Why Police Training is Missing a Trick.

Some training isn’t getting taught. And it’s arguably as important, if not more important, than some that is.

In this job, we are constantly challenged by events. Some we choose (e.g. university, our profession, our partners), and some we don’t (e.g. incidents, complaints, the Lockdown, accidents, disappointments). In his book ‘TimePower’, author and expert Charles R. Hobbs analysed the ‘Event-Response’ options and concluded that there were five scenarios. They were:

  • Events we think we can control, and we can.
  • Events we think we can’t control – and we can’t.
  • Events we think we can control – but we can’t.
  • Events we think we can’t control – but we can.
  • Events we think we can control – but we don’t.

We need not explore the first two – they are events which training or experience has told us we need give no further consideration. We know what to do, or know we are wasting time trying to do anything.  Our response to such events is routine, it’s going with the flow.

The third is funny to watch – when someone tries to control something they can’t. I recall trying to watch a police colleague trying to hold down a car that was trying to drive off. Ambitious. (Also funny because I’d tried the same thing some 7 years earlier.)

The last two need some consideration. They are different, but perhaps simultaneously the same.

Events we think we can’t control, but we can; and events we think we can control, but we don’t.

Both represent lost opportunities. In another sense, they are also examples of poor training and education. Not necessarily formal education, but perhaps the kind of education that is so frequently  missing – personal development training. The kind of training that empowers people. (Or, to use the modern buzzword – Leadership.)

In the first case, it enables people to explore new ways of doing what needs to be done. It acknowledges resourcefulness of the individual or the team. It communicates to people, “There is a problem, and it seems insurmountable. But you’ve faced similar challenges before and you overcame those. Why not apply the same level of initiative to what faces you today?”

In the latter case it motivates them to do what otherwise they may want to avoid. It reminds people of Albert E. Gray’s tenet, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.” It says, “You not only can do it – you MUST do it.” Speaker Tony Robbins put it another way. He said,

“If you can’t, you must. And if you must – you can.”

Some professionals decry the personal development industry, and I found in the police force that the confidence that policing requires often undermined my efforts to educate colleagues on that very subject. Which is a shame, because such input solves many of the problems faced by officers and staff these days, even if it simply reminds them that they do have the capability and capacity to cope – instead of the constant input on ‘mental health awareness’ that seems, inadvertently and with positive intent, to actually empower the feelings of helplessness. I am convinced that if you tell people often enough that ‘work creates stress’, then it inevitably creates the very stress you’re trying to avoid.

(I am equally convinced that an example of this is the constant delivery of the message to school students that ‘exams are stressful’. Well, call me old-fashioned, but if the teaching’s up to it, exams should be easy. At GCSE and A Level they’re just regurgitation of facts and thinking processes that teachers should have taught their students. You had two years!)

The delivery of personal development training, and in my specific case, time management training, are the cures to many of the challenges faced by policing colleagues today – in many ways and in many scenarios.

I therefore call upon senior leaders to recognise that what they have demonstrated naturally, some need to be taught. And the consequences of that training would massively and positively improve policing.

Over to you, Boss.

Training that stops you getting sick? Why-ever not?

I used to say that ‘policing would be wonderful if it wasn’t for the public’. It was a joke, and like all jokes was funny because, in a sense, it was true. I don’t know many coppers who, given the choice, wouldn’t like to go to work, not have to do much because the public was safe and behaving itself, and then go home. This is particularly true in a profession where each day is different to the last and to the next – which is fun, challenging in both good and bad ways, and downright disruptive all at the same time. But – and this blows my mind – we all hate having nothing to do. Even sitting and nattering with team-mates gets a bit unsatisfying when there is no work left to do.

Why is that?

It’s because we love being productive. And we love being productive because it brings us high levels of self-esteem. (Note: not personal self-esteem because IT’S ALL PERSONAL SELF-ESTEEM. DUH!) We like having things to do that we can do well, because our egos are served by doing excellent work; particularly when that excellent work results in praise from a peer or supervisor. We seek out specialist roles because we like doing what the specialist role entails.

At the same time, we hate interruptions because they produce obstacles to the productivity in which we were fully engaged when the interruption came. We were happily discovering evidence that would send Johnny Crim to prison when someone came in to report that a ‘friend’ called him names on Facebook, and our heart sank. We could see the interruption, hours of work, telephone downloads and the associated disclosure challenges because someone was called a rude name by their ex-friend, the one with whom they’ll they be friends again just after you’ve done all the work. (At least that’s how we see it when it comes in!) We dislike being taken away for someone else’s ‘special project’ because it stops us spending time on our own. We like producing provided we are doing so on our own terms.

