Answer the Why, Motivate the Team

Bridging the gap between generations through mentorship

By Chief Jonathan B. Flores  |   May 1, 2019

The law enforcement profession is fluid and constantly changing. As officers train and adjust their tactics in an effort to keep their communities safe, so do the criminal element. Law enforcement professionals across the United States must ensure that they also stay abreast of new laws that are passed at each legislative session. As if these challenges were not demanding enough leaders in law enforcement must be cognizant of the cultural challenges that their organization now face due to the diverse generational makeup of their organization. Employees now represent multiple generations within the workforce.

The generation gap between law enforcement officials within an organization has been a prevalent topic of late. As multiple generations encompass a law enforcement organization, many unique challenges arise for department heads as they strive to accomplish their organizations mission of improving the quality of life of all citizens within their given jurisdiction.

Most recently the so-called Millennial generation (those born in the 1980s through early 2000s) has been the target of scrutiny for allegedly asking “Why?” a little too much. We’re told that previous generations did what they were told and learned why (hopefully) somewhere along the way. If they had trouble figuring something out, they would work through that trouble without bothering supervisors.

Millennials, we’re told, want to know why things are done, not simply how they’re done. And I can tell you this: They don’t like the stigma. But it’s there and is based, at least in some measure, I think, in reality.

As a leader of an organization how do you overcome these challenges? How do you bridge the generational gap and provide an environment conducive to achieving your organizations overall mission?

The answer is through leadership, mentorship, and communication. Leaders must be able to motivate and inspire their employees to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be, regardless of their age or generational affiliation.

Motivating the older generation of employees to provide mentorship to the new generation is paramount to the future success of our noble profession. Communication is key: All sides need to be able to be culturally competent and open to one another’s ideas. The truth is that we all want to know the “why.” If we want to continue to evolve as people and professionals, this an essential question to ask.

Through mentorship and communication we can overcome our intergenerational challenges and grow together as a team. In some cases we can address the “why” up front. In other cases, the task comes first and the questions can be answered after the mission is accomplished. Either way, it’s a team effort.