Well, it was that time of year again. The new year, the new you and alas even more broken resolutions. For those who made a meaningful resolution and are still staying the course—congratulations. Throughout your career, especially if you are a leader, there are some daily enhancements that you should consider. Some can even make significant improvements not only in your life but the lives of your staff.
Take some time in your day for a mindful ritual. Often, these reflective readings and moments can energize your mind or spirit. Many will immediately think of a daily religious devotional and there is nothing wrong with keeping your faith spirit focused. Personally, I used to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius daily over coffee. Not all read stoic philosophy outside of college required readings. However, for me it does add a value in my life. I knew several who had the daily calendar with an inspirational quote or maxim for each day. They would start their day by tearing off the yesterday’s page to start their day with a new one. Then again, I have seen many have The Far Side cartoons to start their day with a smile. Really matters not what type of daily ritual you have; make it fit your life and needs. A few minutes to engage your mind can be beneficial.
Get a fountain pen and personal stationary—Most have never really used or enjoyed the writing experience of a quality fountain pen. It tends to force you to write in cursive and it will slow you down. Not the quick jotted down words, but a statement that was created by your hand. What better way of sending a thank you note, or a job well done note, and in your own handwriting. I always had a personal note pad with “from the desk of” printed with my name on it on paper stock that was an unusual color. So if someone saw it, it was from me and me only.
A computer generated thank you note can be produced by your assistant and all you do is initial it, seems rather impersonal now, doesn’t it? A hand-written note with a fountain pen forces you into taking your time in writing every word. So you made the time and this note is from you, not a template where the names and dates are generated with an electronic signature. Your investment of a few moments will give the receiver a better experience for it was from you—it was a personal note to them.
Little things add up. Get acquainted with your new city. If you are an outside chief, take time to visit the historical sites or key points of interests of your new city. Seek out the reasons that people travel to your city or town, what is drawing them here. If there are historical sites, visit them as a tourist, not as a cop. Attend a few things out of your normal comfort zone such as a local theatrical group’s performance. Do not forget outdoor concerts or local youth sports events. You want to understand the attractions and get to meet more of your service population under happier times and not business-related moments. The goal here is to immerse yourself into becoming a resident and not a commander of an occupying force.
As the new chief in an unfamiliar town, you need to acquaint yourself with the local agencies, clubs, and organizations. Of course, as a new face in town, you will be invited to attend the ‘wild kingdom’ of clubs—Lions, Moose, Elks, Eagles, etc.—on the ‘rubber chicken circuit.’ Everyone will want the new chief to speak before their membership. Same with some churches; they want their congregation to welcome you. One note of caution is that most of them will want you to join their club or organization. There is no way you can belong to everything as a chief. My recommendation is that you ward them off with the same canned statement—‘let me live here for a year or so first’ before I make any commitments.
Depending on the size of your agency, you need to have someone ‘in the know,’ not a busy body but a staffer who knows the heartbeat of the staff. I was blessed with administrative assistants who seemed to know everyone in the respective cities that worked as a chief. I had only been at one department a few days when my administrative assistance walked in with a sympathy card in her hand for me to sign. There had been a death in an officer’s family, I had only met the officer a time or two and did not know any of their family. This personal note of sympathy was monumental to this officer.
You buy credits with your staff with little personal acts and notes. When there are births, deaths, or other events within the staff, it can be a time to become personable, not just the chief who is down the hall. Again, the chiefs of the smaller and most medium size agencies have this advantage in getting to know their staff. It is teambuilding but also you create some life-long relationships in doing so. A police department might seem to be a para-military organization but it still becomes a family of sorts.
Take a mental health break, if not a day make it a moment. I laugh when prospective chiefs ask me—“how many hours a week will I have to put in?”
There is no definitive answer, but you are never ‘off.’ You might be at the house, but the next day’s meeting will be swirling in your head. The countless hours and stress will add up if you are not careful.
Get a hobby, workout, read, just do something. I also recommend set aside some ‘mindless time,’ where you can just disengage from the job. I always enjoyed taking walks, often to nearby meetings. Yes, you will be visible to the public, but the walk will do you well. Burning off a few calories, but more important stress, is a great thing to add in your day.
Are there other things to do? Sure, these were tried and true wins for me in my career. But do not wait until another new year rolls around. Life adjustments may appear before you anytime and it is always good to refresh and change for the better.