You see, self-esteem is served by productivity, provided we perceive that productivity is directed towards an outcome WE see to be important.

Which in turn means that work produced by others that we consider to be unimportant challenges our ability to continue serving that self-esteem. Now, that isn’t ego. It’s just common old psychology.

Which brings me to time management. (Surprise. Not.)

Time management training – correction, comprehensive and well-delivered time management training provides ‘students’ with the knowledge that when these things happen, there is an explanation as to why their occurrence angers them. It provides them with strategies for doing what has to be done, so that they can do what they want to do, as well. It informs managers, so that they can address the needs of both the public they serve, and the resources they manage that serve that public. It maximises stress-free (or stress-reduced) productivity to the benefit of every stakeholder involved in policing.

Time management based around the ‘write a To-Do List’ level of expertise serves very few. A To-Do List is often just a permanent and ever-expanding reminder of why we’re stressed.

Values-based, psychologically-backed and methodologically sound time (self) management training serves everyone. Managers, senior leaders, the organisation, the public, our partners and most important of all – our families and us. Because a stressed officer/civilian takes that stress home and cultivates a continuous loop (is there any other kind?) that eventually turns in on itself and kills its host.

You never thought about poor or non-existent time management as akin to cancer, did you? Think harder.

Integrity = Heroism

Following the recent tragic murder of Sgt Matt Ratana (or as the BBC puts, it ‘alleged’ murder), the press correctly described Matt as a Hero. In my book The Three Resolutions, and in an article on my other website I wrote about my thoughts on the subject of people ‘promoted’ to the status of Hero who wouldn’t necessarily describe themselves such. I suspect Matt would be like them.

There are two kinds of Hero. Those who, in a moment of threat or challenge or danger, throw themselves selflessly into the fray and do things that would otherwise make them, and most of us, dither. We read about them in times of war, in the main. After Guy Gibson’s bombing run he could have flown about miles away directing traffic, but he chose to draw fire for others. (Not sure what his crew thought of that.) Col Hal Moore could have surrendered at Ia Drang in the battle depicted in the film ‘We Were Soldiers’. History is littered with examples of people who went beyond the call -and expectations – of duty.

But there are different heroes, too, ones who may never be presented with an opportunity to be ‘brave’ but who live lives of Integrity. People who stand by their code of ethics and beliefs and who, if they make a mistake, stand up and acknowledge that mistake. Or those who, when they see mistakes made by others, challenge them openly. (Not by a back door or years later.)

I’ll be riskily frank, here. Many of the people who are described as Heroes aren’t heroes in the former, bravery-in-the-face-of-adversity style. Most heroes are unsung because they remain heroes only – and importantly – in the sense that they have integrity and, when challenged, act in accordance with that integrity. Those who have a sense of duty, of right and wrong, and who have also defined for themselves what they believe in and what they are willing to stand up for. If adversity does arise they act in accordance with that integrity – not ‘in the moment and without thinking’ because they are physically brave, but ‘in the moment and without thinking’ because they’d already been living a congruent life and what they did in the moment was in keeping with who they ARE.

Not, necessarily, in keeping with an imposed set of Ethics – but with their own, which may not be a direct match.

In my forthcoming book Police Time Management I explore the subjects of Principled Policing and the Code of Ethics with the above thoughts firmly in mind.

You might be interested when it comes out. I’ll let you know.

#mattratana #policing #leadership #codeofethics #timemanagement #selfleadership #personalplanning #system #police #metpoliceuk #stress #book #professionalpolicing #merseysidepolice #gwentpolice #collegeofpolicing #ASPolice #gmp #SouthWalesPolice #DyfedPowysPolice #NorthWalesPolice #BTP


A Nasty Habit.

We all do it. We all do something that is socially unacceptable, and yet simultaneously tolerated. Some of us do it only in the privacy of our own home. Some of us mainly do it at work, where it really shouldn’t be allowed. Some of us dedicate weekends to it. Some of us do it a lot. Some of us recognise this and seek professional help from specialists.


(What did you think I meant?)

On Twitter this morning, my post asked a question, which was “What are you planning to do today that you could have done yesterday?”

Of course, there are some work-related tasks you couldn’t have done yesterday, but I wonder how many things we put on out To Do List are done ‘tomorrow’? Usually small, two- to five-minute jobettes which don’t have to be done in a certain place, or with certain people, or at a certain time.

Nevertheless, we put them on a certain day’s task list for ‘then’.

