This post was provided by guest blogger Glenn Hoff, Rochester, NY Deputy Police Chief (ret.) and author of Guardian Leadership.
I was asked to provide a short answer to the question, “What is the best police career advice you have ever received?” My immediate reaction was that this was a great question and that I was going to have a very hard time forming a short answer. As I thought about the things that I learned from my mentors over the years and in an attempt to give an appropriate answer for any career path in policing, this is what I came up with…
Like everything else in life, your success and your actions are governed by your mental attitude, what you choose to focus on and how you choose to look at those things. The power of the mind and the control you choose to exercise over it cannot be overemphasized. What things should you focus on? Everything can be divided into 3 areas or spheres: those things you control, those things you influence and everything else.
Things You Control
There are only two things that we control in our careers; our integrity and our work ethic. Integrity is key in policing. It’s too big a topic to discuss in detail here but the bottom line is that you need to be vigilant in living your Oath and Values. There is nothing worth sacrificing your integrity for and the ends never justify the means. You need to develop a strong ethical decision-making process and apply it consistently.
We absolutely control our work ethic. The attitude and effort we bring to the job everyday is ours alone. Focusing within causes us to constantly examine ourselves and take steps to shore up our weaknesses and improve our knowledge and competencies. This prepares us to take advantage of career opportunities when they present. When we get disappointed (and we will) an inward focus prepares us to do better next time rather than accept defeat by blaming something outside ourselves.
Things You Influence
Understand the things you influence. We influence everyone we come in contact with through our words and actions. In essence this process of influencing others is leadership and we have a responsibility to our Departments and ourselves to present a positive image. You can never not lead. People are always watching and you are always influencing. The relationships you build can contribute to your success and certainly the level of satisfaction you will have in your career.
We can’t afford to focus on things that we neither influence or control. Spending time on these things only builds frustration and a victim mindset. Instead choose to focus on what you can do. If we are truly concerned about something that is beyond our control we might choose to do some contingency planning – but in that effort we are in fact seizing control.
When addressing new recruit classes as a Deputy Chief I used to hand out index cards and ask each of them to write on the card how they felt that first day and answer the question of why they wanted to be a police officer? In the end I told each of them to keep the card somewhere safe so that they could refer back to it when things weren’t going as they planned. There are few careers where you will experience the extreme highs and lows of policing but there are fewer more noble.