Massachusetts State Police
"Stick with your process, methodology, and training ..."
Why they're a Crisis Leader:
“Marty” and I first met while working as a part of an instructional cadre teaching incident management to public sector responders.
He immediately impressed me - and everyone else - with his deep understanding of crisis leadership coupled with his ability to effectively communicate that knowledge.
Notably, Marty was also one of the original movers and shakers behind the Massachusetts State Police creation of a formal Incident Management Team (IMT).
Bringing such monumental change to an East Coast law enforcement agency of their size provides a glimpse into the caliber of leader Marty is.
Having seen him in action both professionally and personally, it is evident how consistently he “walks the talk” as a leader of others.
#1 "What is a Crisis Leader?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What is a Crisis Leader?"
You know what?
For me, the definition of a crisis leader is an individual who, even in the most chaotic, very confusing situations, has the abilities, has the skills to kinda just step back and just slow it down and see through it and still be able to collect the information that's needed to be successful and direct others through that situation for whatever it is, and in my career, I've noticed that some people have a natural ability to do that.
There may be another sector where people actually learn how to do that, but for me, it's that person who stares in the middle of that chaos, and for some reason, for whatever, others are directed to him or to her, and they seem to be able to take emotion out of the decision.
They see clearly what the objectives are to be successful, and they're able to, in a very deliberate manner, convey that information to others that they need to be successful, no matter what the situation is, and of course, as far as crisis leadership goes, Mike, that's the situation I'm referring to is something that's very demanding on people's abilities and their demeanor and their emotions and whatnot, somebody who can lead you through something like that, also somebody who understands the meaning of communication, and when I say that, these people, when I say communication, what I really mean is a really good listener, and even though they may have some authority over you, they're not afraid to just stand there and intake some information from somebody who might have a different perspective, and they understand that taking that perspective really is, the objective is just to make sure that you're making the right decision for the greater good, and you have that way with all.
We don't care who it is.
You're gonna make it your purpose to take in new information from others, so it's that being a good listener and applying that information, somebody who has some sort of command presence, and I don't mean by being some sort of a military type like demeanor, but somebody who just has a presence about them in the way they speak, the way they dress, and especially, this person usually understands their policy and procedure, and people know that about that person, so the way they communicate, the way they hold themselves in an arena like that, a very chaotic situation.
They seem to have, if you want to use this term, command presence or whatever for lack of a better term.
They have that, but mostly, it's be able to just stand there, sit back, make decisions, take the emotion out of it, and of course, always putting their folks first, obviously talking about safety and all that good stuff that we know about, Mike, and that whole package.
So really, it's somebody who can remain calm and give direction and understand that people need that direction.
#2 "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What's an example when you relied on your own Crisis Leadership?"
During my last 10 years on the State Police, I was a member of our Type 3 Incident Management Team.
In the last two years, I was the team leader.
And I remember a particular case where there was a lost elderly gentleman. And he was about 76 years old. And he had Alzheimer's, but it really hadn't gripped him at this point of his life where he was, you know, he could still go out and enjoy his life. And he walked constantly. He was a walker.
And everybody in this small town knew him. It was about ten years ago.
And... one day, his mom, I mean, correction, he lived with his daughter and his son-in-law. And he would make a habit of going out, and walked every day while they went to work. And he would usually be home when they got home from work.
And then one day, he didn't come home.
So, obviously, they waited for him to come home. He didn't come home. And that alerted next steps.
They called the police and reported the situation. And then the police did that initial hasty search, and talked to the family about possibly where he might go, and places he visited and whatnot.
And long story short, this went on for five days.
He was not the healthiest guy, and again, Alzheimer's was setting in, but they still trusted his ability to go out and socialize.
So anyways, there's a personal piece to this that had developed as well, because the fire chief of this community, it was his father-in-law. So the fire chief, it's his father-in-law who's missing.
And the other piece to it is, my daughter's best friend, it was her grandfather.
So there I am sitting at home watching this unfold on the news every night, because Holbrook had not reached out to the State Police for any assistance at this time.
So, my daughter would call me, and she said, "Dad, what are we gonna do "about Dina's grandfather? "Aren't you gonna help?" And I said, as soon as they call us, we'll go out and help.
She goes, "You gotta find this guy. "He's a great guy."
I said, okay.
So I had that pressure on me, you know, to, you know, do something for them.
So, eventually, after five days went by, and it was in the month of April, so, you know, the temperature was okay, but it was cold at night.
So they finally called the Mass State Police Incident Management Team.
And so, the next morning I went and I met with the family, and did the usual intake that we usually do. And, what I did notice, was at this point of the search, after five days went by, if you can imagine, the family was very emotional.
