The Command Post is In-between Your Ears

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

The Story

Our job has the uncanny ability to take an enthusiastic newcomer and turn them into a salty cynic in record time.  There are a ton of negative influences that we can allow ourselves to fall victim to.  The key word in that sentence is victim.  Our culture isn’t very accepting of those who we see as allowing themselves to be victimized and we certainly don’t like to be cast in that light.  That doesn’t change the fact that we allow ourselves to be victimized by negative influences.

Dr Kevin Gilmartin, a former cop, does a great job of explaining the phenomenon in his book, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement.  Essentially we get so wrapped up in the job that it becomes our primary identity.  This sets us up for failure when it becomes apparent that we control very little about the job that means so much to us.  The solution is to focus on what we do control and don’t rest our self image on the things that we don’t.   For more on this I highly suggest you read Gilmartin’s book – it is good, short and a great investment in yourself.

The power of positive attitude can’t be over emphasized.  In his famous speech at West Point,  General Norman Schwarzkopf (Desert Storm Commander for you youngsters) talked about one of his West Point classmates who had become a General late in his career and was described as a ‘late bloomer’.  When Schwarzkopf asked about his success, the General attributed it to his being a ‘true believer’ – someone who held to the values and beliefs he had when he first went to the Academy.  The power of a positive mindset was everything.

What to Do?

At the line and direct levels:

  • Take responsibility for what you allow to influence you.
  • Remind yourself how you felt the day that you first walked into the Academy and don’t let anyone take that from you.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences and ignore the negative ones. (the media is a great example)
  • Avoid negative people.
  • Set goals and follow a plan to accomplishment.
  • Don’t tie your identity to your job.
  • Read Gilmartin’s,  Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement

At the organizational level (in addition to the above):

  • Maintain your awareness of the tendency of your folks – remember that the success of your organization is dependent on their motivation/satisfaction and performance.
  • Communicate purpose/direction and motivation for things that you or the Department do and allow your folks to contribute to decision making whenever possible.
  • Encourage your people to engage in appropriate outside activities.
  • Role model positive attitude.
  • Demonstrate that Mission and Values are foremost to you personally and in your expectations of your people’s performance.
  • Recognize and encourage the ‘true believers’.
  • Maximize the number of positive influences your people are exposed to – appreciative community members, positive media, Departmental successes, etc.
  • Ensure that your subordinate leaders and most importantly, your FTO’s model the way.

Your ability to survive and thrive throughout your career is dependent on both your physical and emotional safety.  Both require attention and care yet we often ignore the emotional side of things.  You have taken on a noble career and should always carry that pride and satisfaction with you.  The choice is  yours – remember the command post is in-between your ears.

As always, THANK YOU for your service and BE SAFE!

Please comment on your observations of the power of positive and negative influences.  What do you do to stay positive?






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