As part of the leadership program I’m doing through my city, I spent last Friday at the police station, where we divided into four groups to learn about some of the different roles our city’s finest take on.

After learning about the police department’s use of drones, motorcycle traffic cops, and the K-9 unit, my final rotation was actually two stations in one: SWAT and Crisis Negotiations.

Both tables for this rotation had the very heavy bullet-proof vest you see me wearing in this photo.

Me in full SWAT gear! I don’t know how people run around in this stuff — it’s HEAVY!

But where the SWAT table also had a variety of weapons – from guns that shoot bullets, to guns that shoot bean bags or foam balls – the Crisis Negotiation table had a tool on display that’s more relevant to the day-to-day of any leader: a communication device.


For crisis negotiators – just like for you as an influential leader – listening is as important as special weapons are to a SWAT team member. 

Crisis negotiators may be dealing with someone threatening suicide, and/or threatening harm to others in a hostage situation. In that kind of situation, not only is listening critical (so much so that multiple people listen in on every call), but so is the ability to empathize with your contact — to make them feel heard and understood.

To help in these goals, the Police Department makes a concerted effort to ensure the Crisis Negotiation team is as diverse as possible, in terms of gender, ethnicity, background, languages spoken, and more, because as one of the officers staffing the table put it, building rapport with the contact is critical.

Consider: A woman in crisis may feel more comfortable speaking with a woman, for example. Someone from a particular ethnic group may feel more comfortable speaking with someone else from that same ethnic group.

Makes sense, if you’re trying to talk them off a ledge, or keep them from shooting, to pair them with someone who has the best chance to build rapport quickly, right?

So what does this have to do with you and your team?

Presumably (and hopefully) you don’t have to deal with life-or-death crises at work!

I’m sure that you do interact with people regularly whom you want to influence, however. Whether you’re negotiating for a raise, or trying to get a team member to do something.

Guess what? Listening and empathy are power tools for you, just as they are for the Crisis Negotiations Team of the Police Department.

That’s why they each get a letter in my BELIEV Framework for Influential Leadership – my top 6 communication principles for influential leaders.

Most people don’t listen nearly as well as they think they do. (Hint: anytime you hear your own voice in your head, you’re not listening!) And as a society, we have an extreme empathy gap.

The good news is, both listening and empathy are skills that can be learned and developed.

I love helping teams and leaders develop these skills, all using play-based methods that make the experience fun!

When you’re ready to improve team connections and communication in order to minimize conflict, reduce turnover, supercharge productivity, and cultivate a workplace where everyone looks forward to Mondays, book your complimentary Team Performance Assessment Call.

You’ll learn 3 customized strategies to help you and your team connect with powerful communication, so you can have more effective collaboration throughout and beyond your organization. Click here


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