And they had done all the right things up to this point. They had put posters out.
By this point, the media was involved, media stories were going out regionally lookin' for the guy.
Posters were everywhere, and they were gettin' some sightings, that he was at this restaurant at this time, and he went that restaurant at that time at night.
By the way, he left his home, this was at night now when they realized he was missing, it was like 8 p.m. when they started the initial search on day one.
So anyways, as this went on, they finally called us, and I can remember how emotional the family was, and how emotional the father-in-law, I mean the son-in-law was who happened to be the fire chief who was involved in the search.
At that time, in those days, you know, the fire department, the police department, whoever else they called to assist in looking for them, weren't that organized, they didn't have many resources, or the correct resources.
They really didn't have a plan on how to systematically look for this gentleman. And they really ran outta options.
So, with that kinda urgency, and with that kind of emotion that was being pressured on us, we set off to find, I'll call him Jack. So, as a result, and you know this better than anybody, Mike, our initial actions were to stick with the plan.
We had a plan, we had a formula for a 76-year-old Alzheimer's patient who was not in good health, with a cane, where he might be as far as a radius, as a perimeter, and we would start there. And that's what was the plan was.
But what happened was, they were gettin' these sightings from, believe it or not, a truck driver called in and said he saw him in a truck stop in Connecticut. And so, the family wanted us to go to Connecticut.
They wanted us to investigate all of these unsubstantiated locations where people were seeing him.
But we stuck with it. We stuck with the plan, and then we got the appropriate resources there, and we used our process, we didn't deviate from the process, even though we had all this pressure on us to do other things.
And lo and behold, we found him in 6.5 hours. And he was 1.6 miles away from his house. And our radius was two miles, as you know. So based on our two mile radius, we started two miles and worked in towards the house, and we found him.
Not the other folks, you know, their intentions, were right on point, obviously, but we brought that process and that methodology to it.
And the other thing we did was, we included them. We included the fire chief, the police chief, and some of their command staff into the process. Which kinda gave us some validation that we knew what we were doin', and they validated that they knew we knew what we were doin'.
So I guess as far as the leadership goes, we had the wherewithal to understand what they were going through, and to understand that this was a very emotional event for them. But for us, it was something that we were used to, and we knew that we hadda stick with that process, and also satisfy their emotions with our compassions, and sitting down with them, and involving them.
And that's how we always did that kinda thing. And it held true.
You know, so the leadership part, like I said, was just stickin' with the process, takin' the emotion out of the equation, stepping back, writing our objectives, and staying true to our methodology, even though we were gettin' all these pressures to do it a different way.
And we were very successful in doin' it that way.
So, you know, we always second guess ourselves when we're out there tryin' to do somethin' like that and it doesn't go right, and you say, maybe I shoulda done it a different way, or maybe I shouldna done it that way.
But this was, again, nine times outta ten, if we stuck with our process, and stuck with, you know, that leadership from Incident Management Team perspective, for folks who really didn't understand this process, it just validated it to us that this was the appropriate way to make this stuff work.
So that was one incident for me, Mike, that I could probably define as a crisis leadership moment, you know, for us as a team.
And other small stuff, again, but other things similar to that.
But that was a big lesson for me to learn, to stay true to your training, and not exclude the people you're tryin' to help, but involve them in a way where they feel like you're satisfying their concerns at the same time.
On the other side of the coin, you're sticking with your methodology and your training, so.
#3 "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What do you know now that you wish you knew then?"
Like all of us, not just me specifically, not like me specifically, but I think all of us, when we're new to our jobs, especially public safety jobs, police, fire, EMS, when we first start that job, in our early years, everything we do, everything I did, had that sense of urgency to it that I had to complete it, right now, and, you know, take action, right now.
And that's how we used to do it as young guys on the jobs.
As you may know, and now that I think about it, back then, even then, I think, I wish I had the presence of mind at times to just slow down and stop and think rather than act initially.
I think that would've helped in some of my situations where I was successful, but I probably could have done better with more information, made better decisions.
So I think it's hard for young folks to really understand the fact that most times, 99% of the time, you have time to just stop, process the situation, and take in new information.
Use that information for your decision making, and then take action. So I probably could have done that better, or used that better, when I first started as a police officer.
So yeah. Also, that understanding the fact that your decisions have, affect others as well.
So, if I had made a better decision, if I made an arrest, well that arrest is going to affect a lot of other things, and it may affect other people in the barracks, as far as what they had to do with the arrest, the arrestee's families, et cetera, et cetera.