This is not unusual and it is not my intent to criticise. I did it myself, yesterday. I decided I needed to buy some cycling repair equipment and a couple of notebooks for study purposes, so I diligently placed those To Dos in my planner task list for today. And then pondered why I hadn’t just done them as the thought and need occurred to me to order them on-line, as intended. A two minute job procrastinated for ‘tomorrow’, in the knowledge that I had plenty to do without interrupting an important train of thought for a side-issue – which, addressed during the ‘important’ could and usually would redirect my attention onto Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the BBC News and a myriad of other distractions. Not to mention Amazon’s insistence that, having bought something people only ever want one of, I might be interested in buying several more.

(I once had three emails in a row from Carphone Warehouse. First – congratulations on upgrading to a new contract. Next – details on delivery dates. Third – how would I like to upgrade?)

“Procrastination is the thief of time,” said (I believe) Ben Franklin and/or Charles Dickens. It is true. 18th and 19th century wisdom still applies, and always will.

Ask yourself, as you add another entry to an already copious number of tasks on your list, whether what it is you are jotting down could have been done just as quickly as getting out the list and the pen and writing it. Even if it takes a little bit longer, dump two-minute jobs out of your head by doing them as they arise, wherever possible. This is a major tenet of David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ philosophy and task-management process (for which some people pay a LOT of money). Free your head of psychic RAM by deleting the data as soon as it appears, simply by doing what you just thought of, NOW.

Apply this thinking when you can – particularly when dwelling on an arising thought results in a whirling tornado of further thoughts emanating from it – last night I had a sleepless half an hour over a domestic conundrum, and a two minute conversation with my son over my concerns sent me back to sleep. Had I waited until morning I’d have been too tired to write this post. As it was, the chat resulted in the discovery of some pertinent solutions which I’d acted on and completed by 0945 today. Meaning lots more time to write this article and then move back on to my second priority for the day – reviewing and editing Police Time Management.


More on that tomorrow. 😊

Is Policing Like Leading an Orchestra?

Piqued your interest? I hope so.

It has often been opined that the longest-living among us are orchestra conductors. They are believed to be on for centenarian-ism because of all the occupations, they are perceived to have 100% control over what goes on around them. A Conductor walks to the front of the assembly of talented musicians that’s chatting among itself. Then s/he raises his/her baton and all goes quiet. The musicians heed the alert and set themselves to begin. Then, at a majestic sweep of that tiny, stick-thin, er, stick, a sweet harmony begins. Control is maintained until the work is done, and rapturous applause received.

Just like policing. Oh no. My mistake.

A Conductor has an advantage over we policing professionals. First of all, the Operation Order has been set in advance. By somebody else, as a rule. Next, everyone involved has either read it, or can pick up what is required of them as they go along, without a detailed briefing. Third, they are all specialists and know that they have to do their bit, reliant on the fact that all the other specialists can and will do theirs. Finally, they have a time limit that all will religiously observe.

A Conductor lives long because a lot of it has been set up in advance and s/he can rely on others to do what is expected of them, and there is little external interference once the job starts. In fact and in general, everything around them stops – until they do.

Unlike policing. That plan changes by the second. Every day has its own composition and we aren’t usually aware of what that is. We don’t know who will be available to us to help, we can expect interruptions and interference, and we don’t know how long or short the next job will be.

This is the main cause of stress. Not the traumatic event, which is almost unforeseeable and sudden, and which requires medical help if we are to ameliorate its effect. The main cause of stress is a drip, drip effect related to the one thing the Conductor has and we lack – control of what’s going on.

For police officers and staff, the one thing that is constant is change. Not just the change brought about by legal, practice, staff and protocol changes, but the change from moment to moment and having to juggle constant, new inputs against the duty to do the work that was created by earlier inputs.

That is why I believe that my peers should be trained in time management (a term I will use but which doesn’t really cover the field). You can’t stop what’s coming, but you can manage your work and yourself in a way that dissipates the stress caused by challenges such as police employees face every day. In 2011 a Home Office Circular said the same – whatever happened to that?

I am rewriting my 2013 book Police Time Management with that in mind and hope to have it ready before December. (You’d think a rewrite would be easier than a re-start but so much has changed.)

Maybe I can’t teach you to conduct an orchestra. But I can teach you to at least hum along in tune with the music.

(Keep a watch on policetimemanagement.com @PoliceTimeMana1 for upates on publication dates.)

#timemanagement #selfleadership #personalplanning #system #police #metpolice #policing #stress #book #professionalpolicing #merseysidepolice #gwentpolice #collegeofpolicing #ASPolice #gmp #SouthWalesPolice #DyfedPowysPolice #NWPolice #BTP

Back with a Bang – or with a Bump?

