First-line supervisors in public safety understand how critical it is to build strong relationships with their teams. Public safety employees rely heavily on each other and their supervisors to ensure they make it home safely at the end of their shift.
Whether you work for a fire department, law enforcement, or EMS, relationships are built on trust and strong leadership. With an operational workforce management system in place, more time can be spent fostering these relationships while optimizing employee productivity. Less time can be spent on staffing, budgets, recruiting, human resources management, and operational analytics.
Challenges in Public Safety
Besides the usual challenge of protecting and serving the public to the best of an agency's ability, there are other unique challenges in the public safety sector. Some examples facing first-line supervisors include employee recruitment and training, budget cuts, civil unrest, natural disasters, employee retention, and changes in agency protocols and operating procedures.
By itself, any one of these challenges can involve a significant shift in how an agency operates. During difficult times, an effective leader will step up and ensure their organizational needs are being met while keeping their employees safe, productive, and engaged.
Attributes of an Effective First-Line Supervisor
For a first-line supervisor to be effective while building quality relationships with their team, they need to have specific attributes that define leadership. There are soft and hard skills that good leaders consistently refine throughout their careers. Not every supervisor will have all these traits, but these are a handful of characteristics inherently found in successful leaders.
- Honesty: First-line supervisors need first to be honest with themselves. They should identify any areas where they could improve their leadership skills. They need to be honest with those under their command and transparent with the citizens they serve.
- Integrity: Leaders acting with integrity are constantly doing the right thing and following a strong moral compass. When a supervisor consistently demonstrates their commitment to following honor and integrity, those under their command are more likely to do the same.
- Communication: An effective first-line supervisor communicates clearly with their team, community members, other agencies, and peers while building relationships and creating trust
- Listening skills: When supervisors take the time to listen to their employees and the public, it creates frequent and candid communication. By having excellent listening skills, supervisors will be in tune with those under their command. They will be more alert to any issues or problems with the personnel or organization.
- Mentorship: Public safety veterans are an invaluable asset to younger employees. Offering advice and insight from seasoned supervisors increases confidence and develops future leaders. As businessman Sam Walton eloquently said, "Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish."
Building Relationships with Your Team
Besides having the soft and hard skills that define a good leader and builds trust and relationships with your team, there are other methods to building quality relationships.
Take a genuine interest in your employees. Get to know what motivates and inspires them. Ask about their families and their hobbies. Ask how they are doing after a tough call. Let them know you are there for them and give them time off if necessary. Be genuinely concerned about the well-being of every employee.
Be open and understanding of different viewpoints and opinions. There is a lot of diversity within the workplace and community, and leaders need to have a broad perspective of their surroundings. Invite dialogue to increase awareness and understanding of these different viewpoints without repercussion.
A good leader realizes the importance of morale within the agency. Happy and engaged employees are a direct reflection of the department. Here are five steps towards improving morale:
- Give credit where credit is due. Remember the adage, "Always praise in public and discipline in private." Recognize the good in your team and voice your appreciation.
- Have faith in your employees to do the job you assigned to them without micromanaging. If a mistake is made, it becomes a good learning experience.
- Ask your team what you can do to improve morale and take steps to make that happen.
- Address any internal issues and take measures to eliminate the conflict.
- Celebrate milestones within the agency such as promotions, retirements, birthdays, or the recent birth of a child. Have the team sign a card and have a little party.
Fostering relationships and improving morale takes time and effort. As a leader, you need more time to dedicate to your employees and less toward administrative duties. When using workforce management tools, you will gain that valuable time.