After the Webinar: Achieving Excellence in Criminal Justice Agencies. Q&A with Dr. Jeff Fox

Webinar presenter Dr. Jeff Fox answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Achieving Excellence in Criminal Justice Agencies. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: What do you recommend when the organization you work for doesn’t support change, or even positive will towards change and belief that things can get better? 

Dr. Jeff Fox:  That’s a great question, and it’s super hard to answer. This webinar was built on other ones, and we have some that are in the books that should be available on just that topic. It’s not easy. It has to come from the top. That top person has to believe in it. There is a percentage of change that actually takes effect. And it’s not very high. I want to say, it’s like 40 or 50% of change that takes place actually sticks. A new leader might come in and establish all sorts of things, and maybe they’re good, maybe they’re bad. It’s in the eye of the beholder. And when the new leader comes in, a lot of those things will be changed again. It’s a constant. It’s never going to be, it’s a struggle that will never go away. Or I get this question probably more than any other question, whether said the exact same way or not. This is probably the biggest question I get, and I know when people ask it, they’re frustrated. They’re exasperated and they’re aggravated by that. There isn’t a good answer You know you can’t save them all.” He’s like,  “I can save one at a time.” You can only do what you can do within your power. I remember I went to a major management school for about 4 months down in Louisville, Kentucky, and I was so aggravated when I was there because I believed in everything they were talking about. It was all the stuff I talked about in all these webinars, paradigm shifts, and excellence, and all this stuff. And I knew it was so important, and I knew we had a good agency, but I thought we needed to do so much more. We need to think outside the box. It was aggravating, and I knew I was just disappointed. I cannot go back and talk about this. And I go back and say this to my boss, they’re going to be mad. They won’t want to hear it. And I went back, and I implemented where I could. And as I went up the food chain, and especially once I went to the Academy, I was able to make a lot of changes now. A lot of them don’t like it. We changed the policy on residency, and I had people who are furious at me, but it was great. It’s been great for the last 20 years. So, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. You can work within your sphere influence and make your changes. But if that top boss doesn’t want to make those changes, it’s difficult to do. A lot of times, you have to show what’s in it for me. A lot of times, agencies, especially bureaucratic agencies, change because some law requires them to change. Some policy above them requires change, whether it’s a lawsuit or whatever. But typically, bureaucratic agencies don’t change very easily, and people resist it. And those are all levels of government. It’s not a new phenomenon. It’s always been around. So, it’s not a great answer for you, but you can work on the things you can work on. I would suggest you plant seeds. I would suggest you develop a process where you try to get that up the food chain. And you know what, you’re going to get shot down a lot. You will get shot down a lot, and it’s frustrating. But I recommend that you don’t give up, that you keep doing it, and you will make some changes. You’ll get some victories. You might get nine defeats, but you’ll get a victory once in a while. That’s all I could tell you about it. Really, it’s just not an easy answer. And I can guarantee you it’s a frustrating thing.

Host: There’s a book out there called The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. It’s an amazing book. Throughout the book, he talks about essentially the same principles that Jeff talked about except it explains how he pushed forward despite a lot of resistance.


Audience Question: How would you recommend overcoming burnout? 

Dr. Jeff Fox:

That’s a great question. It’s funny you ask that. I’ll give a plug for my book. I talk about burnout in my new book, Crisis Leadership, and you have to pace yourself. Yeah, and I am very guilty of overinvesting in my work. I tell people not to over-invest in their work. You need to have a balance, and I have always been guilty of that. I have a very loving, caring, considerate wife who has put up with me for years with the amount of work I do. But you have to have a work-life balance. You want to encourage work-life balance for your people. So, it’s something you have to be cognizant of and aware of. You have to decide what’s good for you. Now, what can you physically do? You know there are times when I go, I’m just tired, I’m getting older. I’ve had some health issues and I go, I’m just tired. I need to take a little nap. I need to go rest. So, you have to be cognizant of that. It’s good if you have somebody who can maybe help you check that balance. You need to watch out for your people for that. We have a tendency sometimes to work our workhorses to death. We have a tendency to give the assignments to the person we know who’s going to do it and who won’t complain. Well, that’s great, and they probably want to do it, and they’ll take those. But what does that say to the people who you also need to be helping out? So, have to balance that work out, too. Right? You have to realize it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. That’s really important to understand. And everybody’s different. There’s not an exact answer for this, because everybody’s different. Everybody has different levels of energy, different commitments, and different points in their life where maybe they have kids. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they’re married. Maybe they’re not. Do you have to have a second job? There are so many different variables to come into play. But being cognizant of it and just checking it, and maybe even looking and sitting down and writing it out. Here’s the thing, you only have 24 hours in the day. I give you my daughter as an example. She works and works and works and works and works, and I tell you, you only have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. And you know, you have to allow yourself a little bit of time for some relaxation. Steven Covey has a great book, and he talks about R’s, recovery, resilience, rest, and all these different things in order to keep that saw sharp. You have to quit using it. And you have to take time to sharpen it and to put some oil on it and stuff like that.

