Executive Coaching for Law Enforcement

By Gladis, Steve; Pomerantz, Suzi | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Executive Coaching for Law Enforcement


Gladis, Steve, Pomerantz, Suzi, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Law enforcement executives experience the stress of a changing world with demands for counterterrorism, community-oriented policing, security, and a host of additional evolving issues. At the same time, they face the pressure of decreasing tax bases, spiraling costs, and other emerging budget concerns. When private corporations face similar challenges, they often turn to executive coaches and consultants for guidance.

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While the law enforcement profession periodically employs consultants, a systematic, active use of executive coaches has been minimal. (1) The wave of baby boomers exiting from law enforcement will thrust many individuals into leadership positions without giving them the benefit of mentoring as agencies will have to cope with the loss of highly experienced personnel. Executive coaching can meet the unique needs of law enforcement leadership in such critical times.

ONE CHIEF'S DILEMMA

The chief of a police department with approximately 500 sworn officers is well educated and also well respected by his peers inside the agency and community residents. (2) His county police department has the sophistication (technology, training, and organization) similar to those in most large cities. The chief, other agency leaders, and critical personnel are eligible to retire. The county's proximity to a competitive employment market of other federal, state, and local law enforcement departments concerned him regarding his own recruitment, retention, and succession planning (R-R-S), so he contacted Dr. Steve Gladis, an executive coach. The chief, a progressive county administrator (the chief's supervisor), and Dr. Gladis worked together to determine the vision of the department in a year if it operated optimally and focused on R-R-S. This group determined the chief's strengths and challenges to optimize them in setting goals and objectives, which also included those of his department. For example, the chief chose to have preliminary R-R-S reports completed by certain dates and required the drafts from his staff. Thus, the chief was the client for the engagement, but he did not personally execute every step himself. While he could have completed this entire project on his own, he readily admits that having an executive coach helped accelerate its accomplishment.

However, the chief took complete responsibility for the plan and actively participated in its execution. For example, one task called for follow-up contact with key officers who had quit the department 6 months or longer ago to find out why they actually left and to ask them if they wanted to return to the department. It was hypothesized that people often might not express the real reason for leaving a department in formal exit interviews (currently used by this department and many others); therefore, personal contact by the chief might uncover any unwritten retention issues. At the same time, such interviewees were carefully selected as potential rehires.

One interview with a highly regarded officer who left the department for advancement revealed that he actually had resigned because he was not selected for a higher position he temporarily had filled for 6 months. He recounted to the chief that he was told, based on the position description guidelines, that he was not qualified, even though he had operated well in that position and, in fact, had to train his replacement. During the conversation, the chief learned that this valued officer likely would have remained in the department if another option had been available. The chief admitted that had he known these facts at the time, he would have tried anything to retain such a star employee.

DEFINITION

Coaching is a $1 billion industry, second in growth only to information technology worldwide. In fact, a recent survey revealed that coaching contributes $1.5 billion annually to the global economy. (3) Consulting differs from executive coaching--consultants enter organizations as experts to solve a specific problem. …

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