Law Enforcement Integrity, with special guest: Jim Colbert

We’re back with Jim Colbert, former police officer in the Reno P.D. for thirty years. Yesterday were talking about …

There was a lot more along with that, such as struggling against a public that doesn’t trust you, or having a captain that’s not in tune with the problems of the day, but if you haven’t read it yet I’ll leave it to you. It’s a good read with some great video but not necessary to continue with today’s piece. I would say at this point that Jim gives some excellent examples and perspective of these leadership/management topics I’ve been discussing in this blog. Granted, they are extreme versions of those topics but non-the-less, very applicable to the discussion. Let’s continue with some more great perspective.

This is a great example of how over time, our standards need to evolve. On a vaguely related level, it’s similar to what restaurant owner Mark Estee was talking about: “Never being satisfied,” we need to be pushing for change constantly because it’s going to happen whether we like it or not. The world is banging at the door and the face of that word is ever evolving so it’s up to us to open the door, welcome in that change and assist in its development. If we’re not changing along with it, it’s going to move on down the street to the next door and we’ll be left behind. I’m not sure this is the best metaphor but I believe it makes the point that in five, ten, twenty years’ time, you won’t recognize your business, industry, or those working in it so we can be a part of it, or we can be left behind.

I’m not sure what I mumbled 28 seconds in but it sounded like gibberish. (Haha). My apologies. What Jim it talking about ties directly into what we were talking about yesterday in having the right personnel for the job and how harmful it can be when the wrong person is brought in and the fit isn’t quite right. The difference between today’s and the conversation yesterday along this same line is that the same person hired for the job today is not necessarily going to be the right person for the job tomorrow. As I said previously, the world is changing and we have to change alone with it and that includes how we fill out our teams. We need to be constantly asking: “Has the job changed? Is the job still necessary? Have the people for the job changed?” Let’s keep going with that same discussion.

Maintaining that balance between: “This is what I’m allowed to do and what I can do,” and being cognizant of those boundaries can be so beneficial. Know yourself, know your strengths and especially know your weaknesses. That “knowing” is a strength in itself and it can be such a tremendous asset in dynamic situations similar to what Jim is talking about. It will give you the perspective you need to gather the right kind of help when you need it. Let’s start to wrap up this great two-day conversation with Jim and see what he has to say about his own perspective on a thirty year career.

“The most important part of it is that honesty and integrity that you have to maintain if you want to be able to get the job done. If you want to be able to work with supervisors, fellow officers, and to have the communities support that’s so critical in getting the job done. And if you are lacking in those areas, you’ll never get the job done.”

Well said and nothing more is needed or should be added to that great synopsis, Jim nailed it! And you heard what the result was, how the Chief of Police valued Jim as an officer and what he provided to the force? It sounds like the Chief valued Jim as more than an officer and that kind of credibility can only be gained through your actions, your values, and what you stand for.

So, that’s what honesty and integrity accomplishes, that’s what it gets you on the street as a police office. Without it, there is no way Jim could do his job effectively day-to-day. Armed with that honesty and integrity  not only did he effectively do his job, but he did so much more in the form of projects and in the process garnered the respect and admiration of his fellow officers. Can you imagine what it can do for you in your day-to-day interactions with team members, in your business?

I want to thank Jim for taking the time out of his day to sit down and talk with me about leadership concepts that he faced and dealt with in the extreme. I hope this has added to your perspective of law enforcement and perhaps gives you an idea of what they are dealing with on a daily basis. I know for me, even after forty years as his son, I’m still learning from Jim. About quality leadership, about perspective, and about the life skills necessary to live an effective life. I’m also about the double standard he had when it came to forcing his own kids to eat their vegetables. Haha!

If you didn’t catch that last reference, read and watch yesterday’s post: Police Blue Leadership, with special guest: Jim Colbert

Image Credits: Video by Authro

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Police Blue Leadership, with special guest: Jim Colbert

Retired but definitely not out of the game, this is the second video interview and in it I was able to garner some very unique perspective from Jim Colbert, a retired Reno Police Officer who spent thirty years on the force. Let’s just get it out there now, Jim is my father but he’s not the first family member of mine to be interviewed for this blog. Earlier this year I talked to my brother Joel about being a father of four and how leadership plays a role in his household. He and his wife Mandy are very effective project managers, effective managers of tomorrow’s leaders I would dare say. The point is, managers and leaders are all around us and we interact with them daily. We are said managers and leaders and the qualities necessary to effectively get us through life, to successfully launch and build careers, and to manage our hectic lifestyles are very similar, as you’ll see, to those of a retired peace officer.