I have just returned from a mid-week break and am feeling great. I spent a little while reviewing my personal values and made a few discoveries. But those are for another time. The main thrust of this blog is to address how we get back into work.

After a period of leave, how do you feel at the thought of going back?

Do you look forward to re-engaging with your projects and your colleagues – and customers? Are you excited at the thought of new challenges? Can you wait to find out what you’ve missed?

Or do you dread the emails, the memoranda, the buck-passes, the mess you left before you went away? (And some of the people?)

Notwithstanding the many issues that affect our attitude to work and the many factors that might cause us distress (as opposed to eustress, which is ‘good’), there is one element of a return to work that most people dislike, and that is having to catch up with the mess we left behind. A pile of outstanding incompletes, as author Jack Canfield would put it. And if you look at it objectively, a large portion of incompletes is – your own fault.

Many people, faced with a leave period or even a job change, do something that the stressed and disorganised tend to avoid.

They tidy up before they go. Not just the desk, but every incomplete that they can finalise before leaving. They spend the last tour of duty making sure that as many ‘I’s are dotted and ‘T’s are crossed as they can. They are able to put in a massive effort because they know that completed or managed work won’t bite them on the bum on their return.

Extremely well organised people, on the other hand, do not wait until the day before they go on holiday to organise their work in a huge, almost panicked effort. Oh no.

Extremely  well organised people pretty much carry out that level of personal task management at the end of every single day. Any minor matters that can be finalised before they go home for dinner is topped and tailed daily. They don’t have to worry about coming back to a pile of incompletes as big as yours. Their pile, if it exists at all, is teeny weeny. And the same goes when they come back from extended leave periods. They’re on top of things in no time at all because they were on top of things not only when they went – but all of the time. And it takes a lot less effort than the ‘last day panic’.

Time management may be a cliché these days, like ‘journey’ (Oh how I hate that word). But well executed personal management massively impacts your levels of stress. Paperwork creates stress (even though it won’t actually bite you – paper cuts aside) but managed paperwork creates a lot less if you keep on top of it as you go, not after you come back.

Learn how to manage yourself in the context of time. It’s the most valuable self-taught ‘thing’ you’ll ever learn.

#timemanagement #selfleadership #personalplanning #system #police #metpolice #policing #stress #book #professionalpolicing #merseysidepolice #gwentpolice #collegeofpolicing

Policetimemanagement.com – The book is getting ready……

When it stops – it all starts.

I really feel for my police colleagues at the moment. They have been taken from the duties they expected to be executing – routine patrols, criminal investigations, domestic squabbles, crime prevention, community partnerships, etc. – to having to police protests committed by citizens with genuine grievances, and riots committed by chancers who wish to use public unrest as a means to commit further crime and rebel against what would normally be a well-ordered society.

I feel sorry not only because they are put in harm’s way simply by virtue of the need for what they are doing, but also because the post-riot period will be filled with the additional, perhaps less immediate but equally pervasive stress of having to return to normality, and still having to deal with all that stuff that was piled up on their desks before it all started.

Yes, it seems unimportant at the moment. I disagree, a little. It isn’t as URGENT, but it remains important unless and until a senior leader says, out loud, “Some of that stuff you have piled up – let it drop.” And I have never, ever heard a senior leader say that. I DID hear them say it before they were senior leaders, oddly enough.

There are two levels of stress I wish to address, here. The first would be comparable to post-traunatic stress, where the immediacy of danger and threat causes the stress that is equally immediate, inherently more visible, and usually well-managed by supervisors for that reason.

Then there is the drip-drip kind of stress, which builds up reaaallllllyyyy slowly, is not inherently visible, and is treated – if it is treated at all – when it’s already too late. It is the stress caused by the inability to do the little things which, although they are little, still have to be done because systems and protocols demand they be done.

Pretty much every copper I know has wanted to do a great job, but the obstructions to what they perceive to be part of that ‘good job’ – paperwork, unwanted training days, abstractions which they see as not serving their situation, delays in complaint handling, incessant interruptions – are the things that cause stress.

When your head goes, the cause isn’t that relevant. Whether it is trauma or drip-drip, suddenly you lose your edge or your temper. The first results in failed prosecutions and competency questions, the second in having to defend your career.

This is why I am trying to teach colleagues better time management method. Firstly because no-one else is teaching it effectively, and secondly because I know that having control over what is happening is an absolute MUST if stress is to be minimised.

When these times settle down and we go back to the daily grind of routine, there will be a pile of tasks to manage. The To Do List won’t cut it.

Particularly if some special interest group decides it’s been offended by something they’ve heard from a biased source, but which they accept without question because it suits their interest to do so.

