Protect & Serve

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Protect and serve.

The tagline of almost every police force.

Pretty straight forward right?

The dad gets the call at 10:30 pm on a dark Tuesday night. His 17-year-old son was turning around on a small country road and his car got stuck. Of course the dad, having a truck and chains, goes to pull his son’s car back up onto the road. No problem.

As they are finishing the process, a police officer arrives on the scene. He immediately starts following procedure – flashing lights go on, big flashlight comes out. He professionally inquires as to what’s happening and the father – 30 years the officer’s senior, explains the situation. He inspects the scene and asks the son for his license. The officer calls in the driver’s license and the tags. Once he gets the “all clear”, he professionally wishes everyone a good night.

Simple, professional, by the books, everyone protected and served – right?


Who was the officer “serving”? The citizens? His supervisor? Or maybe simply the policy manual.

Did the citizens feel like they were being “served” or “surveilled”?

The next time the flashing lights come on, will the response from these citizens be, “oh good, help is here” or “or oh shit, the cops”.

Many times in organizations, our policies are meant to reduce risk. By following standard procedures, police reduce the risk of being accused of harassment or racism. The gold standard for politicians and government agencies is simply, “all procedures were followed according to policy”.

But each of these seemingly harmless experiences adds up. At best they lead to a disconnect between the police force and the people it’s meant to “serve”. At its worst, it erodes public trust in not only the police but in the government by extension.

This even happens when a good police officer follows policy in a professional manner!

And it happens in our businesses too.

What are you telling your customers by the way you interact with them?

Are you focusing on “customer experience” or “policy adherence”?

What do your compensation plans say about how the organization views its employees?

Every interaction has multiple levels of reactions and outcomes. Our values, culture, and mantras are what we would like to support as a result of our interactions. But, sometimes, our policies and procedures force interactions that create unintended consequences – sometimes the outcomes are in direct conflict with our values.

As Leaders, our job is to make sure our interactions create the intended outcomes and support our values.

Does your policy manual reflect your values?

What are your leadership challenges? Contact us today, to start the conversation.

Scott Alexander is a published author, a coach to entrepreneurs and senior executives, an accomplished speaker, and a strategy/leadership consultant.