Thursday, January 23, 2014

Changing Minds: How Police Leaders Can Influence Employee Behavior

Edward Brown, M.S.

The ability to influence the thoughts and behavior of others is singularly the most important skill a leader can possess.  Dutton (2011) developed five strategies for changing people’s minds, which include:

• Keeping your message, short, sharp, and simple to convince the person it’s true

• Focusing on the benefits to an individual

• Surprising a person by providing an alternative to his or her way of thinking

• Speaking with confidence and assurance

• Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes

Dutton’s framework is an excellent synopsis to changing someone’s mind or at least getting people to consider another point of view.  In this vein, charismatic leaders use these techniques, but add a few more layers to changing not only a person’s mind, but encouraging groups of individuals to consider a leader’s perspective.  Some of the strategies charismatic leaders use to change the minds of others are:

  • Describing current conditions compared to the ideal. Charismatic leaders fully understand that people act in their self-interest and will generally change behavior when conditions are severely uncomfortable.  However, this discomfort has to resonate with an adverse situation that individuals fear.  An example would be a real estate agent that shows a prospective buyer a run-down house in a questionable neighborhood. When the real estate agent shows the prospective buyer other houses in more desirable surroundings, the buyer is more inclined to consider the latter houses for purchase, because the buyer fears investing in a house where his or her quality of life will be harmed.  If you want to change the minds of others, exaggerate current conditions as being abysmal and describe how accepting your recommendations would be transformational.

  • Communicating to both regions of the brain. Charismatic leaders embrace Dutton’s idea of speaking with confidence and assurance, but go one-step further. These leaders speak with passion and commitment that serves as a means of rattling the minds of others.  Have you ever thought something to be true, but began questioning its validity once someone provided contrary facts and spoke with extreme passion?  It was not just an issue of not holding steadfast to your belief; it was the feeling of uncertainty that came about through someone showing more enthusiasm in conveying the idea.  By demonstrating steel determination, passion, and confidence, you become more influential and persuasive.

  • Encouraging others to do small acts. Dr. Robert B. Cialdini is his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion discussed the impact of getting people to commit to small acts as a means of influencing behavior. The basis of Cialdini's concept stems from the notion that if people begin acting on behalf of another person through small acts, the need to be seen as consistent encourages a level of commitment on people's part.  As charismatic leaders assign tasks to would-be converts and through small acts, the casual observer becomes a full-fledged zealot to the mission of the leader. To change the minds of others, create opportunities for participation. There is an old adage that people support what they help create.

It is often said that the most challenging thing to change is a made-up mind. By using the strategies of charismatic leaders, not only can you change minds, but lead innovation within your  police department.

Excerpts from The A-Team: How to Be a Top Police Department in Recruiting, Training & Retaining Employees.

To read more on positively influencing your police department, visit:  


Dutton, K. (2011).  Split-second persuasion: The ancient art and new science of changing minds.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How the "Selfish Gene Theory" Helps Police Morale

Edward Brown, M.S.

Richard Dawkins posited in The Selfish Gene, “Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature.  Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” (p.3) Dawkins’ premise is that the biological need for our DNA to preserve itself for future generations is at the heart our selfishness.  Although Dawkins talked about selfishness in biology, a similar need exists socially and culturally.  Any discussion involving police morale has to take into consideration the selfish or self-interests of police personnel.  In the last sixty-years, theories within employee motivation have attempted to align employee motivation with organizational development.  Unfortunately, this purported alignment has been at the hands of researchers and consultants, not organizational leaders who have the most to gain or lose with employee motivation.

Edward Brown, M.S., of Core Edge Police Professional Development provides answers to questions on the validity and viability of the Selfish Gene Theory on police morale.

Q: In your interpretation of Dawkins’ Selfish Gene Theory, What does it mean for police morale?

Brown:  Essentially, it means that the mission of police departments cannot be effectively manifested unless the selfish interests of employees are satisfied.

Q: This seems to fly in the face of the structure of paramilitary organizations. How can departmental discipline be maintained without strict order to accomplishing a mission?

Brown: In this context, selfishness is not encouraging chaos or disorder, but aligning the self-interest of the employee with the mission of the police department. During the hiring process, besides examining the background and credibility of the applicant, recruiters should be negotiating the self-interests of the applicant with benchmarks for achieving departmental goals.  What’s most important to the applicant upon hiring? Money? Days off? Career development? By striking a deal upon hiring an applicant, the environment has already been established for achieving satisfaction within the department upon meeting certain measurable goals.  Consequently, each employee has a roadmap to follow which becomes part of a police department’s growth trajectory.  With this thinking, police departments begin operating as businesses, specializing in human capital.

