes, other people inspire us to be better and do better.  It is a gift when someone ignites a flame of inspiration and motivation within us.  But more often and more realistically, it is up to us individually to find our own purpose intrinsically.  When you align yourself to something bigger and when you begin to believe that what you do matters to the world, the satisfaction of doing well is its own reward and production is a natural consequence.  

If you want to be motivated, look for meaning in everything you do.  If you want to motivate others, inspire them to find their own meaning.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why Getting "Buy In" Might be Overrated

Experts tell us that the way to effect change in an organization is to get "buy in" from people at all levels.  This concept is logical because it is based on the assumption that those who buy into the changes will accept them and thus, become a part of implementing the changes.

Personally, I think "buy in" is a bit overrated but not for the reasons one might think.

I will not discount the importance of every person in the organization being in alignment with the same vision and mission because that is ultimately what makes the ship change course. But that doesn't happen without an original idea--- and that typically is born in the mind of a lone person.

I believe that true innovators and change-makers don't think much about getting "buy in" when they are on the brink of something greater.  Steve Jobs' leadership style was very controversial but one thing that he believed resonates with me:

"A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." 

At first glance that might seem egotistical but the reality is that not everyone has the foresight to see possibility and opportunity.

Think about those who can walk into a house in need of rehab and see possibility -- those who can push past what is right in front of them and visualize what it will look like when a wall is knocked down or the structure is altered.  They have the ability to visualize the finished space when standing amongst chaos or hopelessness.

This is the same foresight a leader must have in order to take an organization to the next level.  They see what others don't and they don't necessarily feel the need to walk around and make sure everyone agrees with their vision before moving forward.

I've noticed that true innovators have the courage to stand in solitude for a while as they project their vision onto others.  If they are good, they paint the portrait so that others can see.  Even if the picture is blurry to others, true leaders don't necessarily wait to move forward until it comes into focus.

Instead, they begin planning, building and touting the mission as they continue to forge ahead in privacy.  It's part of the reason people describe the "top as being "lonely".  If the leader is able to persuade another person with their passion, something miraculous happens.  That person sees the value and joins the leader.

It seems to me that that first follower is just as critical as the leader because without them, a movement cannot occur. That first follower, like the leader, shares passion for the mission and soon, others begin to see it and follow as well.  This "tipping point" is the very thing that moves the entire path in an organization.  This is where the change happens.

There's nothing easy about starting a movement.  It's hard because people don't always see things in the abstract.  It's hard because failure is a real possibility.  Leaders who are innovators must have the courage to be ridiculed and criticized for their efforts but not allow the criticism to discourage them from movement.

Quite honestly, that's why leaders are rare.  Most people cannot handle the ridicule from those who stand on the sidelines.  It's not easy to be scrutinized by others who wouldn't mind seeing the leader fail.

Keep in mind that this sabotage might not be personal but instead their own resistance to change.  People have a natural tendency to remain unchallenged in their comfort zones and innovators threaten that comfort so the masses push back.

That's why "buy in" might not be as important as we once thought.  Instead I propose that it's more important to have a leader that has the courage to persuade others with passion and relentless pursuit of something greater. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Doing Your Best Brings Out the Best in You

What do you call a doctor who graduated from medical school with a “C” average? 

The answer is “Doctor”.

This joke was told during a gathering at my house for which my kids were present.  I got defensive during the conversation because I place a great deal of emphasis on my children maintaining their grades.

Because I know their intellectual capabilities, I believe that earning a “C” in class means they aren’t trying as hard as they should.  Should their grades drop, I’ve found that once they get past the excuses of “it’s too hard” or “it’s my teacher’s fault”, they usually concede that they could be putting forth more effort. 

I’m not suggesting this is always the case.

Given my deficiencies in mathematics, if I attempted an accounting degree, I probably wouldn’t make the grade no matter how much effort I put into it.  To illustrate the point, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you will forever think the fish is stupid or is not trying hard enough.

We all have limitations in some aspects. What I’m referring to is our natural tendency to take the path of least resistance – to simply get by.

The truth is, a “C” average will get you a degree.  I cannot dispute this notion because it’s factual.

What I can dispute is that effort plays a large part in our accomplishments and intellect alone does not make a person successful.  In fact, I know many people who bear intellectual superiority and cannot seem to accomplish much because they don’t follow thought with action.  Knowledge without application is meaningless.

