As we have discussed in my previous column there are supervisors that you enjoy working for and want to emulate and of course, there are those supervisors that don't quite meet your expectations, and you also have to analyze their actions - and you all know the kind I mean. This is the supervisor that does not demonstrate command presence and you wonder what the chief was thinking about when he appointed him or her!
In both of these circumstances, you take the good and the bad of what you observe, place them in your supervisor "bag of tricks," and develop your own supervisory style - one in which you emphasize the strong points of leadership and supervision and negate the poor qualities that you don't wish to develop in your style. Now you are becoming your own person with your own style of leadership. You are developing someone with whom you are now comfortable.
Now, with the proper mindset, you watch how supervisors that you currently work for handle various situations. Afterwards, get some quiet time and think about how you would have handled the situation if you were in charge. Debrief the entire scenario. Determine the positives and the negatives, and be honest while doing so. If your supervisor handled the incident properly, then give him credit and learn by it. If you felt there were areas for improvement, DO NOT contact this supervisor and give him your opinion, because it is not your place, probably would not be received in a very positive fashion, and it is certainly not necessary - just learn by it.
Try to analyze various situations throughout your tour of duty. Give yourself quizzes by asking yourself: How would you explain the situation to the lieutenant? Did you properly handle various situations with the resources available to you at the time; how would you handle a disgruntled employee; would you recommend discipline (if so, how much)? With this mental attitude, you begin to feel like a sergeant. Suddenly your attitude changes and you are looking at various things in a different light, which will give you an advantage over your competition because you are now developing the feeling of a supervisor rather than that of a police officer. This mindset has to feel good; you have to feel comfortable with it; it has to become your "clothing". In other words, you have to own it!
Now that you feel better about yourself because you are becoming physically fit and developing a strong positive mental attitude, you will become more confident with the process. With your stripes posted on your bathroom mirror in the morning and your observations of your supervisors' actions in mind, you begin to think, "I can do this job just as well as they can, if not better, so what’s the big deal?"
Well, we've only just begun to crack that nut. In many ways, you are far ahead of your competition, but you still have a long way to go. Again, this is just the initial phase to get yourself into a mindset as to why you want this promotion and the best way to achieve it.
The reason I mention not becoming too sure of yourself is because of a personal situation that occurred many years ago when I was first testing for a sergeant position. At the time, people were telling me that I was ready to be the next sergeant, and there was no doubt that I would make it. I thanked them and continued to prepare for the written exam. I was reviewing the sergeant test questions from the Davis Company Handbook and was feeling pretty good about the process. But I kept hearing over and over again that I was the heir apparent for the sergeant's position, so pretty soon I started to believe it. I just knew that I was going to be the next sergeant, so I let up on my preparation because I had it in the bag! (You can see where I'm going with this, right?)
I took my first ever sergeant written exam and was pretty sure that I passed and would be the new sergeant. However, when the results were published I found out that I had failed the written with a score of 69% (and I needed 70% to pass)! Wow, what a blow! What was really strange was that all of those people who were hawking my virtues suddenly were absent from my world. I was standing alone and totally embarrassed because I thought - no I knew - I had this position "in the bag."
After a couple of days of feeling sorry for myself, I reexamined the process I utilized for obtaining this position and determined that I did it entirely wrong. I listened to everyone else rather than myself. I stopped trying so hard because I knew the position was mine. I didn't make the sacrifices necessary for the position. I felt that because I was Elvin G. Miali, they would hand me those stripes without hesitation. From listening to everyone around me, I felt I was bigger than the game itself and there was no way I could fail. (Well if you ever want to fail miserably then follow this pattern and you can join me in being one big un-promoted jerk!)
I believe that you must always look for the positive in every negative situation, which is exactly what I did. Although I didn't realize it at the time, my inability to pass the written examination was a blessing in disguise and really changed the direction of my law enforcement career. After whipping myself for a couple of days, I made a new goal that I would always place number ONE in every future promotional examination, which would require much more efficient study habits and far better research on every case or issue that would be representative of recent trends.
For example, today, I would learn more about the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Police Officers' Bill of Rights, or whatever else is in vogue at the time of the exam.
In the situation just described, I interviewed everyone that could assist me in achieving my goals and attempted to prepare myself for every situation that could possibly occur during the testing process - all of which helped me to become mentally tough and rather than being afraid of upcoming competition, I looked forward to it. I had prepared to the best of my ability and was ready to demonstrate why I should be chosen for the position. This was a pretty lofty goal, but it worked for me. It doesn't mean that they always selected me for the position but at least I made their decision very difficult.
Some candidates have difficulty expressing themselves during an interview. They can take written exams and pass them with flying colors, but they freeze up on a face - to - face interview outside their normal Law Enforcement activity. How can you overcome this problem? Well, actually it is not really a major obstacle and can be corrected quite easily. There are professional organizations such as Toastmasters International that assist individuals who are nervous about speaking in public. There are also speech classes at various colleges that assist you in writing and presenting speeches to audiences large and small. There are many reference books on this subject, such as "Never be Nervous Again" by Dorothy Sarnoff, which covers techniques for the control of nervousness in communicating situations.
Finally, the approach that really helped me prepare for public speaking and make various presentations was a drama class I took at a junior college. This may sound very funny to you - or you may ask how can that assist me with public speaking? - but I can assure you, it really helps. First of all, it develops your self-confidence because you have to act in front of groups of your peers and oftentimes, you may make a fool of yourself. This is not always a bad thing because you learn to laugh at yourself, which is extremely necessary in order to be successful in life. Additionally, it helps you to learn to project your voice when you are speaking, especially in a small auditorium without the benefit of a microphone.
These activities help you to overcome your fear of being in front of an audience. Basically, we are always acting, one way or another, because the way we act on the job is not necessarily the way we act when we are off duty. We speak differently when we make contacts at work. We don't talk to our wife, kids, friends, and relatives the same way we would a field contact (at least I hope you don't). So, these classes help a potentially shy person (like me) or a person that is nervous in front of audiences, overcome their concerns. My drama class was a lot of fun and helped me become a more confident speaker, especially when it came to Oral Board and Assessment Center exercise presentations.