Q: How does this compare to what’s currently being practiced?

Brown: If in the future, I want to become a chief of police, what is the process? How about a major? A captain? It is understood that there are a limited number of available slots for supervisors. But, if my interest is career development, are there opportunities for me to lead? Can I assume special projects that I’m passionate about that will positively affect the department’s mission?  In a 30-year career, are there sufficient opportunities for police personnel to be transferred easily to stay fresh in learning new skills to stave off burnout? The police human resources department would have to do more monitoring of assignments commensurate with the stated goals of the employee; insuring that the self-interest of the employee aligning with departmental goals is continuously flowing.  How about after 5 years of service, a human resources manager calls an employee into his office and says, “When you got hired 5 years ago, you stated that you wanted more leadership opportunities. Have you been offered those opportunities? Have you taken advantage of these opportunities afforded to you? If not, why not?” For the first time, morale becomes a shared responsibility between the department and employee.

Q: Sounds idealistic, but doable. What are the pitfalls?

Brown: Well, as I stated earlier, the human resources department would need more personnel to monitor this progressive system. Given the restraints on police budgets, hiring new human resources employees might be challenging. Also, employees under the traditional system whose self-interest was never considered might not be optimistic or willing to participate.  They may opt to merely co-exist until it’s time to retire. Lastly, department leaders may have a challenging time buying into how assignments are delegated and the value of considering the self-interest of employees for organizational development.

Q: That sounds about right. If the current system has worked, why change it?

Brown: Has it worked? It worked moderately 25 years ago when I joined the Atlanta Police Department. Now we have the Millennial Generation assuming control soon, the Internet requiring dedicated and enthusiastic officers willing to go to the ends of the earth to catch cybercriminals, and a disloyal workforce who have experienced a mountain of political and financial scandals in the last 40 years.  Unless police departments respond effectively to current challenges, they will be limping into the 22nd century resembling a scene from “Escape From New York.” 

Q: People who make money off of talking about the problems within police departments seem to always have visions of doom.  You all seem to make the problem appear more severe than what it really is. Do police leaders share your gloom and doom outlook?

Brown: Great point. Police departments have two (2) things that have traditionally worked for them: 1.) A monopoly and 2.) Guaranteed revenue through tax dollars. Police departments don’t have to compete directly against another police department within its jurisdiction for services. And departmental revenue does not rely on the buying power of local citizens, like retail stores.  However, citizens are changing the game by annexing themselves from larger cities by incorporating into new ones.  With these new cities, come new police departments. So the traditional monopoly is broken and old tax dollars are funneled into the new government.  Where are these new police supervisors and police officers coming from? They are being poached from existing police departments for better pay, more opportunities, and heightened enthusiasm. Therefore, citizens operating in their own self-interest for better police services are creating new governments. In politics, there is an old saying that there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. Addressing employee self-interest is in the best interest of police departments.

For more information on morale building strategies for your department, visit: The A-Team: How to Be a Top Police Department in Recruiting, Training & Retaining Employees.  Available now at:   


Dawkins, R. (1989). The Selfish Gene. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Police Motivational Training Increases Employee Productivity

Edward Brown, M.S.

Ask any police chief about the morale in his department and he will say it is good, but it can be better.  In some departments, morale may be in the toilet, but conventional wisdom says to keep even bad news positive. The challenge is to create a work environment conducive to officer enrichment and retention (Brown 1998). 

The ultimate question is, “How does one maintain the enthusiasm officers have when they graduate from the police academy?”

Many officers become disenchanted early in their careers.   An independent study conducted by the National Institute of Ethics found that the average time when an officer becomes involved in unethical activities is 7.2 years. Two inferences can be made from this study:

1. Veteran officers are more susceptible to corruption than their younger counterparts.  This number indicates when misconduct was initially identified. 

2. Morale and integrity share a common space.  Many of the reasons departments suffer from low morale are the same reasons that cause unethical activity, i.e. low compensation, lack of appreciation, apathy, inadequate leadership, etc.  If there is some corollary between morale and corruption then what is the answer to decreasing its occurrence?

Can a case be made that the more an officer is encouraged to develop himself, the less he is inclined to participate in unethical and unproductive acts? And if a structure is in place that not only provides the tools for self-development, but increases productivity, would this be beneficial for society?  Human nature suggests that we take pride in people and things we help create and cultivate.  It would make sense that if a system is in place to develop officers to be better individuals, they would maintain job enthusiasm, develop advanced operational strategies, and provide stellar customer service to the public. At least, by delving into the psyche of police personnel and their motivation, we take away some of the excuses for the "Black eye" police departments suffer for unethical and unproductive behavior. Maybe a thief is a thief, under any circumstances.  But, could we dig a little deeper into discovering what other professions are doing to improve employee productivity? Have our ongoing problems been already solved by other industries?

