Communication in Crisis

Communication in Crisis

Author and founder of the Table Group, Patrick Lencioni, describes one of the most important roles of a CEO as being the “CRO – Chief Reminding Officer”. Never is that role more important than during a crisis. To say the Law Enforcement profession has been in crisis mode during most of 2020 would be a gross understatement. Between dealing with a global pandemic and a level of unrest and anti-police rhetoric like many of us have never seen in our lifetime, law enforcement leaders are facing challenges like never before in this great profession of ours.

I believe all leaders would agree communication is one of the keys to running a successful organization. The problem is, so many of us are not as intentional as we should be and lose sight of just how important it is to communicate well and often, especially when leading a team through difficult circumstances. Most of us never purposely neglect communication, we just get caught up in the minutia of the job as we get pulled in more directions than normal when times are tough. I believe there are two areas we must especially act as CRO when navigating through a crisis. Both those areas center around the concept of value.

Remind your team of their value: In March of this year, our profession started seeing police officers being concerned not only about their health, but also the health of their families because of Covid 19. For families of law enforcement, there is already a high level of stress due to the danger their loved ones face while on the job. This danger and stress was enhanced by a new and unknown enemy in the form of a virus. Then, on May 25th, the horrific death of George Floyd occurred, and before we knew it, our profession was being vilified nationwide. Officers went from being recognized as front line heroes to being accused of being abusive and reckless with citizens and government officials crying out to defund the police. Now, more than ever, officers need to be reminded how valuable they are to you, your department and your community. Most officers have gotten used to having to drown out the noise that comes along with anti-police rhetoric. However, every officer needs to know his/her chief and command staff support them, believe in them and truly value who they are and what they do.

Remind your team of your department’s values and mission: Every department should have a clearly defined mission and values that provide absolute clarity on why each officer comes to work every day. Our mission is our “why” as described by author Simon Sinek, and our values are the guardrails we work with in when on the job. In Alpharetta, it’s all about the quality of life of our citizens (mission) and valuing excellence with integrity, selfless service and always exhibiting a courageous spirit (values). It is especially important during difficult times to ensure officers are reminded of the importance of striving after the mission and living out the associated values while on the job. It is so easy for us to lose sight of what’s important and get distracted and disgruntled when the level of stress is higher than normal. Leaders must be intentional in keeping officers mission minded and emphasize the values that are hopefully providing a foundation for a healthy culture.

There are numerous books written on effective communication techniques in leadership. For the purpose of this blog, the bottom line is we as leaders have to be more intentional than normal when it comes to communicating in a crisis. Our people need to hear from us consistently and effectively. There is a lot for our officers to be concerned about right now but feeling valued and effectively led should not be a part of those concerns.

We must be intentional in creating face time with our teams. The importance of face to face interaction (practicing social distancing of course!) will always provide the greatest bang for our buck communication wise. Written communication through emails and thank you notes can also provide some CRO opportunities to each team member feel valued. This can also be used to remind them of the importance of the agency’s mission and values. We should always ensure we recognize those employees who exemplify our mission and values, especially during a crisis. By the way, one the best ways we can promote our department’s mission and values is by making sure we emulate them ourselves.

Being the chief CRO is important in the day to day operations of our job. However, it is never more important than when leading our teams through a crisis. As with every other aspect of leadership, its starts with being intentional. One of the blessings that can come from difficult times is seizing an opportunity to hammer home with our officers what is truly important in our organizations……..our officers and why they do what they do.

Dr. John F. Robison
Public Safety Chief
Alpharetta Department of Public Safety
Twitter – @chiefrobison

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