Early in my career with the Denver Police Department (in the early 1970′s), I worked for a short time in an assignment that reported to Chief of Police George Seaton. He had a meeting with all of us and told us that for a few months he wanted us to be out and about during each shift, observing officers and their work and letting him know of any glaring problems related to procedures.
Among his directions were: We should be obvious, not giving the appearance of sneaking around; we should assist with arrests and reports when we could; we should never appear to approve of something that we knew to be a violation of a rule or policy. Above all, he wanted us to write commendatory notes every time we could justify it.
He said, “I learned that when I was a sergeant”, (which would have been in about the early 1950′s) “You have to give people a reason to want you observing them. If you always correct something they’ll dread seeing you. If they know you’ll usually say ‘well done’, they’ll look forward to having you come by and before long they’ll connect the idea of you observing them with them doing good work.”
Someone in the group said, “But Chief, no matter what we do or say they’ll think we’re spying on them and trying to get them in trouble. What can we do about that?”
Chief Seaton said (probably using a lot of profanity, since that was something he was noted for), “Not a damned thing! But, some of them will understand and the others will at least know the truth, even if they don’t say it.”
All of Chief Seaton’s advice, then and at other times, has been useful many times in my professional life. I have mentioned his advice from that day in many classes for supervisors and managers. It still holds true: If you are going to do MBWA, management by walking around, to use a Tom Peters term, make those you visit look forward to seeing you.
*Make it separate from times you are required to go to an employee’s work area to ask about something. Be purposeful about what you’re doing.
*Don’t waste your time or their time with unnecessary small talk.
*See how things are going and ask a sincere question or two, if appropriate.
*Ask the reason behind something that seems to be wrong.
*Ask for correction of anything serious enough that to continue it would be harmful in some way.
*Make a mental note to consider small-scale concerns later.
*Say or do something that means, “well done”.
*Move on and let everyone get back to work.
Thanks for the advice, Chief Seaton!
In a February, 1942 Popular Science magazine I found this article and was intrigued by the first few paragraphs. The writer didn’t say, “J. Edgar Hoover never told us he intended to smash kidnapping rackets or stop murderous gunmen, but that’s what he did.” Instead he uses each promise Hoover made to illustrate the point of his article: J.Edgar Hoover says we’re prepared and you can trust him.
Whatever flaws might have been disclosed about Hoover later, the fact was that he and the FBI made our country more safe at a time when crime sprees by vicious criminals and their gangs were to the level of domestic terrorism. He was respected as well as feared, because he kept his promises.
J. Edgar Hoover did two things you should do:
1. Make promises. Say what you will do and when. “I’ll have that to you by 8 a.m.” “I’ll get it done the way you want it and have it to you for review before Friday.” “We’ll take care of this for you.” “I’ll take care of that problem.”
2. Keep your promises and remind people that you did. “Attached is that write-up, as promised.” “I said I’d get that to you by Friday but we worked extra hard and have it for you today.” “I knew you were upset about that situation, so I worked on it with Jim and I’m happy to report that it’s been handled and you won’t have to deal with it again.” “I told you I’d get this approved for you by this morning and here it is”
Say the words, to let people know that you came through not only as promised but because you promised.
Repeated broken promises are usually considered lies
Many people toss out promises they don’t ever intend to keep. “Sure, I’ll get that for you!” “No problemo, it will be done next week.” “I’ll take care of it.” Then, when the requester asks them about it on the due date, there are heavy sighs and excuses for why it isn’t yet done.
If you remember that a broken promise is viewed by most people as having been a lie to begin with, maybe you’ll get motivated to live up to what you promised. If you simply can’t fulfill your promise, at least let the person know the reason for your delay and get the work done ASAP. However, make sure your reason is more than, “I got really busy.” Or, ”Yeah, I know it’s not done yet, but it wasn’t really my fault.”
Look for chances to give your word, then keep your word.
Let people know, through your commitments and the way you live up to them, that you are someone to trust–no matter how they might feel about you otherwise. One day you may not be able to deliver on a promise, but by then you will have a long history of dependability to your credit. What you’re after is to have someone say, “If he promised to have it, you don’t need to worry, it will get done.” Or, “She says it will work out fine, and if she says it you can believe it.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?
The most effective managers and supervisors actively seek employee ideas and opinions on a regular basis, not just when big decisions are being made. Those who are regularly doing a task may have excellent ideas for how the task can be done more efficiently or effectively. Nevertheless, it is important for managers and supervisors as well as employees to remember that ideas and opinions should be used as part of decision-making–not used in place of well thought-out decisions by managers and supervisors.
New supervisors and managers: The idea of carefully evaluating employee input is especially crucial for new supervisors and managers. They may be anxious to build rapport with their new staff or team but do not yet have a grasp of the big picture. As a new manager don’t act too quickly in your effort to gain acceptance. Wait until you understand the totality of work and the ramifications of the ideas you are hearing.