They're all appropriate, but I probably could have done it better if I just stopped, thought about it, and took in some new information and acted on that.
So I wish I had known that then, that nothing has to be done right away, unless it's a life threatening situation, of course, I'm not talking about that.
Take the time to think about your next actions.
I wish I knew that then.
#4 "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "What advice would you give someone who wants to improve their own Crisis Leadership?"
I think, looking back at my own experience with folks that were my supervisors at the time.
I think I was always drawn to the folks, or I trusted the folks, who really knew their job. They really knew their policy and procedure to be quite frank. If you know there's somebody that knows the job inside and out and know their policy and procedure, that somehow gets transmitted throughout the ranks. 'That guy or that girl, they really know what they're doing.'
So I think, for me, learn your policy and procedure and know it because the people that you're working with, if you're in that crisis leadership position will believe in your decision making 'cause they'll say 'That guy knows what he's doing.' or 'That girl knows what she's doing.'
So I was always attracted to that person, that knew their policy and procedure.
As a result of that, I was a real book guy.
Because of that, I always wanted to know what my policy and procedure was.
Because I had faith, you know, in my early years, in that person, whoever that person was at the time.
The other thing I would advise them is if there is somebody in your world, especially on your job, who has those qualities that we were talking about earlier, about that crisis leadership qualities, take what you like, and emulate it into your own response, or your own way of doing things.
You know, use that to improve your crisis leadership if you notice something else in somebody else.
I remember as a young guy in the military or coming on the job, there were some instructors in my life who, uh, I- I used their methodology in some of the things that I did later on in life because they were so successful in what they did, I said 'Yeah, that's the way to do that.'
And so I used it.
I think if leadership, you know, if you're interested in leadership, there's nothing wrong with studying leadership.
There's all sorts of ways to understand what a good leader is.
There's a new term out there these days. Well it's an old term. I know you know it, Mike.
Being a servant leader, and having a servants heart as a leader and understanding what that really means, I think is good advice for somebody who- who wants to or- wants to or has to lead others in a crisis.
If you understand what that means, you'd be much better off and people will believe in you.
So that servant leadership attitude, I think, is good advice for somebody to understand what that means.
You know, another thing it probably was being on the state police, there's a lot of little things that you do that matter to others.
So the way that you present yourself on and off the job will build your credibility with others.
The way you present yourself, the way you wear your uniform, whatever uniform that is, that all means something to people who are looking for direction. And if you're very consistent with that, on and off that job, in the building, or out in the field being called on in some sort of situation, it all comes together at that point where those little things matter to people that you're leading.
And you'll have established credibility all the time with these people by the way you handle yourself professionally and off the job so all of that matters.
So that's some advice I would give to these folks.
#5 "Who is a Crisis Leader that influenced your career?"
Click to read a transcript of the answer "Who is a crisis leader that influenced your career?"
So a crisis leader that influenced my career.
There were a couple actually, but one that comes to mind was, at the time I was in tactical operations.
I was on the motorcycle unit and we were very fortunate on our agency to have a very built-out tactical operations, which included an air wing, a mounted unit, a dive team, a motorcycle unit, et cetera, et cetera and we had this young Major come in and take over tactical operations and what I remember about him was exactly some of the things I was just talking about as far as some advice on if you were gonna be a crisis leader.
What I meant was when he came in, all of the things I just mentioned, he wore his black BDUs wherever he went, but the way he presented himself to us and his demeanor I guess is the point I'm trying to get, his demeanor was professional but yet personable because you knew that he was gonna make some changes on how we did things, but you knew that the way he did it was going to benefit yourself personally.
So each member would be, I don't care if you are on the motorcycle unit or the canines or the Marine unit, his message to us was for us to be more proficient in what we did and that he was gonna make sure that we were all successful, and the way he communicated that to us was completely different than the previous commander of tactical operations and he just instilled that confidence in us in that we were very well-trained and that you could tell that in any situation.
If he was there on scene, that you would be automatically drawn to wait for his direction because he knew what our capabilities were.
He knew we were very well-trained, and the way he would deploy us and use us was a very methodical process way in where he did things, and actually, he introduce the Incident Command System to us in 1995 was [inaudible] motorcycles.
So his name was Jim Ross and I'll never forget him.
I'll never forget the way that his leadership skills, including that servants' leadership was much different from an organization like ours if you can imagine, like that servant leadership was not even thought of in some of the old school ways of leading in the field you know.
It was my way of the highway and this guy brought in a whole brand new approach to leadership in the field and he was one of the guys that I took clues from as far as leadership skills and how to handle yourself in a crisis situation.
So he was the major tactical operations for the [mumbles].