Webinar presenter Dr. Ed Sherman of The Counseling Team answered a number of your questions after his presentation, "The Power of Resilient Leadership." Here are some of his responses.
Audience Question: Working in a law enforcement organization filled with toxic people resulting in a negative culture that has lasted for decades, are there organization-wide strategies that we can embrace to start shifting that culture? Or can these types of changes only happen at the individual level?
Dr. Ed Sherman: People do deal with co-workers who are hard to interact with. The organization definitely can and should set a positive tone and follow some of the principles that we discussed today. In terms of who's responsible for bringing about the change, the leader or leadership of the organization is the one responsible. But each individual also has the choice to take these actions. The problem that people encounter is that if you have those in your organization who are unwilling to do so, where do you go from there? That becomes an issue of management. If the leadership style and the culture in the organization is positive and productive, hopefully, that is influential to all members of the organization.
But being realistic, we recognize that there will be some people who are not willing to change. Unfortunately, if those people aren't willing to change, that becomes a management and human resources issue which is to say, "We are offering these strategies, they're not only good for the organization but also for the individual — if you're able to implement these strategies more effectively in your job and life, you will be a healthier, happier person." If that person or workgroup selects the choice of not being willing to do that and wishes to follow unhealthy practices that is truly unfortunate for them and the organization. There might be a necessity for some sort of management action to address that.
Audience Question: How can law enforcement organizations where decisions may mean the difference between life and death become more tolerant of mistakes and more innovative?
Dr. Ed Sherman: That is the topic of my doctoral research, Critical Incident Decision-Making. What we recognize is that in the vast majority of circumstances we do have the time and latitude to be careful in making decisions and make them prudently and cautiously. By the nature of the public safety professions, there will be times when we must make decisions quickly. It is hoped that through our training and experience that we will make good and sound decisions. But organizations must realize that mistakes do happen. It is human nature that sometimes under the stress or pressure of an adverse circumstance, we may act in a way that later on we and or others may judge to have been less than ideal. I guess what I have to say is that comes with the territory. When we are under stress and pressure, our rational, intellectual cognitive functions are taxed and sometimes we do not perform ideally to the standards that we might think of when we're in a calm relaxed situation. This is an important training component for organizations. The more that we practice working under stressful and difficult circumstances, the less the likelihood that there will be negative outcomes. But it must be accepted just like we must accept adversity — that it comes with the territory, and particularly in public safety, there will be times where things happen that may be determined to be less than ideal. The best thing we could do is not focus on the error but focus on the prevention or ways to mitigate the likelihood of that happening in the future which is chiefly through training and experience.
Audience Question: Are you familiar with any methodology to develop training with the specific intent of identifying a fight, flight or freeze reaction for individuals within an organization for crisis management purposes?
Dr. Ed Sherman: There are a number of writings that have been done by police psychologists and others in the public safety field. There has been a lot written and discussed about this, and there are several good texts available that I have utilized in my own research. Here are some examples:
- Blum, L. N. (2000). Force under pressure: How cops live and why they die. New York: Lantern Books.
- Duran, P. L. (1999). Developing the survival attitude: A guide for the new officer. Flushing, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications.
- Grossman, D., & Christensen, L. W. (2007). On combat: The psychology and physiology of deadly conflict in war and peace. Millstadt, IL: PPCT Research Publications.
- Sharps, M. J. (2016). Processing under pressure: Stress, memory and decision-making in law enforcement. Flushing, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications.
Click here to watch a recording of "The Power of Resilient Leadership."