Webinar presenter Rob Weinhold answered a number of your questions after his presentation, The Art of Crisis Leadership. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: The buzz word is transparency, but how do we strike a balance between being open about all the information we might have regarding a crime or internal investigation while protecting the integrity of our investigation and protecting the refused rights?
Rob Weinhold: Yeah, that’s a great question, because, you know, particularly in law enforcement, where I came from the tendency is to say, no comment or to be as closed as we possibly can, only because that’s kind of the nature of policing, sometimes. But in this day and age, it’s incredibly important to maintain a high sense of community trust. You know, I always say that police departments can’t do their job without the community, and the community can’t be as safe as they want to be without their police department and that level of transparency. While critically important, you must be able to articulate why it is you won’t answer a question. So, if you feel that something is going to disrupt the integrity of the question or it falls within the labor bucket, meaning you can’t talk about it, or there is some other investigative element up to and including protecting the rights. You have to be able to articulate that to members of the media. And they’re just going to have to understand. And so, it’s not that you’re saying no comment, or we can’t talk about that, or whatever the case may be. There’s an incredible amount of pressure sometimes for investigators to not want to open up to the news media, but as a public affairs director of spokesperson, you know, you have to thread the needle and strike the balance. So, the bottom line is, you have to explain why you’re not going to be as transparent as possible, or be transparent, build trust, and it will make your job a lot easier. Not just with members of the news media, but those who depend on their police department to have a low level of trust and integrity that they want and deserve.
Audience Question: So, kind of following up on that, no comment. So, when you see a chief or a sheriff get in front of a camera to make a statement during a time of crisis, what are the biggest mistakes that you tend to see them make on a regular basis?
Rob Weinhold: Well, the first thing they don’t do and it was borne out by the polling question we asked, is they don’t prepare. In other words, they don’t get trained. I mean, you have to make sure that you train, you have to understand the news media. Know that news media needs access and information. You have to try to anticipate where the story is going to go. You have to use the resilient moment communications model, and you have to make sure that you are operating with a degree of predictability. And so a lot of times what happens is, is I’ll see chief executives in law enforcement let’s say jump out on camera because they quote-unquote got it or they know it all, but they haven’t put themselves through the paces of mock interviews with the lights and the camera on they don’t know themselves as well as they should. And as a result, they become inadvertent. In other words, they might appear away. They don’t want to appear they might have a nervous tick that they’re not aware of. And they don’t stick to script, right? It very important to prepare those message points and understand where the boundaries of the interview are ahead of time, and things are moving at a high pace. I understand that during the crisis. But force your chief executives to stop, take a moment, understand themselves, rehearse, and then get out there and perform. Because once you put it out there, you can take it back, and when you put out misinformation or wrong information, the bottom line is it’s very, very hard to recover from that. So bottom line, practice, practice, practice. Understand the boundaries, and make sure that they have had an opportunity to see themselves on camera. So, they know how their message points land, and they know how their appearance lands to the consuming audience.
Host: So, if I’m hearing you correctly, chiefs, sheriffs, y’all should be working with your PIOs to craft those messages to practice being in front of the cameras. That kind of what you’re saying is, work with those PIOs to make them part of the response?
Rob Weinhold: Well, that’s exactly what I’m saying. And if you think about it, there’s been many leaders, I know that one bad interview cost them, again, stakeholder confidence, and eventually their career. And so, when I think about the brand, and I think about trust, and I think about time, money, customers, and eventually your career, why wouldn’t you invest the time and the energy to go ahead and make sure you’re as sharp as you could be when you go out, and you represent. And in my case, it was more than 3000 men and women in the Baltimore Police Department. Everybody knows the brand Under Armor, right? Kevin Plank founded that Under Armor, what he says, the most important thing he does on a daily basis, is he represents the brand, he’s a brand ambassador. And I think of police chiefs and sheriffs think of themselves as a brand ambassador, they should do everything in their power. to represent the brand effectively, enhance public trust, improve the quality of life. And certainly, reduce crime, because that’s what they’re there for. So, again, invest in yourself.
Audience Question: Next question refers to the study you were talking about with the SEAL team and optimism. Do you recall the name, but that study or the researcher’s name? We have someone who would like to follow up and do some reading.
Rob Weinhold: Absolutely. The researcher’s name is doctor George Everly, and he has a book is published called The Secrets of Resilient Leadership. He has worked at Hopkins and he’s in the Baltimore area. And if somebody wants to shoot me a note, I certainly have access to him. But he does some phenomenal work and really rely on his research, and it’s very effective.
Audience Question: Working in criminal justice, we have a stakeholder who constantly points at the flaws in our agency, which is a state agency. How do we bridge this gap at the local level?