I’ve always been of the opinion that those who care enough to do their best work are those who will experience great success in their lives.  I am referring to those who take pride in their work and understand that what they produce is an extension of who they are.  Whether it be a project for school or a presentation for work, I can tell a lot about you just by looking at your output.

There is a simple question that I ask myself in nearly every aspect of my life:  Is this your best?

Many times, I fall prey to mediocrity just to get something crossed off my task list.  But I find that when I challenge myself to bring my best, I meet the challenge. 

If we were to hold up the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves if we are doing our very best, and if we are honest, most of us would admit that we spend too much time just “getting by”; and the consequence of that is little reward for our effort.  And I’m not talking about an external reward (although that often results).  Sometimes just the satisfaction of knowing you put everything you had into something you did is enough to bask in accomplishment. 

Your best might be different from one day to another.  There are some days when you might struggle just to be present and put your face out into the world.  Sometimes just showing up is the best you can do.  And that’s okay.

But most of the time, you can be better and you know that you can.  As a police officer on the street, I knew when I was giving the best of myself.  On my best days, I knew I went above and beyond in investigating a case where I could have easily cut corners.  I knew when I went out of my way to assist a citizen instead of remaining comfortable with minimal effort. 

Any time I’ve just gone through the motions, it brought me no satisfaction.  When I work hard and give it my all, I feel accomplished and successful and those on the receiving end shared in the benefit.

When you do your best, you feel your best.  So do more of that.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Our Titles in Life and how they Intertwine

*Published in the Sun-Times Beacon News in May 2014

There are two titles in this life of which I am most proud:  mother and police officer.

These two roles may appear to be mutually exclusive. But for me, they began to intertwine from the moment my first child was born in 1998.

As a young rookie, I answered many calls of child abuse and neglect and though I was affected by the incidents, becoming a mother magnified them.  I began to correlate every child who was hurt with my own children – especially if they were the same age.  As a result, I spent many nights after work watching my daughter and son while they slept and thanking my higher power that they were safe; while grieving for those not as fortunate with whom I had come in contact during my shift. 

Being a parent made me more patient.

One evening, I responded to the home of a mother who called 9-1-1 because her two year old child was missing.  I didn’t have children then and I recall immediately passing judgment after learning that she had allowed her child to escape from the house.  There was a pond in the back-yard and our officers were wading through it hoping not to find the young boy.  Thankfully we found him unharmed wandering around the neighborhood but I scolded the mother for not being more vigilant in minding her child’s whereabouts. 

And then I had children. 

My kids are 20 months apart in age so I learned very quickly that toddlers are no match even for the most conscientious of mothers.

I would turn my back for literally a moment to find one drawing on the wall (having no clue how they secured a marker) and the other stuffing their socks into the toilet.  They taught themselves how to turn the doorknob despite it being several heads above them and they took great pleasure in letting the dog out and watching me give chase throughout the neighborhood in my bathrobe.

Those lessons in humility would transcend into nearly every call to which I responded as an officer.

I learned to withhold judgment and to be empathic.  It’s easy for a person to judge what they don’t know or understand so I started to seek first to understand, and then be understood.  Naturally, this was not applicable in every situation. There are some things I’ve seen over the years that I will never be able to comprehend but motherhood changed me for the better.

Policing has changed me for the better as well. My children might respectfully disagree, however.

Being the children of a police officer has meant they’ve had to contend with interrogations and suspicion.  One of the things they’ve learned is that I rarely ask a question to which I don’t already know the answer.  I concede that their plight is a bit more cumbersome than those of their peers but I hope I’ve instilled in them the same lessons I’ve tried to instill in our police officers -- that they must lead by example.

Women in policing are no different than those in other careers (excluding the interrogations and pat-down searches). 

We are all struggling to balance our work and home lives; and we are hoping that devotion to our careers doesn’t come at the sacrifice of our children.

I became a police officer before I become a mother so the longevity belongs to the former.  My career will come to an end someday but my role as mother will remain until I take my last breath.  I’ve not been a perfect mother or a perfect police officer and I know there have been times where one aspect of my life has suffered at the hands of the other.  But my hope is that I’ve contributed positively to both.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms just trying to get it right.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Thin Blue Line Represents Honor

*Published in the Sun-Times Beacon News | April 2014

When I hear citizens of any community convey their distrust in the police, it devastates me.  But then I rationalize and convince myself that the only people who don’t like or don’t trust the police are those who commit crimes.