When I sat down with Jim, we stared talking about how the mantle of leader is thrust upon a police officer, it’s not something they grow into or are promoted to. As soon as that uniform goes on, they are instantly a figure of authority, a leader in the community. Let’s not waste any time and listen in on some of that conversation.

What a very difficult situation to be in. Imagine being a part of a situation where you were brought in to replace an outgoing employee and it was known for a fact that this employee did business unethically. And regardless of the fact that you were the new guy brought in to replace this tarnished individual, everyone you were accountable to considered you unethical also? At least until you could prove to them otherwise? I don’t know how you could even function in a situation like that let alone make a difference. Also, I want to be clear on something, when that uniform went on, that’s exactly who Jim was accountable to, every member of the public. Let’s continue with the thread and the dichotomous relationship that Jim had to deal with in a general public that he was sworn to protect.

Double standards and the fundamental attribution error. Again, what an uphill battle to fight every day if your career. A public that wanted to blame the officer for catching them when they were wrong. Ironic, that’s exactly why we have them in place to begin with. To uphold the law and discipline those who break the law. So, as difficult as that sounds, let’s hear how can this can get even more so.

Wow! So, that’s  it can get worse. Dealing with a public that doesn’t trust you and compounding matters by having a captain that can’t navigate successfully through some very tough waters. What I see though is a chance where a leader to step up and be accountable and be transparent, and how effective those qualities can be in very trying times. As Jim said, a leader that is “in-tune” with the situation and upfront, being accountable. But more than that, communicating what’s going to be done about the current problems and how those problems are going to be prevented in the future. This is such a hot topic item right now with police brutality center stage in so many precincts. But, that’s not what this conversation is about so let’s continue.

Leadership, it’s constantly an uphill battle. As a police officer, and as Jim said: “It’s was a weird role,” one that required him to wear many hats including Vegetable Patrol. As leaders we need to be aware of the many expectations that could at any turn be thrust upon us. As authority figures we may need to respond to one or many awkward and challenging “weird” moments that you can’t prepare for but with practice and perspective, you can have the right tools in place, ready to respond to them

Having the right people for the job matters. Just as Jim was talking about in his line of work, we shouldn’t just plug-and-play people into different roles as we see fit. There needs to be an alignment between their skills and the job in question. There needs to be an alignment between the individual and the tasks that are going to require their attention. Yes, we could just plug anyone in and we might not notice how ineffective it is. But we will defiantly notice when it’s absolutely the wrong person for the job, and so will that individual. There are many that suffer in these instances, the person doing the work, the job itself, and ultimately it reflects back on you the manager or team leader since it was your responsibility to insert appropriately. Again, in Jim’s case the examples are extreme, for the wrong person in those situations can lead to the loss of human life. Regardless, the same principles apply.

Perspective. We in the general public as so quick to make those judgment calls in regards to the police and their actions. But after listening to Jim talk a little bit about it, it really brings into focus a much different perspective. We have to keep that flip-side of the coin readily at our disposal, we have to be able to analyze and consider what our team members and our employees are having to deal with. Because more often than not the results of a situation gone awry is exactly that: results. Results of something that could have been prevented at the beginning of a chain of events. Looking at the whole chain will give you that valuable perspective.

Jim wraps up this portion of the conversation with something that again in his case is extreme when compared to what we’re required to deal with. He’s held accountable in a job that he was hired and trained to do, and that it’s very likely his results could be called into question down the road. I believe he said it earlier: “People remember the bad stuff you do, they hardly ever remember the good stuff.” So, in that light, being accountable is very difficult but if you can stand up take ownership of your actions, especially when it goes bad, it will set you apart as an individual of strong character.

After this we took a short break and so let’s pick up the remainder of conversation in tomorrow’s post. But, what a great conversation so far! For me, what I find intriguing is this man who has been my father for over forty years still has something new to show me about himself, about is experiences, about his views and even about his double standard when it came to eating vegetables. I can’t believe he told some kid he didn’t have to eat his vegetables. Who is this man and where is my father? Haha! Beyond that, he’s given some really extreme examples of when leadership goes wrong and what it takes to keep it right.

Image Credits: Video by Author