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Thread: Dirty Laundry

  1. #1
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    Dirty Laundry

    Ok the title is pure clickbait but some people seem to have an issue with this type of dialogue claiming that it’s ‘airing our dirty laundry’. Dialogue is important and while it’s sad we have to revert to an anonymous forum it only speaks to our level of brokenness.

    I’ll preface by saying that many of these ideas are not unique to me. There are numerous resources out there which outline the principles of effective leadership and organizational dynamics. I believe that anyone who wants to participate in a conversation about leadership, including the criticism of leaders over them, should at least be a student of the philosophy of leadership. While the principles are not new, I will try to apply them to our own agency and hopefully stir some dialogue about has gone so wrong.

    So is something wrong? This conversation is pointless if we can’t admit that something has gone awry. Morale across the agency is low and seems to be getting worse as time goes on. We already suffered one mass exodus of those who were fed up with the constantly swirling political drama. There is a real sense that the hopefuls who held on are beginning to lose faith or have just given up entirely. Disgruntlement and looking out for self-interest have become the name of the game.

    What cultivates this environment? All organizational dynamics are a direct reflection of its leadership. Dennis Lemma sets the tone and the rest of the agency follows. It is his responsibility to establish the vision of the Sheriff’s Office. What is our vision? I’m not talking about the mission statement; that’s too broad and vague to provide vision.

    When was the last time we heard our leaders talk about their vision for Seminole County? What are their hopes and goals for type of environment they want to cultivate for our county? What do they love about this community specifically that drives them to lead the organization that protects it? I think if anyone heard our senior leadership talk in these terms they would be shocked. Yet it drives our motivation to work not just in law enforcement, but for Seminole County specifically.

    Anyone in this job can testify that we started because we truly believe that we can be a part of making the community we love better. We want to protect it and this drives us to work here, and not somewhere else. We’ve already sacrificed ourselves for a idealistic cause. This is what drives us to do this job and make personal sacrifice for the cause. Yet we’ve undermined that ideal with money. The Sheriff saw unhappiness in his agency and thought the fix was just money. The problem with incentivizing this job with money is that when it becomes the most motivating factor of your workforce they will leave when they have the opportunity to make more money somewhere else. We see this played out year after year as we constantly play catch-up with the agencies around us that offer more money. If we make this job about money we lose. Every time.

    What has Dennis Lemma done to foster loyalty? Please Sheriff, give us your vision. Speak as a human being and someone who loves this community, not as a politician. Why did you want this job? Why are you here? Why are we here? Why should we stay here? If you took the position of Sheriff as a stepping stone for a further political career please pass the torch on to someone who will inspire loyalty and remind us of our cause.

    And yet, silence. The Sheriff does not speak to us. Many things are said in the Sheriff’s name but we’ve discovered that many of those things are misrepresentations or outright lies. We are held to the highest level of integrity and honesty yet the command staff has shown a pattern of consistently misrepresenting the Sheriff’s words. We’ve seen time and time again directives passed down ‘from the Sheriff’, which the Sheriff has to counteract himself. Our command staff tells the Sheriff what he wants to hear and then follows their own agenda. Hardly an environment that engenders trust.

    You would be hard-pressed to pinpoint an exact cause for the environment of low morale we find ourselves in. Yet we can all feel that something is amiss. I would argue that this feeling stems from a lack of trust. It is widely accepted that employees are loyal to an organization and do their best work when they feel safe. Before I start losing the older crowd who will mutter about millennials, I’m not talking about ‘safe spaces’. I’m talking about creating a work environment that promotes empowerment and self-improvement and a willingness to admit mistakes. If we fear our environment and feel as though our supervisors are constantly controlling us because they don’t trust us we lose all semblance of teamwork. When we lose teamwork we start working for ourselves and will take any opportunity to promote our own self-interest over others. If this becomes the nature of the environment we all suffer. Teamwork is crucial because the whole point of this organization is to bring people togetherto work toward a common cause.

