“The challenge for every organization is to build a feeling of oneness of dependence one another because the question is usually not how well each person works, but how well they work together.” ~Vince Lombardi
Cohesion is the message of Coach Lombardi in the quote above. Cohesion means sticking together. It is hard to underrate it. So how do we create and nurture it?
I read an interesting article, which mentioned S.L.A. Marshall, who was a military historian who developed a unique way of doing historical research. He went to the front lines and interviewed everyone from private soldiers to their sergeants and officers, right after the action. He frequently came under fire in doing his research. Afterwards he analyzed his results.
One of the most amazing things he discovered was that when it was a life and death situation in battle, soldiers soon forgot about their idealism or patriotic reasons for fighting. If things were tough enough, even unit pride lost much of its power. But there was one emotion which never slipped. It was such a strong motivator that soldiers would frequently give up their lives because of it. What was this great motivator? It was not to let their buddies down. Everything else might vanish under the stresses and strains of combat, but not this one feeling. That feeling made all the difference in sticking together, in cohesion. No wonder that the idea of an army constituting a “band of brothers” should be shared by cops. It is the wise leader who fosters cohesion for with it; any organization is many times stronger than an organization that lacks it.
Cohesion is one of the most important elements of organizational productivity. Cohesion means that every member of the organization bears a responsibility for success or failure. Cohesion helps motivate members to put the organization needs above their individual needs. If we focus on sowing cohesion verses sowing discord how much more effective an organization would we be? How much better servants would we be? How much better prepared would we be for handling crisis situations? How much more respect would we garner from one another, from the community? How much stress and anxiety would be relieved if cohesion out weighed individualism?
Cohesion will help the organization attain great achievements. Police departments are organizations that can create and nurture this group feeling of unity also known as cohesion or esprit de corps. Yes it takes work. Yes it takes self reflection and self-awareness and learning to focus on the important issues, like each other and those we serve. Yes it takes getting out of the past and moving forward! For example; if you feel you have been wronged professionally in some way that’s ok…for a short period of time, but then you must pick yourself up and carry on! I have seen too many folks in our profession let an ass chewing or some other grievance ruin there careers and or more critically ruin their attitudes toward other officers and the public they serve. To quote the character Rocky Balboa: “It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” In other words being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.
“Know yourself and seek self improvement” is a leadership principle I have never forgotten since my days in the Marine Corps and it is applicable to us cops of all ranks as well. There are 16 traits that we should focus on when we put the principle “Know yourself and seek self improvement” to work creating and nurturing a cohesive environment.
- Courage or strength of character, demonstrated by taking calculated risks on the street and with your boss back at the station. Acting calmly in stressful situations. Standing up for what’s right, regardless of what others might think. Accepting personal responsibility for your mistakes. Making full-bore effort towards, mission accomplishment, even in the face of obstacles and problems.
- Bearing demonstrated by setting and maintaining high standards of professionalism.
- Decisiveness is demonstrated by studying alternatives and carefully selecting the best course of action when time permits. Picking alternatives and making decision quickly when there is no time for careful study. Knowing when not to make a decision.
- Dependability, demonstrated by being places on time when you’re told to be there or when you say you will. Doing those tasks that you have been told to do and those tasks that you’ve promised to do in a complete and timely manner.
- Endurance, demonstrated by maintaining the physical and mental stamina to perform your duties under stress conditions and for extended periods of time.
- Enthusiasm, demonstrated by consistently communicating a positive attitude. Emphasizing each others successes. Encouraging officers to take the initiative to overcome obstacles to performance.
- Humility, demonstrated by ensuring officers receives credit due them when they perform well. Emphasizing to one another how important they are to the unit. Describing performance in terms of “what WE did” instead of “what I did.”
- Humor, demonstrated by having fun doing your job. Joking when the going gets tough.
- Initiative, demonstrated by taking action in situations where something must be done, even in the absence of direction from a superior. Looking for and figuring out better ways to do things. Planning ahead.
- Integrity, demonstrated by telling the truth, to both your superiors and your fellow officers.
- Judgment, demonstrated by closely considering a range of alternatives before you act. Thinking out the possible effects of what you’re about to do before you do it.
- Justice, demonstrated by consistent application of rewards and punishments to all in your unit. Making decision that support mission accomplishment and that also take into account the needs of officers. Listening to all sides of an issue before making a decision that affects all.
- Knowledge, demonstrated by making sound tactical decisions. Performing administrative and technical duties well. Recognizing and correcting inadequate performance.
- Tact, demonstrated by speaking to others with the same kind of respect that you expect yourself.
- Loyalty, demonstrated by passing on and carrying out the tough orders of superiors without expressing personal criticism. Defending officers against unfair treatment from outside or above. Discussing problems in your unit and the problems of your officers only with those individuals who can help solve the problems.
- Selflessness, demonstrated by ensuring that the needs of your officers are met before attending to your own needs. Sharing hardship, danger and discomfort. Taking every action possible to provide for the welfare of one another.
The responsibility for developing our abilities and the type of organization we want rest squarely on each and every one of our shoulders. Like good leaders cops are made not born. But the making of a good cop, the making of a good law enforcement agency involves dedication, hard work, and a willingness to try out new skills and techniques, new attitudes as we grow and develop.
There is warmth in being part of a cohesive group which comforts and helps when the environment is hostile and that this comradeship means that each individual is one of the whole, bearing part of the responsibility for either success or failure. If we want to build an organization that will last, one that can grow in good times and bad, we must develop a shared feeling of accomplishment. We must continually develop strategic wins for our organizations, our communities, and not just for our own personal and private gain.
Our own band of brothers, “the brotherhood in blue” has slipped into individualism of the past few decades. It is time we begin to understand the benefits of unity and mutual trust which lubricate the OODA cycle and reduce friction and builds confidence in our abilities to execute. Let’s bring that comradeship back into the ranks of law enforcement with strength and honor.
Sun Tzu said; “you must control your soldiers with esprit de corps. You must bring them together by winning victories. You must get them to believe in you.” Hell this quote is 2500 hundred years old and I often find it humorous that we often struggle with its simple message. I believe we are more than capable of attaining this if we focus outward on our mission to protect and serve and focus outward on others verses inward and solely on ourselves. It is the positive attribute of selflessness that is the key to obtaining this. As cops we are public servants but we must also treat and serve ourselves with integrity while holding each other accountable in a candid and fair way. Trust is the cornerstone of cooperation. It is a function of awareness and respect.
I have heard it said; moral accountability is the foundation, either solid or crumbling, upon which our legacies stand. Let’s make ours a solid foundation based in unity and supported on earned trust.