Rob Weinhold: I wanted to try to understand the question. So, the state agency representative is always trying to find fault with, I guess, a local agency. And it’s causing some friction in the marketplace, would that be correct?
Host: I think it might actually be the opposite way. So, Rebecca works with a state agency, and one of the local agencies might be taking shots?
Rob Weinhold: Ah, gotcha. So, you know, the local agency wants to blame the state agency and everybody else in the world, or the failure to perform, right? Well, it’s kind of interesting. There’s a lot of nuances there, for sure, but, again, it goes back to putting your hand up and taking responsibility, but not a lot of people want to do that because they’re fearful of the reputation or they might lose their job. But I also believe that of the many crises that I’ve handled over time, you have to open up the line of communication, sit down, be direct, and let that person know that their behavior and what they’re saying is simply not acceptable. And in fact, if they choose to continue down this path, there is more than one way to skin the cat. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say, you should do anything illegal or immoral or unethical, but it sounds like the state agencies being, maybe put it in the corner. And, uh, the bottom line is that eventually, you’ve got to tell your story, because you can only take so many hits in the court of public opinion. But the first thing I would do is call them on their behavior. Sit down, private conversation, and if it continues, then I think you have to balance a story in the court of public opinion. If you want to give me a call and talk through it, more than happy to do that because there are often many, many nuances associated with this type of behavior. And I always say that there’s about, you know, 3 to 5 ways to solve a problem. We need to figure out the best one for you.
Audience Question: Kind of deal back to that negative people and energy vampires and so on. So, Latoya asks, How do you stay away from that time settlers if they’re your own staff? Despite having a good culture, you just can’t change sometimes.
Rob Weinhold: Listen, this is a very hard issue, and I completely understand, because those of us who lead people, we care. We want to give them the resources to be successful, but ultimately, people, you know, won’t get out of their own way. And I’ll tell you, I learned a couple of really valuable lessons along the way. And I found that when I care more about someone’s success than they care about their own success, then that relationship is just counter-productive and I need to make a move. So, I either need to have a direct conversation to make sure that we get that person on track, because, ultimately, they’re hurting the team. And, by the way, when you have a bad apple, or however you want to describe the person, all the good apples are watching to see how you handle it. So, direct conversations, then ultimately, make the hard decision. And you’ve got to remember that it’s hard for managers. Sometimes particularly new managers because they don’t want to be the bad guy or the bad gal. They want to do the right thing for the right reasons. But, again, you have to, you’ll be more respected by making a hard decision and making sure that you have the right team aligned to achieve the goal than to put up with bad behavior over time. And I know it’s very difficult in government, but at the end of the day, to me, it comes down to accountability. And I know we’re not talking about management here, but I would say, I think great leaders do five things really well. They teach, communicate, motivate, empower, and hold people accountable, teach, communicate, motivate, empower, and that fifth one, hold people accountable. You have to hold people accountable for their behavior. Treat everybody fairly. Fairly doesn’t mean the same, but make sure you make the hard decisions, or you will suffer.
Audience Question: As a PIO, how do I get my chief to listen to me, especially in learning how to work with the media? How do I turn that corner so he turns to me and takes my advice?
Rob Weinhold: Yeah, great question. It’s hard for a lot of PIOs and organizations to, number one, change the culture, change someone’s mindset. So, they look at the media, as a friend versus foe. And then the other thing is, is to gain confidence. And so, what I have found to be effective for some PIOS is to go to the chief with some case studies. Here’s what has worked well with some police departments and their leaders, and here’s what has not worked so well. Again, whether it’s a sheriff, a police commissioner, or a police chief, They have to be able to see over the bow and realize that they will not be able to do their job effectively without using the news media to tell their story, right? And whether that’s digital, whether it’s traditional, or whatever the case may be. They have to understand that they’re not doing an interview with the reporter. They’re actually speaking to the consumers of the news and so, one, look at different case studies around the country. What went well, what didn’t go well, and look at the most successful leaders, just not in policing, or in law enforcement or public safety. Look in the private sector, right? Ask the chief, you know, think of the top five leaders that you respect over time, living or dead. And that chief will probably give you an answer. Whether it’s a President, or other people that he or she knows. And then also asked that Chief, what the attributes are, why do you like them? And then sooner or later, it comes down to their ability to communicate and connect with people. You know, research shows that if you think of the very best leaders, that you’ve been exposed to over time, or that, you know, about, the very, very best, the top 1%, they have an attribute that the others don’t, and that is empathy. And empathy is so incredibly important. So, my guess is if you put somebody through the paces, you begin to ask them about leaders that they admire or respect. It will eventually come down to their ability to communicate, to connect, and they make people think, feel, and act differently. Good luck.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Art of Crisis Leadership.