Yesterday, I was honored to present to a group of 18 Detroit police officers who are participating in the Detroit Police Department Leadership Academy at Wayne State University, Mike Ilitch School of Business.
One of the faculty, Sherilynn Perelli, asked me to speak on self-awareness and emotional intelligence. She felt these were crucial competencies for the officers to develop in order to become successful leaders in the police department.
In learning about the program, which welcomed its first set of participants in January 2018, I learned that cohort participants engage in collaborative training designed to enhance their leadership skills and impart invaluable business expertise. The intent is to inspire existing members, interested in assuming higher positions in the department and to prepare them to be the next captain, commander, assistant chief and maybe even chief of police in their quest to push their department forward.
I was highly impressed by the innovation of thought and action that went into designing the program. It was suggested by Mayor Duggan and developed in cooperation with Wayne State University Illitch School of Business and Deloitte. Officer James White who is now the Chief of Police for the city of Detroit, was one of the early graduates of the program.
My plan for the workshop was to review the four core dimensions of emotional intelligence and to ask them to discuss in small groups how these concepts related to their work. To learn more about emotional intelligence please watch my video here.
The officers represented a wide range of experience, from six years to twenty-nine years on the force.
I learned from the officers about some of the immediate challenges they face on a regular basis in their roles as supervisors. Maybe not so surprising, as leaders their challenges are not much different from the challenges faced by many of the leaders I work with as an executive coach. Here are some of the key learnings that the participants mentioned as they discussed emotional intelligence in small groups.
Their most pressing challenge in managing themselves is how to manage their time. They have so many responsibilities at work and home, it is a constant challenge to keep up. Particularly burdensome is all the paperwork required to do their jobs. Paperwork was not a determining factor they had anticipated when choosing to become police officers. It is not among their key strengths, according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder survey which they all took. Nevertheless, this is how they are required to spend much of their time.
A second challenge that all of them agreed on, related to another dimension of emotional intelligence: managing relationships with others. In particular, it was a challenge for them to manage the young recruits.
This cohort of leaders, most of them millennials, face challenges in trying to manage the young recruits, usually Gen Zs, some of whom joined the police force as young as age 18. A big challenge for their leaders is getting them to collaborate and cooperate. Many of the Gen Z cohorts have spent much more of their time growing up in isolation, rather than in social groups. This has a lot to do with them spending so much time digitally engaged, rather than socially engaged with their peers. When they join the police force, which has to be a collaborative endeavor, they have a difficult time making the shift from a “me” point of you to a “we” point of view.
Other challenges they face with this group include: following the chain of command, questioning almost everything, and developing good work habits.
The Gen Z group values their personal time and do not want to work any extra or put in extra effort beyond the requirements of the job.
Detroit police leaders are faced with multiple challenges which require them to understand the emotional life of a variety of constituents.
they have to manage a variety of young people
they have to create peer rapport with colleagues from different ages, different races, and different points of view politically
they have to provide police protection for a wide variety of nationalities, many of whom view emotions differently
they need to understand mental illness and how it affects people emotionally and behaviorally
they need to understand how drugs and alcohol change the emotional state of the users
they need to recognize when to employ negotiation tactics, similar to what social workers and psychologists learn
they need to calm themselves down when they return home to their families after having been keyed up all day by the stresses of their job
I felt deeply honored to be able to help these officers learn to be better leaders. They know that they are taking on huge responsibilities, including risking their lives on a daily basis. Hopefully, by learning more about emotional intelligence and by becoming more self-aware, they will be safer, the community will be safer, and they will be able to help develop the talents of the other officers whom they lead.