Webinar presenters Sonia Quinones and Karin Montejo answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Creating Your Own Brand of Leadership Authentically. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Can you talk about the importance of employee assistance programs and how as a leader do you suggest dealing with increases in substance abuse, mental health issues, and suicide among law enforcement officers?
Sonia Quinones: Yes definitely very important. In Hallandale beach. Not only does the city have employee assistance programs, we have police chaplains as well. We have wellness programs. We also allow you to work out while on duty one hour a day so you can work out. We also recently studied a peer-support program where we have trained staff members, officers, supervisors that have gone through additional training to be able to talk one-on-one to debrief a critical incident or maybe someone’s having a concern with their marital concerns or family concerns. We’ve had also a few PTSD concerns as well and these programs will definitely assist with that knowing that it is okay to ask for help. The world sees us as these tough people, tough men, and women. We have to open up our shirts and there’s that big S or the W for wonder woman or whatever the case may be but we are human. We have to be everybody’s shoulder to cry on. Who’s our shoulder to cry on? That starts with the leadership, with us to ensure that we create that environment for our staff, our officers, to our personnel to know that it’s okay to ask for help and we’re here for you. We’re going to do everything possible. Ultimately, whatever the person is going through, it will be in the rear-view mirror before they know it and we are here to make sure that they get through it together and we’ll assist them. It’s important to have all those programs in place and to make sure that our employees know that those programs exist as well and it is private and confidential.
Karin Montejo: Yeah. I also think that there is a big push, especially in the last year to destigmatize the asking for help. You know like you said everybody’s like “Oh, you’re strong”, but you cannot unsee somethings. The world is very violent. So many police officers – suicides and attempts. Departments are recognizing that this is going to be a critical component of their organization because they got to take care of the health and welfare of their own officers. That peer-support seems to be becoming a lot more valuable because officers are sometimes more willing to speak to somebody in the job as supposed to the doctor.
Audience Question: What mistakes do you commonly see new leaders make the most often and how can they sidestep these?
Sonia Quinones: I see new leaders not asking for help. Saying, “Now I’m the new supervisor, I supposed to have all the answers.” I know Karin spoke about this earlier. If we don’t have all the answers, it’s okay to ask for assistance. If you are that new supervisor. Let’s say you are on law enforcement and you are that sergeant on scene and it turns that you have to barricade the subject or situation that requires your SWAT commander, why wouldn’t you ask your SWAT commander for assistance and guidance instead of you being the one? It’s okay to ask for help. I find that as a common mistake. Also, what I find is sometimes people don’t want to admit when they make a mistake or that the decision was not the best – it didn’t come out the best. It is okay to admit mistakes – work on them.
Karin Montejo: The other thing could be sometimes not listening to your staff especially as a new leader. You’re walking in and these people have already been there and they have been through this for probably several years or at least several months, more than you have. They know what the policies are within your organization, within your department. You may not like what they are saying but you need to listen to it. You need to give yourself time to absorb it. You don’t know it all. If you do know it all, you are the only person in the world that can move forward with that what you know. You have to surround yourself with people that are familiar with what you are dealing with and learn from them and grow with that. Be open, one of the biggest mistakes that I made and I will never — I always tell this as a weakness on my part is that I tried to do something to overtake another section that I thought would be a good section to work with. I didn’t include the other commander. I just pulled this plan out and I put it on their desk and they’re like well when are going to tell us about this? It really did breakdown the partnership that we should’ve had because I thought this is a great idea. Be open when you are working with people and don’t try to do things on your own.
Audience Question: How do I know if my personal biases are getting in the way of me being an effective leader?
Karin Montejo: The fact that you are asking the question makes me know that at least that you are aware that we all have biases. It’s just something that you reflect upon when you are getting ready to make a decision, you need to step back a little bit and think about it. We work with people. I had an officer that was injured on his department and I went to see him. He goes why are you here? I said, “Why wouldn’t I be here?” He goes I don’t think you like me. I don’t not like you. I just don’t have a lot of contact with you but evidently, I had portrayed something to him that he got from me that made him think I didn’t like him. The fact that you recognized that you may have some inherent biases, that speaks volumes to you. If you are going to start to make a decision and you think whoa perhaps I need to give this a little bit more time and look at the options, I think that you are ahead of the game there.
Sonia Quinones: I agree, Karin. I believe in being self-aware. I’m going to say I am biased. One may say I am biased because I think my spouse is the best spouse in the entire world, you know. We all have some type of bias. It’s being aware, making sure that it is not affecting our job decisions, we’re treating people with procedural justice, we’re treating people with equity and we’re real fair with all of our decisions.
Karin Montejo: There is a lot of research right there right now on bias and kind of get an idea what’s out there and what techniques you can utilize to try and identify what your triggers are.
Audience Question: How have each of your leadership styles evolve as you grew throughout your careers?
Sonia Quinones: As I said earlier I believe I have used all, the whole spectrum of leadership styles. I continue to grow every day. The most important thing is to continue to grow, continue to learn, continue to enhance your skills, continue to seek out mentors, continue to seek out training classes such as the one that we are doing today. Continue to experience new situations. We learn every day. Depending on who we are working with will dictate my leadership style.
Karin Montejo: My leadership style changed as I went up in rank. As you are a first-line supervisor, you are just concerned with your squad, then you become a lieutenant. The higher up you go, the greater your vision has to be so you need to understand that what you do impacts more than just five or six people. As I went through my career, I found myself supervising some people who ended up supervising me and becoming our director when they used to work for me. I always try to make sure that I take care of all of my employees because you never know who is going to be your boss one of these days. The more you get comfortable in your own skin, the more your supervisory style really does just become you every single day. They know exactly who you are but that just comes with time and confidence.
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