It has always seemed logical to me that those who are stopped and questioned by the police are only upset by it when they are guilty of something.  It seemed equally as logical that those who obey the law should not be inconvenienced by the intrusion.  As most internal rationalizations go, it is not the actual truth, but my truth.

The actual truth is that even law-abiding citizens will question police legitimacy if they believe the police are violating the public’s trust.  Even if they aren’t personally victimized, people are keenly aware of injustice; and in the history of humanity, there are many examples of rising to fight in the face of it.
  
The ramifications of trust being eroded in our community has horrific consequences.

Citizens rely on the police (an arm of the government) to practice legitimate authority in applications of law.  Citizens trade some freedoms for this protection (i.e. Fourth Amendment Laws of Arrest, Search and Seizure) because they trust that the police are working within the parameters of the law and in the best interests of the public.  Citizens give police the power to uphold the laws outlined in the Constitution in exchange for protection and enforcement.

When the government exceeds the boundaries and abuses power, the citizens’ extreme reaction is to overthrow the government.  The response to the Rodney King beating in 1992 is a good example of this.  The public took to rioting in the streets because of the actions of the L.A. police officers. 

When the police undermine legitimacy, the public responds in protest and civil unrest is the consequence.

But when the police act honorably and with service, justice and fundamental fairness as their guide, the trust strengthens.  Even when discharging the unpleasant but necessary duties of the office such as search and arrest, citizens accept those actions if they are done with equity and adherence to laws.

People respect power when power is derived from justice.

However, as Historian and moralist Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

When all power is given to one entity, the theory is that man inevitably falls prey to corruption.  This is why power cannot be absolute.  We must have checks and balances within the hierarchy to protect us from dictatorship. 

When police officers enter this profession because they are power-driven, that power becomes absolutely corrupt.  Not only do police officers have the power to take away a person’s freedom (incarceration), they can take a human life as long as it fits within the parameters of the law.  If you think of the awesome responsibility that befalls those acts, you want it only in the hands of those who are worthy.  Here is a great example of unworthiness.

Because our officers on the front line see the worst of humanity, one can begin to understand how seeing the corrosion can skew an officer and ultimately test their will.

At times when the criminal justice system fails, a police officer may feel they have to compromise the Constitution and the laws to ensure “justice”.  But the ends do not justify the means so police officers need to be reminded of their purpose and their mission so they continue to fight for justice fairly.


Gone are the days of the “thin blue line” where police officers are blindly loyal to one another.  Instead, the “thin blue line” has morphed into a positive and honorable litmus test where the police guard themselves by policing one another.  We stand together in virtue and honor but we part with the officer who goes wrong. 

Our “thin blue line” should comprise only those who make the badge shine brighter – not those who tarnish it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Creating People in Your Own Image

Dee Hock, the founder and former CEO of the Visa credit card association said, Never hire or promote in your own image.  It is foolish to replace your strength.  It is idiotic to replicate your weakness. 

I thought about how logical this seems and yet people continue to bring others along because they mimic their way of thinking.  Its natural for us to want to surround ourselves with people who align with our values and thought-processes because it takes less energy to stay within the comforts of our own likeness.  Not only that, but it feels good to be validated.

The problem with no one questioning our beliefs or decisions can leave us with the fallacy that our way is the right way.  We do it every day when it comes to our convictions.  We believe something so strongly and we only expose ourselves to people and ideas that support our position as though that somehow proves that we are right. 

This can be dangerous because there can be no growth or progress if we continually operate under the assumption that everyone else is wrong.  We need to surround ourselves with people who will challenge us to question our own assumptions and beliefs.  This doesnt have to be under the guise of conflict; it can be respectful dissent and spirited debate.

When I was a sergeant, I worked for a lieutenant who couldn
t have been more different than me.  His leadership style, his personality and his outlook on life were in stark contrast to mine.  I was conducting roll call with the officers at the beginning of the shift and I noted him sitting in the back of the room as he did every day.  He was a presence in the room not because of his rank, but because he was notorious for his unapproachable demeanor. 

