W. Craig Hartley, Jr.
Over the years I have been repeatedly reminded that relatively small numbers of outliers generally consume the majority of an organization's energy and resources. This means those having no intentions of contributing positively to the stated cause require more attention than those that come to work every day and consistently do their jobs well. Inversely, those on the other end of the continuum report for work with such tremendous vigor they often require special direction to remain focused on the key objectives and not contribute to mission creep. Fortunately, that leaves a huge contingency of professionals in the middle that really understand the core purpose of the organization and carry it forward.
This issue becomes even more confounding when you consider popular leadership discussions that encourage front and center strategies, challenging the status quo, leading from the rear, or even transitioning to greatness. Somehow each of these concepts seems to further contribute to a lack of awareness that real success often comes from the center of the human resource pool. To that end, the center is most often composed of those that monitor with intense detail and measure the real impact of decisions. They are the ones that see opportunities because they intimately know their jobs and are very content making their work their passion.
I believe that focusing on core functions and becoming comprehensively competent in these areas sets the stage for broader organization growth and capacity. Most importantly, failures in the core organizational competencies can create a loss of faith by those served. This occurs because these types of failures almost always result in very noticeable outcomes that do not complement the mission, purpose and values of the organization. And, in the field of public safety these types of shortcomings generally occur in areas where little tolerance exists for failure.
One of my early mentors taught me how important it is to continuously review the primary service issues within an organization. She encouraged me to go visit those doing the real work and ask questions of them in order to gain a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of operations. She said I should get their opinions on what might work better and how the organization could be more effective. Each time I take this approach I am always impressed with how sophisticatedly the core of the organization studies their work and, how leaders should always encourage and consider solutions from this group of practitioners.
However, to recognize the benefits of those in the center of the organization you have to be willing to lead from the middle. This requires leadership working on projects with staff and encouraging their creative resolutions, as they almost always have the capacity to connect the mission to the work in a way that generates results. They also have the professional balance that provides stability which inspires others. Furthermore, investing in the middle promotes a sound organizational culture that is linked positively to key purposes and values.
Accreditation serves as a tremendous platform for developing the middle leader. It requires interaction with those serving in the various organizational components. Accreditation links core functions with professional understanding and accountability. It helps define a business culture predicated on sound communication and a willingness to develop solutions to address industry best practices. The process also amplifies the confidence others have in the organization from both internal and external perspectives.
When striving for high performance and organization effectiveness, focus on the middle with accreditation as a framework. I believe it makes all the difference and sets a course for sustainable greatness in the field of public safety.