Fox On Point - Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go
Don’t be afraid to let go. Giving authority but retaining responsibility means we have to trust our subordinates. We are all familiar with the old adage, “If you love something, let it go…” That’s great advice for a love life, but not very practical for a manager in public safety. Instead, I advocate letting go of as much control over a mission as possible; empowering properly trained subordinates to carry it out; and giving them credit when they succeed.
When I was a Lieutenant, I was tasked with unloading tires from a semi-trailer. The tires were for a shoot house. I told my Sergeant to stack the tires in a certain area. I expected him to direct each man on his detail to a particular task. I was pleasantly surprised when he simply told the senior man what he wanted. The Sergeant then said to me, loud enough for his men to hear, “Lieutenant, these guys will have your tires stacked in no time.”
The detail leader huddled his crew and spoke to them for a minute. Then the crew formed two lines at double intervals facing each other, making a sort of alley from the back of the semi to the stacking area. One man on the trailer rolled each tire down to the men forming the alley, who continued rolling it to the place it was to be stacked. Once there, one man stacked it. Periodically, the stacker and the man on the trailer switched places with others in the alley who were less exerted. They emptied the trailer in about 15 minutes.
I tell this story because it illustrates the fact that managers tend to attempt to control each phase of an operation. We are averse to giving control away when our supervisors hold us responsible for the outcome of the mission. However, our function as leaders is not to control, but to visualize. We should see the big picture; clearly communicate what it looks like to our senior subordinate(s); and then leave them alone to make that vision a reality.
Giving authority but retaining responsibility means we have to trust our subordinates. If you have trained your subordinates correctly, you should trust them. Don’t be afraid to let go; they will catch you. If you have trained your subordinates yet don’t trust them, well that’s a subject for another article.
Stay safe. We need you out there.
Major Vance ‘Fox’ Rosen serves as the Support Services Division commander at the Henry County Police Department. He brings nearly two decades of public safety experience to his writing. Rosen holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgia Southern University in Criminal Justice, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbus State University. He is a graduate of the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College.
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