    This environment is driven by the leaders; not just one leader, ALL of the leaders. This is, I think, the single greatest indictment of the culture of our agency. We have individuals thrust into supervisor roles who claim to be leaders but have no idea what it means to lead. The most important role of a leader is to take care of those in your charge. As a leader you should be about the business of ensuring that your people have what they need to do their job, feel empowered to do the job they were hired to do, and have a safe environment to make their own decisions. As a leader it is not your job to stand over your employees and dictate exactly how they do their job. You were given charge over thinking, feeling human beings who have already made personal sacrifice to perform a job in public service. Yet, we have somehow fallen into an environment wherein most leaders are looking to their own self-promotion. Looking ahead to the next thing they can use to make themselves look better. Do you feel like your leader wants you to work harder because it is the right thing to do, or is it so that they can brag to the person above them? When was the last time a leader at this agency asked you if there was anything they could do to help you do your job better? I’m not just talking about your supervisor, I’m talking about any leader. Would you feel comfortable going to a leader in this agency and telling them that you made a mistake? Or would you be too fearful that you would just get in trouble?

    Do we have an example of good leadership? Consider John Blackwood. I think anyone can attest that when John Blackwood sees you walking through the parking lot he will often stop and greet you by name. He will ask unprompted how your vehicle is serving you and if anything can be done to make it better. He will earnestly listen and offer feedback. In doing so he has created an environment which engenders trust and open communication. His staff seems empowered to offer their services and respond quickly to requests. As uncomfortable as it may be, I think any of us would be more than willing to admit to him if we damaged our vehicle. Ultimately he conveys that he cares about giving us the tools to do our job, rather than just getting us in trouble for any mistake we make. John Blackwood is by no means a perfect leader, however in spite of his faults we respect him because we believe he cares. In doing so we have a fleet that is the envy of every local agency.

    This level of trust is severely lacking, much to our detriment. We work in an environment of fear. While the details of the most recent controversy can be debated at length, you cannot deny that the punishment dealt by the Sheriff was a clear shot over the bow to all employees. We know that everything can and will be used against us. We may as well hide and lie about our mistakes rather than take ownership of them because the outcome will not change. A conversation in confidence will end your career. So be careful, because you might be next. How about instead of trying to control the attitude of every employee you start conveying to your direct subordinates that you care about their success? And they in turn will convey to their subordinates that they care about them and so on and so on.

  2. #2
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    (cont. from original post)

    Obviously the Sheriff can’t be held responsible for the failing of every leader in the agency, however every leader is a direct reflection of his attitude. I’m sick and tired of hearing that the primary responsibly of the Sheriff is to the citizens of Seminole County. The greatest responsibly of the Sheriff is to the people of this agency. It is his job to empower his employees and cultivate an environment of trusting teams. The rank and file of this organization will have more contact with the citizens of this county than the Sheriff could ever have. We are a direct reflection of his leadership. This agency is so concerned about perception and public opinion. They work so hard to control it, yet the perception is driven by the deputies of this agency who have contact with citizens every single day.

    Instead of empowerment we are hammered with hard metrics. We had this many burglaries or this many overdoses. We all know these numbers can be manipulated in various ways to change the narrative. We’re bombarded with numbers as if they are the purpose of our job. Metrics are not the driving purpose of this job, they are a result. We are so focused on the short-term goals, the knee-jerk reactions, that we’ve lost why we’re here in the first place. Is anyone surprised when employees leave in droves? What’s keeping them here? Certainly not the money. If we have to put up with short-sighted leaders who could care less about our long-term success then we may as well go somewhere else and do the same thing for more money.

    How about instead of constantly telling us this number needs to be high and this one needs to be low you be about the business of empoweringand training your employees to do their best work? How about instead of constantly making new rules to try to control your employee’s behavior you strive toward an environment of collaboration and independent thought? Serve your employees and they will serve you. Shun your employees for the sake of promoting your own self-image and at best they will dismiss you. At worst they will actively mar your image to those you are trying to impress the most.

    I’m also tired of hearing about things being done “for the good of the agency”. How about we take care of the people of this agency? Is the agency not made up of people? That sounds an awful lot like weak leaders who need an excuse to justify their actions. By saying “for the good of the agency” you’re conveying that you care more about how your decision makes you look rather than how it affects your employees. When the good of the agency comes first the employees are expendable. Do you feel expendable? Or do you feel like your efforts are valued? Let’s stop making excuses for the good of the agency and start caring about the people.