•Ideas for one person or group may have a negative effect on others. A new form, method or process that will work very well for John or Janet may create tremendous burdens for everyone else. In addition to listening to employees, managers should communicate with other managers before making decisions that have a larger impact. Then, explain the issues as a way to help the employee learn to see the bigger picture, even if he or she still has a preference.
•Employees do not usually have the level of knowledge about larger issues that managers have–or should have. When the Denver Police Department was planning for World Youth Day and the visit of Pope John Paul II, two officers with a lot of tenure thought it was very funny that I was looking at information on Porta-Potties. In response I asked them how many portable toilets they thought we would need for 500,000 people, how many were in the state of Colorado and what it would take to get enough here in time. After they looked at the information and realized what a challenge it would be, one of them said, “That’s the trouble with our mayor, he says yes to everything. He should have said we didn’t want World Youth Day here because it’s so much work for the city.”
•Employees ideas may be purposely or inadvertently self-serving. Most employee suggestions don’t mention a downside or potential problem. If you’re the manager or supervisor you need to be thinking of those. When employees have suggestions about issues with which you’re not completely familiar, ask them to provide you with the things that could go wrong and how those could be avoided. Then, get other input before deciding.
A manager of a large group commented that almost all the improvement suggestions he received involved what employees thought they could stop doing for customers, what safety procedures they could eliminate or what rule was no longer needed. He said after five years he had only received two or three ideas for how employees could provide better service or be more efficient in their use of resources. His example may not be typical–but it isn’t unusual either. I think that phenomena is called human nature.
•If there are bad results, it is most likely the implementing manager or supervisor who will be held responsible, not the employees who made the suggestion. It’s inevitable that some decisions will not work out well. Usually those are fixable and work moves on. However, managers and supervisors should have better reasons for their decisions than, “Bill and Gloria said it was the best way to do it.” Ideas should be welcomed and carefully reviewed, not welcomed and implemented without review.
Some of the most serious or tragic errors I have heard about–or made myself–were the result of decisions based primarily on the clamoring input of staff or group members. Often they are so close to the work they see no other options–and there are nearly always options. That is why, whether we’re talking about work, government, the military, a surgical team, a family or anything else, checks and balances and unbiased input are needed.
A good rule: If you think to yourself: I’m approving this against my better judgment, use your better judgment and don’t approve it, at least not right then.
When you’re the employee with a suggestion or opinion: Make it your goal to gain the knowledge, skills and insights needed to give valuable input. Do self-evaluation of your ideas to ensure they reflect the needs of the organization and its customers and clients. Also remember that the person to whom you’re making the suggestion may respect you, like you and want to encourage you–but still have reasons for not adopting or supporting your ideas. That’s not a slight to you, just a reality of work.
The bottom line: It is a laudable concept to seek the input and ideas of employees. However, the responsibility of managers and supervisors is to listen, evaluate and make final decisions, based on many criteria and considerations.
In the picture above, Patton was listening to a soldier–a trait for which he was well known. He was sincerely interested in the thoughts of soldiers in the field. However, you can bet he didn’t suggest a military strategy to General Eisenhower by saying, ”Private Smith said the guys all want to attack from this direction because it will save time. I would hate for them to think we don’t value their input, so let’s do it their way.”
Free Church Safety and Security Seminar
in Ponca City, Oklahoma
on October 9th, 2012.
Another one planned for Kansas City, MO
On October 9th, I’m teaching my 6-hour Worship Without Worry material as a Train the Trainer class. Participants will get the PowerPoint slides and other materials, so they can go back to their churches and teach the fundamentals of whole-church safety and security.
This class is designed for church leaders, security directors, maintenance and facilities staff and others who represent a church. It is also designed for police officers who are involved in the security programs of a church or who are community resource officers or crime prevention officers.
Contact me for the details and a copy of the ad. The police chaplains are sponsoring it in a huge meeting room so all are welcome. It’s free except for a $15 lunch and refreshment charge.
I don’t do many of these seminars, but Sgt. Fred Landis of the Ponca City Police Department worked hard to make this happen. I’d love to see you there if you live in that area! It’s worthwhile and very fun!
The date for the KCMO class hasn’t been set yet, but it will be in November. It will either be free or for a very nominal cost. Let me know if you want to receive a copy of the ad when we develop it.
NOTE added in 2012. I’m now sending a combined Word document of about 150 pages that contains eight safety and security items:
1. How To Conduct a Thorough Safety and Security Assessment
2. The Role of Greeters and Ushers in Church Safety and Security
3. The Role of the Platform Team in an Emergency
4. How to Develop an Emergency Medical Response Team (Even Without Medical Staff)
5. Brief Thoughts on Developing a Security Team
6. How to Plan for a Special Event
7. How to Develop a Security Plan
8. A sample security team document.
You can print it all, forward it to others or copy and paste from it into your own material.
