In April of 2015, Freddie Gray died following injuries sustained while in police custody following his arrest. The police department failed to adequately or consistently explain the events following the arrest and the injuries. Civil unrest ensued, with peaceful protests peppered with violence. Twenty police officers were injured, 250 people arrested, up to 350 businesses damaged, 150 vehicle fires, 60 structure fires, 27 drugstores looted, and more. A state of emergency was declared, while thousands of Baltimore area police and the National Guard were deployed to the area.
With the recent events in Baltimore, I asked myself some questions that I frequently do:
I wonder if the leaders of the community are asking “Why are the people responding the way that they are?”
Just as fairly, I wonder if the leaders of the protests are pondering why this happened?
And, is what I see on the news what ALL of the leaders of the community are projecting, or is it a select few?
With my company, we frequently deal with manufacturing and distribution groups in “crisis” mode. Upon assessing the situation, the root cause comes to the surface rather quickly: Lack of clear communication and agreed upon expectations.
I have personally helped these plants in crisis facilitate Town Hall meetings, but we add a couple of unique twists to their normal format. One of the twists is to have the management get out in the plant as soon as possible (right now) and actively seek feedback from the people. “What are we doing that IS working for you? What could we do better? How are we doing overall as a management team?”
Certainly the plant managers should still conduct a Town Hall, but they want to be aware that they SHOULD be speaking WITH the people, not just TO the people. Standing up and saying “We will do this and we are committed to change” are wonderful ideas, but not nearly as powerful as showing the people that you are ready and able to LISTEN.
One of the most critical aspects of this process is seeking feedback, and more importantly, LISTENING.
The managers should be doing this type of feedback and open conversations on a weekly and even daily basis. There is no better time to discuss what is on the minds of the people, than when they are not in crisis mode. When emotions are not running high and heated.
In other words, do not wait until the employees are angry, or disgruntled or suddenly silent and/or uncooperative.
By playing ball with neighborhood kids, these cops are true community leaders. In the City of Chicago, where I live, the police have earned a bit of disrespect due to a small number of rogue officers behaving very badly in the community over the years. Nothing made me more proud than to see a video of the Chicago Police playing football with some children in a rough section of Chicago. I know for a fact that numerous officers have made similar attempts to get out and “police” the community through similar actions.
I do hope that we as a society continue to learn how to thrive through proactive interventions, so that we do not have to continue to deal with such ugly crisis.
If we can learn anything from these past week in Baltimore, I believe it is this: DO NOT WAIT for the crisis to happen.
Is your team in crisis mode? Or, are you asking yourself, why is my team or customers responding the way that they are? Shamrock Consultants is uniquely qualified to assess and coach your team and individuals to their most productive potential.
Contact John Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate with your team leaders.