I have always believed heavily on treating people at work with respect and I have been thinking recently about where that attitude comes from.
We all know that people can affect the energy and enthusiasm we have at work in various ways.
Interactions with some people can leave you excited about possibilities over the smallest of things, whereas other people can leave you feeling drained and exhausted.
If this latter type of person just happens to be your boss, it multiplies the impact significantly.
At the start of 2016, I embarked on a mission to create a unique training program to help combat this problem.
This program was designed to equip supervisors and managers, and those aspiring to become supervisors and managers, with tools to build successful relationships at work—relationships built on respect and trust.
We know, almost instinctively, that the most successful teams and organizations have networks filled with interconnected “energizers.” Just like the ubiquitous bunny, they seem to keep you going and going…
When I was a young police officer working at Notting Hill police station in West London, I was fortunate enough to work on a shift led by one such “energizer bunny”—Inspector John Burbeck.
What I didn’t know then, but definitely do now, was that John Burbeck would become the person I would model my maturing personal and (eventual) leadership behaviour.
That model was formed on a number of simple traits.
And today I’m going to share four of those traits with you:
- He found time:
Even though he had a thousand other things to do in his role, John found time to be present in my workday. But he didn’t just do this for me; he gave equal attention to every other colleague on my shift as well because he never wanted to appear to be playing favourites.
He is the only police leader that I’ve personally known who ‘wandered’ around every day he could—meeting me on my foot beats and talking to me about what I was doing, as well as what challenges I was facing. Because he showed up each day in this humble, empathetic, and unselfish way, he was well loved and respected by all.
- He believed in people:
It might sound cheesy, but when someone believes in you, it goes a long way. I remember John always conveying a sense of confidence in me—he really believed that good things would happen and was relentless in conveying that sense of confidence, encouraging me to fulfill my potential. John Burbeck knew the power of a positive mental outlook and a can-do attitude towards the future.
A year or so ago I wrote a book called, Handcuffs To Handshakes: Leadership Lessons From More Than 30 Years of Handling Humans. In that book, I wrote about a small event wherein John saved my career in the blink of an eye. I had gone to his office with a letter of resignation shortly after arriving in Notting Hill—still in shock from policing a desperately sad and often violent part of inner London that I was initially unprepared for. Inspector Burbeck, seated behind his desk, read the letter in silence. After finishing, he looked up at me and tore the letter into tiny pieces with great drama, saying, “Stay for six months. If you still want to leave after that, Phil, I will sign your letter of resignation…but only after six months.”
I not only stayed for six months, I stayed for 35 years! Talk about belief going a long way…
- He knew the power of a team:
Even though we worked on our own when we patrolled the streets, John knew the importance that teamwork played in creating a successful experience at work. Rather than just leaving it to chance that each of us would get to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses and develop effective ways of doing things, he created specific moments for us to get to know each other on a deeper level. This resulted in strengthening our workplace relationships as we grew to understand who each of us was as an individual, not just as a colleague in uniform.
- He made decisions:
This last trait may seem like a no-brainer for a boss (after all, they’re in charge and that’s part of their job), but you’d be surprised how many shy away from making difficult decisions. When we think about some of our bosses that we had in our lives, the ones that we remember as frustrating and hard to work for are often the ones that found an excuse not to make those tough decisions at all, or were “upstairs collecting fares.” In other words, those bosses that were not around when people most needed him/her.
Have I described someone that you work or have worked for?
I hope so.
The training program that I created for supervisors and managers is called SONAR Leadership.
I wrote the curriculum to highlight all of the aspects of respectful leadership that I had been exposed to and that I believe helped shape me during my 35-year career in policing (along with my formal and informal education).
There can often be an enormous learning curve with new supervisors, and I feel strongly that anything you can do to shorten that journey benefits everyone.
However, actress Lotte Lenya (who played Colonel Rosa Klebb in James Bond’s, From Russia With Love) would disagree with me. She once stated: “Training is useful but there is no substitute for experience.”
Thank you for the experiences Inspector Burbeck…