Connecting with Your Community and Peers
Have you ever wondered why some cops fall away from their oath to protect and serve (The Warrior Servant Code), while others grow and share that promise? Why other officers don’t seem to pay attention to their department’s Vision and Mission statements? Why people seem to hate the police?
Maybe, it is because the “leaders” on the force are not connecting and communicating their oath in a way that draws others into being an active part of the agency’s Vision and Mission. Maybe, it is a lack of leadership – and I’m not talking simply about positional leadership (Sergeants, Lieutenants and Command Staff members). “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” says the most notable world leadership trainer, coach and mentor, John C. Maxwell. Every member of the Department has the capacity, and the duty, to be a leader- a person of influence. To be a Warrior Servant.
Without influence, one cannot change the hearts and minds of those you are trying to touch. Without leadership skills, you cannot connect with others. Everyone communicates, not everyone connects. To communicate your oath to protect and serve requires you to first connect with the people with whom you are communicating.
There are a number of Connecting Principles when communicating, based on the book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”, by John C. Maxwell.
Connecting with people increases your influence. The ability to connect with people begins with understanding and reinforcing the value of people. If people know you genuinely care about them as a person then you increase your influence to change their hearts and minds.
Connecting with someone isn’t about you, it’s about them. “If I were you…” is the number sentence starter that kills relationship building. We all do things for our own reasons. A person in difficult circumstances wants to know: Do you care for me?Can you help me? Can I trust you? To connect with someone in crisis (another officer, a citizen) you need to find out where they are in their life. You need to ask questions, then be quiet and listen to, not just hear, the answers.
Connecting goes beyond just talking. Talk is cheap. A friend and mentor once told me, “Nothing can happen through you, until it happens to you.” Put differently, “Are you walking the walk or just talking the talk?” Sometimes our actions speak so loud that they drown out what we are saying. People can spot a phony. Are you living a life of the Warrior Servant and traditions of excellence in policing, or just preaching empty words? Maybe, cops are falling away from the promise to protect and serve not because of the Vision and Mission Statement and Code of Conduct of their department, but because of what they see the department – meaning you – doing day in and day out!
Connecting with others requires energy. It’s not about putting a bunch of meetings and activities on your calendar every week. Energy is required to be prepared, committed, interesting and comfortable when sharing your Warrior Servant code with others. Paraphrasing an old adage, “Others will only get out of it, what you put into it.” It takes energy to know and share the foundations, principles and expectations of department. It takes energy to being committed to walk the walk. It takes energy to be interesting to others – especially if they are of a different generation than you. It takes energy to be comfortable in your own skin. Your belief in the Warrior Servant Code must be energetic before you can connect with others who are struggling with theirs. Your living out this Code must be energetic and sincere, before you can connect with the community who is struggling with their trust in your department.
Connecting with others is a learned skill. People often refer to a dynamic communicator as “being a real natural”. Very few, if any, people are a natural anything. Great speakers, athletes, businessmen, cops learned and practiced skills daily to become “great”. They learned by failing repeatedly and changing the way they thought and acted. Connecting with others is no different. It is a learned skill, repeated daily, and involves many failures. How many times have you tried to “connect” with your children to understand they need to clean up their rooms? When all else fails, you threaten them with some undesirable consequence – right? Is that type of “connecting” going to work with a cop struggling with their commitment to protect and serve? Is it going to work with a citizen struggling with their trust in your department?
Picture, Moses. He was not good with people. He was a loner – doing things his way. Then he got the call to protect and serve his “people”. He readily confessed to God he was a poor communicator. He tried to do everything himself – and failed! He was not a natural. But, he was obedient to God and he learned to connect with his people – even the naysayers. Over time, he led them out of Egypt, with all their worldly possessions, and towards the Promised Land. You may not be a natural at leadership. But you can learn to be a great leader – on your squad, in your department, community, and family.