Background about Church Safety and Security Material
At the end of 2007, after the tragic events in Arvada, Colorado and at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, my intent I wrote a 23 page document on the role of greeters and ushers in church security, to assist a few pastor friends who had asked me for suggestions. Then, I wrote a lengthier document on how to assess the safety and security of a place of worship, based on my experiences assessing courthouses, government buildings and facilities–including a nuclear site–as well as churches and church schools. Later I added three more short documents, one which is really just an edited response to someone who asked me about how to develop a church security team. That one is not all-inclusive by any means, but apparently has assisted many churches in their efforts.
Five free documents on church safety and security.
Altogether I have five documents on church safety and security that are yours for free, if you contact me and ask for them. The reason I don’t just have a download button is that I like to hear personally from those who want to use the material—and sometimes I hear back from them when they have used it! I’m always interested in what church is represented by the person requesting it, where it’s located, the size of the church and anything else of interest. Sometimes the person requesting doesn’t represent a specific church, and that’s fine too. I’ll send the material without any background information, but I enjoy having it.
8,000 16,000 so far! Who was to know that word-of-mouth advertising, viral marketing and a great price (they’re free!) would accomplish so much? Probably the fact that they were free added a great deal to the popularity of the material! However, I know that hundreds of churches are using the material. I have spoken at many conferences and meetings in which attendees have commented on how helpful all of documents have been. Several other websites also distribute it and it is given out regularly by police departments and sheriffs offices, denominational groups and at various conferences. As a result, the material has been distributed in North America, Great Britain, Europe, China, Japan, several countries in Africa and in Mexico and Central and South America. I’ve enjoyed the whole experience tremendously!
Why is the material so helpful? I think there are three reasons the material is helpful–and isn’t because of my expertise (although you can believe that too, if you want!).
1. The focus is on both safety and security. Certainly there are concerns in places of worship about active shooters and church violence of all kinds. However, accidents, injuries, crimes, misuse of money and authority, vehicle safety and weather, mechanical and medical emergencies all can harm church members and the activities of a place of worship. Focusing only on violent acts will tend to distract from all the other situations that require prevention and planning.
2. It is adaptable to any place of worship in any setting. I collected every book I could find on church safety and security and have found all of them to offer something worthwhile. However, many of them tend to be focused on specific settings or types of churches. Some of them are most concerned about response to violent acts and don’t mention other situations. Of course all can be adapted to other settings and problems, but often readers may not make the connections.
I have tried–I hope not to excess–to keep a wide variety of situations in mind. Storefront prayer rooms and cathedrals have similar yet very different problems. An urban church and a one room church in a remote rural location have similar and also different worries. A mega-church with programs going almost continuously has potential problems that a corner church in a small town does not–and the reverse is also true. However they both can be harmed in similar ways.
Whatever material you read, consider the principles and concepts and work around the fact that the church being described is different than yours.
3. Anyone who takes it a step at a time can apply the concepts and suggestions. Conducting a security assessment of a place of worship doesn’t require an expert. In fact, a moderately trained church member or team can probably do a better job than a stranger in most cases. For one thing, the church member can be present at various times to assess a wide-variety of programs and processes. This aspect of assessing is at the heart of my material. To be thorough you must assess in various situations throughout the year. That can’t be done by the local police or a hired consultant.
One of the biggest misconceptions about security is that law enforcement personnel know more about it than a lay person might. In truth, most law enforcement officers, even community resource officers, have never received specific training in how to conduct a thorough assessment of any facility or to make recommendations about it. They are often not accustomed to the limitations, requirements and restraints involved in making a church safe and secure, compared to a bank, a courthouse or a home. They are willing to do it and will certainly apply their knowledge, skills and intuitive thinking–which can be considerable. But, they are usually only available on a limited and one-time basis and their abilities will vary, as with any task.
You may find that the help of the police or sheriffs office is just what you need. But keep in mind that you or anyone else who takes his or her time to do it right, following the guidelines in reasonable material, mine included, can do a very acceptable job.
HOW TO GET THE FREE DOCUMENTS ON CHURCH SAFETY AND SECURITY
You can use the comments section on this or other posts and ask for the material that way. Or, you can go to the Contact Me tab at the top of the site and use the space provided. Your email address is not published either way. I will only send you the material and will not contact you again, unless you get in touch. It’s an easy process.
I appreciate attribution if large portions are used, but as I often point out….I probably won’t know the difference! Also, be sure to share the documents with others in your denomination or community. It’s a great outreach to other churches, to show caring and concern.
There is no Eleventh Commandment About Church Safety and Security
Your place of worship is unique in its setting and vulnerabilities, and so are the members and their concerns. You and others can develop a program that grows over time and is adjusted as needed just for your church. There are no rules about it. Starting and doing something reasonable is better than waiting until someone knows how to develop something perfect. Take a leadership role in the safety and security of your church. Volunteer to help. Be a reasonable resource (not a naggy pain in the neck!). The important thing is to get started and keep going. Keep the faith!