Blue Line


January 18, 2013  By Scott Messier

by Scott Messier

– Ken Blanchard

Have you ever told your supervisor what you expect from them? Why not? Having open discussions with the person responsible for assessing your performance is a critical communication component. Here is what police officers should expect from their supervisors.

{Stop doing your former job}


In most police organizations, people chosen as team leaders are in an “acting” position – a temporary solution that can benefit supervisors because they gain experience in a supervisory role. The team benefits because someone is in charge. If the person’s performance is lacklustre, personnel can normally be quickly shuffled. If performance is in line with the role’s expectations, they may be officially promoted.

What happens when the “acting” team leader role morphs into a permanent role or the “short term” relief assignment lasts a year or more? The team leader must stop doing their old job and focus on the new one – supervisor. They must stop wanting to be a part of every call for service or to be assigned the lead investigator role.

The team leader role is important and colleagues need you to be focused. Your time is already split multiple ways so delegate work. I have seen team leaders take on multiple overtime shifts as call takers – their old job. When they return to their substantive role on their regular team, they work on their files, leaving members without the supervision they deserve. The teams’ caseload remains to be reviewed for longer periods of time. If follow up is needed, it may be too late. Team performance suffers when the leader is focused on investigations.

{Complete performance assessments}

Employee assessments are not meant to be a checklist. There is no prize or award for completing all report assessments in one shift. Take the time to do them honestly and completely. The rewards far outweigh the time required to complete them. Putting off a mid-year assessment by a few weeks reflects badly on you, showing you either don’t care about your employees, have time management issues or are not right for the job. Year-end assessments become part of our service file, painting a picture of abilities, work ethic and comportment. It should not state that we are hard working, punctual and enjoy our job but rather be a fair and accurate representation of work performance.

{Feedback and coaching for performance improvement}

Coaching conversations should be done habitually. Schedule a session well in advance and provide the questions you will ask. This ensures both of us will be prepared for a fruitful encounter. Take this time to discuss individual learning plans and review them. If there is no plan, help to create one. It is important to look at where we are now and where we want to go. Not everyone is career-focused but never forget work performance can always be improved.

Supervisors are part of the process and their input and encouragement are integral to our success. Considering organizational needs while linking learning to competencies and operations augments management acceptance. It is crucial to talk about what works and what does not. A critical difference between good and great bosses is that great ones are willing to accept constructive criticism. Ask members what you can do to be a better supervisor and listen to their concerns. We both share this responsibility.

{Teach me how to do your job better than you }

Succession planning – developing people rather than merely naming them as replacements – is better than replacement planning. Consider this: when you are away from your substantive role (vacation, duty, etc) and someone else is temporarily in charge, does the place fall apart or is it business as usual? If your absence sparks instant panic, it is time to develop people for your role. Be willing to appropriately delegate, provide training and some leeway.

We never forget the people who make a positive difference in our workplace.


Scott Messier is a RCMP constable in New Brunswick. Contact him at for more information.

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