After roll call, I found myself sitting in his office after being summoned by him.  He closed the door and proceeded to tell me that he didnt like the way I conducted roll call.  I must have had a look of confusion or disbelief because he followed up with, I dont like the lightatmosphere with the officers.

I found his vantage point interesting.  In my roll call, there was always friendly bantering and I tried to be participative instead of just talking atthem.  But like a good soldier, I nodded my head in agreement and from that point on, I vowed to be better.

For the next few weeks, I put on my game face- the face I usually reserved for the street when things were serious.  I tried to be stern and matter of factwhen delivering the information and giving out assignments so I could live up to the template he set.  I must have succeeded because many officers inquired if there was something wrong.  They said I wasnt acting like myself.

I wasnt.  I worked up the nerve and marched into my lieutenants office and asked, When I conduct roll call, am I getting the job done?  Am I sharing information, training, and bulletins?  Are my officers producing?

He paused then answered, Well, yes. 

I responded, If its not my performance but my delivery, with all due respect, you cannot create me in your own image.  I went on to share my philosophy that the more positivity and laughter I can add to our environment, the better our officers will feel.  I dont know what kind of day they had before they walked into roll call and since our moods manifest into the way we treat the citizens, Id rather they hit the street feeling happy instead of agitated. 

Its about results.  The style we use to get the results we desire might be different for each of us and we should celebrate the differences and learn from them.  Those who continue to believe different is wrong are an impediment to progress. 


And that affects results.

Friday, March 7, 2014

When the Police Need Policing

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Plato famously asked this question in The Republic and the literal translation is: Who will guard the guards themselves?
The phrase is used by modern-day authors and philosophers to describe the concern about those in power in the context of corruption, dictatorships, and tyrannical governments. 
Plato believed that in order for a society to function, there must be noble warriors who enforce the rule of law because, due to our innate human weaknesses, we are naturally inclined to give into our own self interests.
He compared the human soul to that of a chariot being pulled by two horses.  The driver is reason, one horse is soul (will) and the other horse is appetite.  Reason should control the two horses but if the driver isnt able, he will be dragged by the stronger horse.  Thus, a rule of law is present so that individuals can be guided rather than left to their own infallibilities. 

Plato felt that the guardians should be noble beings who would enforce laws and protect the republic above all else.  This far preceded what has now evolved into modern day policing so I believe that Plato was ahead of his time.  The evolution of our democratic society has taught us that without rule of law, our society would likely suffer dictatorship or mob mentality. 
But the question still lingers, Who will guard the guards?”  What happens when those we entrust to uphold and enforce the laws cannot control their horses?
When those in power abuse their power, democracy weakens.
I have been reading extensively about Sheriff Lee Baca from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and his recent resignation amidst charges of corruption that encompass allegations of inmate beatings, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation.
Separately, the U.S. Justice Department found that deputies repeatedly harassed, intimidated, racially profiled, and used excessive force on African-Americans and Latinos. And the Los Angeles Times reported last month that Baca's Sheriff's Department hired dozens of officers even though investigators found they had committed serious misconduct both on and off the job.
Who will guard the guardians?
Sheriff Baca was the emperor of his land as a figure head but he purportedly allowed his Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, the autonomy to run the agency of 9,700 sworn deputies.  Reports reveal that the Undersheriff was a tyrannical dictator whose motto was, Work the gray and work it hard.  This was Tanakas term for pushing the limits of legality.
Policies and procedures are a standard part of law enforcement.  In them, they outline the law with a clear line of site to the U.S. Constitution.
However, a culture of an agency may be in direct conflict with the law.  In other words, policy dictates how we should act, but culture is what we actually do.  And the culture of the LASD was arguably to surpass even thegray area” as evidenced by the indictments.
Those in the organization knew what was happening but they were all too afraid to speak up because it was career suicide.  If you didnt play the game the way the culture mandated, life was made very difficult.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
The answer is the guardians themselves.  Law enforcement agencies must police one another and continue to craft a culture where integrity is the only truth.
We just had an incident in our department where a peers officers came forward to report allegations that one of their brothers in blue was committing a theft.  No one worked the gray.  Instead, with a heavy heart, they policed their own.
The culture of corruption permeates when no one has at the courage to shine the light into the dark corners.  Im not suggesting it’s easy and that it wont put you at risk, but thats why its courageous.
When those drivers cannot control their own horses, someone has to take the reins.