The study of employee motivation has evolved over the last 60 years.  Early researchers believed that money was the motivation for employee morale.  As challenges persisted that did not solve the dilemma, new theories emerged.  The most popular theory being the “Hierarchy of Needs” postulated by eminent psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow contended that man is a wanting animal.  As soon as one need has been satisfied, another one moves in to take its place.  Consequently, human beings are constantly striving to realize their full potential or “self-actualize.”

There is no one theory that assumes to represent all employee motivation.  Dr. Angela M. Bowey in her article, “Motivation at Work: A key issue in remuneration,” talked about a prevailing idea called the “Contingency Theory.” Under this theory, management would not focus on one element of employee motivation, but would be open to the myriad of motivational factors in a department including pay, time off, and career development.  Furthermore, what might work for one department might not work for another.  This is a step in the right direction for employee driven professions like law enforcement.

With the increased rate of violence in society, particularly during economic upheaval, and departments struggling to increase personnel, many department heads do not know quantifiably what the morale is within their police departments.  Major corporations are embracing the benefits of morale and motivation training for employees.  They do not see this as merely as a nice thing to do, but have reasoned that it is good for business.  

Employees in a cross-section of companies realize the benefits of motivational training and extol its benefits.  Angela Nurse, a former employee for a Miami-based computerized payroll service said, “Every now and then we need a shot in the arm…we are barraged on a constant basis with rejection, after which you get depressed and frustrated.  Motivational training helps you get refocused.  On-going positive input is necessary for people to be successful in any field.  You want to emulate the patterns for success.”

Adrienne Booker, a customer service representative in Atlanta said, “Working with the public can be stressful and motivational training gives us the challenge to endure and resolve future problems.  The training left us on a high note and encouraged us to move forward.  It is essential that one absorbs that kind of positive energy from time to time.”

Many companies utilize motivational speakers to begin meetings.  Marilyn Harper, a regional human resource manager in Cleveland, Ohio said, “We traditionally bring in motivational speakers to set the tone for our meetings.   For example, in sales, we bring in a speaker to kick-off a sales campaign to encourage employees to be top-notch.”

Legal departments have also gotten into the act.  Tawanda Bazile, a paralegal in the business practice and government relations branch of an aerospace and engineering company said that as part of their Total Quality Management (TQM) Program “Our primary goal is to gain total customer achievement including how we relate to each other within our company as well as our external customer base.  I believe motivational training helped our new employees increase communication.”

The challenges that confront law enforcement in the new economy are not insurmountable.  Agencies must commit to the idea that the development of its employees is its prime objective.  Motivational training must follow this idea for implementation.

Julian Barling, psychologist and business professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, in an article by Ross Laver entitled, “Why Leadership Matters” said; “we see leadership as the ability to intellectually stimulate subordinates, to help them approach problems in new ways and to think about what’s going to benefit the organization in the long term.”

Police agencies with high morale make for a win-win situation.  Management benefits by having its goals realized, which enhances public confidence in its police department.  Individual police officers do not fall prey to the evils of domestic violence, drug and alcoholic abuse, stress, and suicide.  Society benefits by being protected by officers who feel good about the job and not merely earning a paycheck.

Motivational training that outlines the methodology for personal growth has been proven among corporate personnel to enrich employee development.  Companies and agencies benefit in this training by encouraging personnel to help find solutions to ongoing problems.  People support what they create!  The difference between an employee who views himself as “semi-retired” versus a “go-getter” is the level of trust he has in management’s vision.  

Police motivational training should serve as a necessary component within mandatory curriculum.  If it turns into a temporary remedy for long-term solutions, then the results will be short-lived.  The challenges in law enforcement are the result of gradual evolution and the solutions to these challenges are also gradual.         

Excerpt from The A-Team: How to Be a Top Police Department in Recruiting, Training & Retaining Employees.  Available now at:


For police motivational training to work, it must be built within the preexisting system. Recruit and in-service training are the venues currently in place that can support the curriculum. A police motivational section would be housed within the police academy staffed by psychological services personnel working in tandem with an academy staff member who specializes in employee motivation. In short, police motivational services would be a hybrid between psychological services and the police academy.  Resources from both sectors would be used to offset any budgetary concerns.  


Brown, E.S. (1998 May). Police motivational training: The new frontier. Law & Order Magazine, 63-65.

 * This article was originally published in the May 1998 issue of Law & Order magazine by Edward Brown. Research and data  deemed outdated and irrelevant were deleted from this revised version.