Host: Here’s a comment from Tammy. Leaders work hard to gain their position, and when they achieve their goal they tend to spend their time maintaining it rather than taking risks to gain real achievement and better the organization for those we employ and those we serve. Thanks for today’s webinar.

Dr. Jeff Fox: Thank you. Yeah. And she’s exactly right. I would say that person is no longer a leader. They’re a manager. They’re maintaining. They’re not leading anymore. They’re probably more managing. They’re keeping it stable, but I appreciate that.


Audience Question: Our agency is understaffed these days. So how do we ask employees to achieve excellence all the time when we’re lucky to just cover shifts?

Dr. Jeff Fox: Yeah, that’s a tough one. They have to realize the importance of their job, right? That every call they go on, they don’t know what’s going to happen. So, they have to keep an excellent level of cognition, communication, and tactical everything. They’ve got to be on their game on every call. And that’s one way to look at this. You want to be excellent at what you do. So, it’s a matter of survival. It’s a matter of being professional and getting a job out there. Yeah, and that becomes an issue. But think about it, if you have a surgeon who’s working on it, “Well, I got a lot of surgeries today, so I’m only going to rush through this.” No, you’re not. You need to take your time and get this right. There’s no easy way of getting around the call volume. Now, some agencies have gone, and I don’t really care for this, so you all may take offense to this. However, some agencies are changing the level of commitment to certain calls. And a lot of your urban areas, they’re not responding to certain things. They’re giving it to civilians. There is a report on it, so you might have to look at your distribution and how you handle certain calls. Is there a different way to take these calls? I don’t like that. I think people deserve customer service, and even these little things sometimes become the big things. So, you have to look at it. And I think about motivation and taking care of your people. The shifts and that’s one thing there’s a lot of things to look at there about not burning them out. And you really need to get staffing up where you need to get it. Most people, you work about 200-220 days a year. You just can’t do so much you have to have that downtime. And then what’s going to happen is you’re going to start seeing complaints go up. You’re going to start seeing accidents go up and you wonder why it’s happening, because your people are getting stressed. And they’re going to get burned out. Sometimes, it’s funny; I had a sergeant who worked for me I told this story before. We had a brand new guy come out of the Academy, brand new. He had been through a military school four-year college, and a very healthy young man, and he sat there with the sergeant, and he was kind of lazy, and he said, “Sarge, I’m just burned out.” And I thought my head was going to explode. I wanted to see what my sergeant would say. My sergeant said, “Oh, okay.” And I stepped in. I said, “What do you mean you’re burned out? You haven’t even got started yet. Your candle hasn’t even been lit. Yeah, you can’t be burned out. You just got here.” So, everybody is going to have different levels of ability. Now, this guy wasn’t burned out. He was just lazy. You’ve got to look at the whole thing, and maybe put some things or service calls and let people know that you care about them, and you’re there for them. And it’s recognition, maybe a few incentives. So, there are a lot of different things there. Not an easy answer.


Audience Question: How can we hire for a growth and excellence mindset? 

Dr. Jeff Fox: How can we hire for a growth-for-excellence mindset? Well, I think, first of all, it needs to be a great agency. People want to go work at the places they know are great agencies. They want to be a part of something great, right? They probably would rather not go to an agency that is known as being a trouble-making agency, or problem, or being unprofessional. So, these people want to go to an agency that is already great. So that’s one thing. You want to have good incentives and that sort of thing, but it’s not just about money. Some of your best recruiters will be other officers and that sort of thing. So, if they love what they’re doing, they will want you to come join a great organization. It just builds on itself. But then another part of it is the hiring process itself. You’ve got to have high standards. One of the best predictors of future behavior is past behavior. So, if you have low standards and you’re going to take the bottom of the barrel. Well, you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe you can get to where you need to be. But you want to have an agency where you have the luxury of picking the cream of the crop, where people want to go to your agency because of all the benefits and because it’s a great agency. It’s a Super Bowl agency. When it comes to policing, it’s a Super Bowl agency. Everybody wants to be part of that. They want to be part of the franchise and want to be one of the best of the agency, right? So, a lot of it is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know agencies like that, and they just hire great after great after great, because they’ve established greatness in the agency and people want to be part of that. They have good benefits. They have a very good hiring practice, and they have outstanding training and leadership. It’s not just one. So, you know, you want to be able to take the cream of the crop. You don’t want to have to go to the bottom of the barrel right? And that goes through a lot of things. A good background investigation, good testing, and a good background as far as checking the person out. You want quality people.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Achieving Excellence in Criminal Justice Agencies.


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