At which point the pile of paper gets left on the desk again, and the circle continues.

So yes, time management may seem unimportant in the moment. But after that moment, it becomes an absolute necessity.

Police Time Management – Paper or Digital Planning?

Hyrum Smith, time management authority and seller of thousands of Palm Pilots, was asked in 2009 about technology and planning. This is what was said.

Q; Technology today offers many electronic options for managing time, but I still love my paper planner. Are we seeing a return to paper and pencil, or is the trend going toward electronic tools?

“My impression is that there is a surge returning to paper. I will never forget when 3Com brought in and put on my desk the first Palm Pilot. I played with it and thought it was a great toy, but no one will ever buy one. I turned out to be wrong about that. We strongly embraced technology at our company and sold 10,000 Palm Pilots a week for several years, and then all of a sudden, we didn’t. People stopped buying PDAs. I thought, “I’ve got to try the Palm Pilot.”

I put away my paper planner for 13 months. I went to a PDA and I discovered that I could do everything in my Palm Pilot that I could do in my paper planner, but I wouldn’t. The reason I wouldn’t is because it took too much time. It was too hard to do. I came back to my paper planner because of the ease of the operation. What I discovered was that for managing tasks, appointments, and taking notes, a paper planner is four times faster than any electronic device. There is a whole host of reasons for that, but I will just leave it at that level. A paper planner for tasks, appointments— managing me—is four times faster.

Now, there is a place for technology. I carry a BlackBerry. I love my BlackBerry. What do I use it for? I can communicate my calendar to my people. I can download The Wall Street Journal. I can check my email. It is a wonderful phone. But for managing me in the heat of the day, my paper planner is more effective and it is faster. I have had letters from CEOs, senior vice-presidents from all over the country, telling me, “Hyrum, I’m back to my paper planner. I’ve got control back in my life.” In fact, just a year ago, a senior VP from Merrill Lynch went through our seminar. She said, “Hyrum, you trained me 18 years ago, I went to an electronic device 3 years ago, I lost control of my life. I went back to my paper planner and my control is back.” There is something about writing on paper that a human being likes.

The thing about those three things: tasks, appointments, and taking notes, and if I know how to retrieve those notes—the magic of the Franklin Planner is the retrieval system. The minute I write a note in my planner, I’ve given that note a root in time. I will always be able to find it. There are three different ways for retrieving information from a Franklin Planner. I can do it with lightning speed. If you don’t understand the mechanics of the Franklin Planner, you don’t understand why people would use that instead of technology. If you’ve gone through the class and you’ve been taught well how to use it, it is a dangerous tool. I’m a paper guy myself.”

I’ve spent a few hours pondering about using my smartphone for planning, but I can’t get around the size of the keyboard, the fiddliness of the note-taking facilities, the constant spell checking by me or machine, the fact that the phone will be gone at the end of a contract along with all that I record on it (no, you never really take the time to transfer it all), and the poor way the diary/task management software works in reality. Not to mention the fact that for all that tech provides, all smartphone users are still carrying around heaps of paper anyway.

And you and I both rely heavily on To-Do Lists, do we not. And I’ve not seen a smartphone that does a To Do List as well as a bit of paper.

If the leadership of companies like Merrill Lynch think paper is best, who am I to argue?

For daily updates on police time management, go to @PoliceTimeMana1 on Twitter.

It’s 2020. Time for change.

I wrote and published the original text for Police Time Management in 2010/2011, and a lot has changed since then. Looking at the content I decided that a complete review was necessary, and as such I am now fully engaged in that work. Chapters rewritten and re-ordered for maximum practical effect for the readership: extensive levels of new thinking on the theories behind the practices: lots of research to add content and redrafting the forms that will be in the book, and then available on-line.

I have set an end-of-year deadline but I am so passionate about my former colleagues’ personal effectiveness and yes, their happiness, that I intend to spend a LOT of my time on this project. I’d love you to get a copy for Christmas!

In order to do that I also have to learn as I write. Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, used to speak of Third-Person Teaching. This occurred where each of his students would be required not only to learn what he taught – but to teach it to others. He expressed the opinion that having to teach what you learned sharpened the senses, reinforced the learning and made you an advocate for ‘your’ version of what you learned.

As such I am also deeply immersed in learning about the relatively new digital approach to self-management. What I learn I will pass on.

I believe policing to be the most stressful and yet rewarding of careers. It constantly (!) changes but the principles and methods I intend to impart will enable policing professionals – officers AND staff – to better cope with whatever is thrown at them.

Watch and wait- I intend that what develops will help you all.