Outward Mindset—What’s in It for Me?




An outward mindset way of working helps public safety agencies build highly collaborative teams and foster the growth of vibrant communities...but what are the benefits to individual public safety officers?


By Jack Colwell, Arbinger Public Safety Practice | August 11, 2017

People frequently ask me about my work with Arbinger and mindset change. I generally reply by describing how an outward mindset way of working helps public safety agencies build highly collaborative teams within and around their organization. I talk about how these organizations become resource multipliers that foster the growth of vibrant communities, even within impoverished neighborhoods.

Almost as frequently, after I describe these benefits the person says, \"That's well and good, but if you really want to reach officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, and their leaders, you have to answer this question: What's in It for Me?\"

So, here goes: “Outward Mindset—What’s in It for Me (WIIFM)?”

Outward Mindset WIIFM #1: A significant increase in security

Public safety work has, in recent years, become far more dangerous and complex. This complexity has significantly increased public safety officials’ exposure to social, civil, and criminal liabilities beyond initial calls for service. In this environment, an outward mindset enhances officers’ situational awareness, giving them new ways of seeing themselves, others, and their impact on others. These new perspectives allow them to operate in ways that are both smart and safe—enhancing their own security and that of others.

Outward Mindset WIIFM #2: Strong relationships, recognition, and responsiveness

The nature of public safety work always has been challenging for families, straining their ability to maintain diverse, helpful relationships. This strain on relationships can multiply the effects of the traumatic stress associated with public safety work. It can leave public safety workers cynical and apathetic, feeling alone except in the company of others who are equally cynical and apathetic. By helping officers and their families see others as people, an outward mindset helps them build healthy, helpful, diverse, long-term, meaningful relationships. These types of relationships insulate public safety workers from the harmful effects of traumatic stress and guard against a descent into cynicism and apathy. They also give meaning and vibrancy to life in every conceivable way.

Outward Mindset WIIFM #3: Creative excitement around mission and values

Supervisors and managers in public safety work often find the \"new generation\" of workers does not understand simple obedience to authority, like in the “good old days.” Leaders frequently find the more they press for compliance, the more resistance millennials tend to build into their obedience. Even when a millennial complies with the boss’ orders, they may do so in a manner which ensures the opposite effect or outcome. Outward mindset leaders at all levels of an organization, regardless of rank or title, inspire creative excitement around the organizational mission and values. These leaders also encourage others to develop a powerful sense of personal responsibility for the impact of their efforts, both on people and on the mission. This excitement and responsibility crosses generational lines, unifying teams toward common goals.

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Jack Colwell is the Director of the Public Safety Practice for Arbinger. Jack retired after nearly 29 years from the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department. His duties included patrol, S.W.A.T., investigations, professional training, leadership, and organizational development. Jack served the end of his career as the co-founder of the Regional Police Academy’s Leadership Academy. He is the coauthor of the book Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect: Transforming Law Enforcement and Police Training (CRC Press, June 2010).