Bob Miller S/Sgt. (retired)

Bob Miller S/Sgt. (retired)

In reading the comments regarding supervisors and either their inability or unwillingness to provide employees with the type of support, guidance and direction required to provide a positive and productive work environment I have to say something.

General Colin Powell  said; “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care.  Either case is a failure of leadership.”  (substitute soldiers with employees)

During my 33+ years in the RCMP I spent a number of years on Detachment, specialized units and as a trainer.  I was a supervisor for over 13 years at all NCO ranks.  I have also had no less than 33 supervisors (a problem in itself) who all taught me something which in some cases was; “Everyone has a purpose in life, even if it is only to serve as a bad example.” I also spent over 30 years coaching various sports at all ages and levels. The one thing I discovered to be most beneficial was how closely supervising employees was to coaching sports.  To be successful the coach (supervisor) must develop a team/unit/detachment with people of varying skill sets.  They also must develop individuals in specific skills required that do not exist within the skill set they have collectively. I say develop because unless you are at the highest level in coaching or management you do not get to hand pick your team/unit/detachment with the specific skill sets you need so you have to develop them in the people you have.  Even at the highest level supervisors/coaches must continue to develop their people in order to stay current.  In both situations you will identify knowledge, skills and abilities individuals are very good at and others they need to further develop.  There are very few people in either sports or work that are good at everything, let alone specialists/experts.  The coach/supervisor must focus on putting people in situations where they will have success and provide them with opportunities to develop in other areas in order to gain confidence in both their skill and ability to do things they are not comfortable with.  Ideally the people most skilled for a particular task will be the first utilized, ie: in baseball you don’t bring in your best hitter to pitch or best pitcher to hit, in hockey your best defender to score or your best scorer to defend, in football when you have one of the best short yardage running backs with the ball inside the one you don’t ask your quarterback to pass, “oh wait, ask the Seahawks how that worked out”.  The time to give people needing development the opportunity to enhance their skill is in low risk situations with proper direction and support, not with the game on the line.  In sports and policing everyone must understand a time may come when the only option even with the game on the line is the last person standing for a particular task and each of us must do the best we can with what we have. The key here is this should be the exception and not the common line; “I expect all my people to be able to do everything or they shouldn’t be here.”  Ask John Tortorella how this worked out for the Canucks last year. Remember, if you want a team to be successful you need people with varying skill sets.  You can pick the “team” sport of your choice and look at the components of offense, defense and special teams, how many use the same people in every one of those situations?  Very few, if any.  The reason is most people can be great at some things, good at some things, average at most things and not very good at some things.  This principal applies to supervisors/managers as well so for those who think they should be on the front lines with their people; How many successful “playing” coaches do you know of at any level let alone the highest level? (none). The reason is managers and supervisors need to be extremely good at their job in order to work within the system to ensure their people have the resources and support they need to do the job safely, effectively and professionally.  You can do none of these if you are involved on the front line other than those exceptional circumstances where there is no other option.  Surround yourself or develop good people and let them do their job.

I have been a candidate on numerous leadership courses and National Coaching Certification Program courses.  I have also been involved in the development of leadership courses including the SDP and MDP.  The one thing that was emphasized over and over by operational members from NCO to Assistant Commissioner was that whatever the components of the SDP and MDP were they had to be completed either during the classroom portion of the course or as part of a members daily responsibilities, not as an extra project.  Guess what, to complete the MDP a project was added and as a result a number of people attend the classroom portion and are unable to complete the added component because they still have a job to do.  If they took the NCCP material and changed the context to policing they would have been better off both financially and with the resulting quality of leadership.  I have often been told I over simplify things but I honestly believe leadership is simple; “Supervise others the same way you would have others supervise you”  and treat every issue an employee brings you the same way you would want your supervisor to treat an issue you felt important enough to take to them. Simply put, employees typically don’t go to their supervisor asking for help unless they have already exhausted their own resources especially in the first responder environment where the culture defines asking for help as a weakness or failure.  This only skims the surface but it comes down to this; Until all Sr. Executives and Supervisors realize there are 6 Core Values, not 1 and actually apply Honesty, Integrity, Professionalism, Compassion and Respect to all of their day to day activities Accountability will continue to be another word used that has no meaning.

My apologies to anyone this offends but Colin Powell also said; “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

Bob Miller S/Sgt. (retired)


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