    Please don’t misunderstand my intent. I’m not simply trying to breed negativity or using vague initials to call out the personal faults of certain individuals. However, we have to recognize and admit what’s gone wrong so we can make positive growth. It’s hard! It’s really hard to hear your faults but we have to take ownership of our actions to make positive change. We preach ownership and personal responsibility to the citizens we interact with on a daily basis. Should we not ensure that our own organization practices ownership?

    To all the leaders who read this - are you doing your best to protect and empower your employees? Or are you more concerned about how their actions will make you look to your own supervisor? If this makes some leaders feel guilty, it should. You were given a responsibly to care for those in your charge. Just because you were thrust into a position of authority doesn’t mean that you are a leader. When was the last time you offered your help to a subordinate? When was the last time you asked one of your employees what their personal goals are? When was the last time one of your employees approached you unprompted about a mistake they made? If you can’t answer these questions you need to sincerely think about whether you are doing this job for your own self-promotion or you are doing it to help others.

    To those not in leadership - have you adopted a mindset of cultivating teamwork? Do you go out of your way to help your team, or do you avoid work because “it’s not my job”? Do you think about how to effectively use your position to help other employees, or are you more worried about how it will propel your career? Do you convey to your team that you care about them and will help them, or are you more willing to push work onto your peers? Do you consider how your actions affect others, or only how it will affect your own image? When was the last time you truly offered to help a colleague? When was the last time you performed a task that was outside of the scope of your job? If someone offered to help and support you in your job would it change your outlook of our agency’s environment?

    We absolutely need to hold our leaders accountable, but we also need to hold ourselves accountable. They dictate the tone, but we ultimately make the decision maintain the status quo or to go beyond and work toward a better agency. We can continue to just complain, or we can demand more.

    Keep up hope, demand more of your leaders, and let’s start putting people first.

  3. #3
    Unregistered
    Guest
    Too much to read

  4. #4
    Unregistered
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Too much to read
    Typical new SCSO deputy we hire.. I know you want the picture version and the cliff notes..

  5. #5
    Unregistered
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Ok the title is pure clickbait but some people seem to have an issue with this type of dialogue claiming that it’s ‘airing our dirty laundry’. Dialogue is important and while it’s sad we have to revert to an anonymous forum it only speaks to our level of brokenness.

    I’ll preface by saying that many of these ideas are not unique to me. There are numerous resources out there which outline the principles of effective leadership and organizational dynamics. I believe that anyone who wants to participate in a conversation about leadership, including the criticism of leaders over them, should at least be a student of the philosophy of leadership. While the principles are not new, I will try to apply them to our own agency and hopefully stir some dialogue about has gone so wrong.

    So is something wrong? This conversation is pointless if we can’t admit that something has gone awry. Morale across the agency is low and seems to be getting worse as time goes on. We already suffered one mass exodus of those who were fed up with the constantly swirling political drama. There is a real sense that the hopefuls who held on are beginning to lose faith or have just given up entirely. Disgruntlement and looking out for self-interest have become the name of the game.

    What cultivates this environment? All organizational dynamics are a direct reflection of its leadership. Dennis Lemma sets the tone and the rest of the agency follows. It is his responsibility to establish the vision of the Sheriff’s Office. What is our vision? I’m not talking about the mission statement; that’s too broad and vague to provide vision.

    When was the last time we heard our leaders talk about their vision for Seminole County? What are their hopes and goals for type of environment they want to cultivate for our county? What do they love about this community specifically that drives them to lead the organization that protects it? I think if anyone heard our senior leadership talk in these terms they would be shocked. Yet it drives our motivation to work not just in law enforcement, but for Seminole County specifically.

    Anyone in this job can testify that we started because we truly believe that we can be a part of making the community we love better. We want to protect it and this drives us to work here, and not somewhere else. We’ve already sacrificed ourselves for a idealistic cause. This is what drives us to do this job and make personal sacrifice for the cause. Yet we’ve undermined that ideal with money. The Sheriff saw unhappiness in his agency and thought the fix was just money. The problem with incentivizing this job with money is that when it becomes the most motivating factor of your workforce they will leave when they have the opportunity to make more money somewhere else. We see this played out year after year as we constantly play catch-up with the agencies around us that offer more money. If we make this job about money we lose. Every time.

    What has Dennis Lemma done to foster loyalty? Please Sheriff, give us your vision. Speak as a human being and someone who loves this community, not as a politician. Why did you want this job? Why are you here? Why are we here? Why should we stay here? If you took the position of Sheriff as a stepping stone for a further political career please pass the torch on to someone who will inspire loyalty and remind us of our cause.

    And yet, silence. The Sheriff does not speak to us. Many things are said in the Sheriff’s name but we’ve discovered that many of those things are misrepresentations or outright lies. We are held to the highest level of integrity and honesty yet the command staff has shown a pattern of consistently misrepresenting the Sheriff’s words. We’ve seen time and time again directives passed down ‘from the Sheriff’, which the Sheriff has to counteract himself. Our command staff tells the Sheriff what he wants to hear and then follows their own agenda. Hardly an environment that engenders trust.

    You would be hard-pressed to pinpoint an exact cause for the environment of low morale we find ourselves in. Yet we can all feel that something is amiss. I would argue that this feeling stems from a lack of trust. It is widely accepted that employees are loyal to an organization and do their best work when they feel safe. Before I start losing the older crowd who will mutter about millennials, I’m not talking about ‘safe spaces’. I’m talking about creating a work environment that promotes empowerment and self-improvement and a willingness to admit mistakes. If we fear our environment and feel as though our supervisors are constantly controlling us because they don’t trust us we lose all semblance of teamwork. When we lose teamwork we start working for ourselves and will take any opportunity to promote our own self-interest over others. If this becomes the nature of the environment we all suffer. Teamwork is crucial because the whole point of this organization is to bring people togetherto work toward a common cause.

    This environment is driven by the leaders; not just one leader, ALL of the leaders. This is, I think, the single greatest indictment of the culture of our agency. We have individuals thrust into supervisor roles who claim to be leaders but have no idea what it means to lead. The most important role of a leader is to take care of those in your charge. As a leader you should be about the business of ensuring that your people have what they need to do their job, feel empowered to do the job they were hired to do, and have a safe environment to make their own decisions. As a leader it is not your job to stand over your employees and dictate exactly how they do their job. You were given charge over thinking, feeling human beings who have already made personal sacrifice to perform a job in public service. Yet, we have somehow fallen into an environment wherein most leaders are looking to their own self-promotion. Looking ahead to the next thing they can use to make themselves look better. Do you feel like your leader wants you to work harder because it is the right thing to do, or is it so that they can brag to the person above them? When was the last time a leader at this agency asked you if there was anything they could do to help you do your job better? I’m not just talking about your supervisor, I’m talking about any leader. Would you feel comfortable going to a leader in this agency and telling them that you made a mistake? Or would you be too fearful that you would just get in trouble?

    Do we have an example of good leadership? Consider John Blackwood. I think anyone can attest that when John Blackwood sees you walking through the parking lot he will often stop and greet you by name. He will ask unprompted how your vehicle is serving you and if anything can be done to make it better. He will earnestly listen and offer feedback. In doing so he has created an environment which engenders trust and open communication. His staff seems empowered to offer their services and respond quickly to requests. As uncomfortable as it may be, I think any of us would be more than willing to admit to him if we damaged our vehicle. Ultimately he conveys that he cares about giving us the tools to do our job, rather than just getting us in trouble for any mistake we make. John Blackwood is by no means a perfect leader, however in spite of his faults we respect him because we believe he cares. In doing so we have a fleet that is the envy of every local agency.

    This level of trust is severely lacking, much to our detriment. We work in an environment of fear. While the details of the most recent controversy can be debated at length, you cannot deny that the punishment dealt by the Sheriff was a clear shot over the bow to all employees. We know that everything can and will be used against us. We may as well hide and lie about our mistakes rather than take ownership of them because the outcome will not change. A conversation in confidence will end your career. So be careful, because you might be next. How about instead of trying to control the attitude of every employee you start conveying to your direct subordinates that you care about their success? And they in turn will convey to their subordinates that they care about them and so on and so on.
    I wish Orange County would hire this John Blackwood person. Someone please call Sheriff Mena and tell him how great this person is and how great your fleet is please.

  6. #6
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    JB is absolutely the man when it comes to fleet. I think a lot of leaders in the Sheriff's office could learn from him on how to treat people while getting the mission accomplished. Whoever's paying attention to this bulletin board, ask JB for his thoughts on leadership and managing people. I don't know what he'll say, but I bet it's worth your time to listen.

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