How to Build a Quality Security Team
Leading large groups of employees means bring together people from all walks of life with different ideals, ethics and expectations. Understanding and valuing these differences and utilizing them to harness and direct the energy from the group toward a common goal is a key trait of a successful leader. Forming enthusiastic groups to tackle projects as a team, rather than secluding individual employees by dispensing projects on an individual basis, allows for a magnification of knowledge, skills and abilities that is larger than the combined efforts of individuals.
While this magnification effect is very powerful, it doesn’t happen by itself. Employees do not always work well together. Selecting a group of workers at random and putting them in a room to solve a problem may not be effective. It is necessary to understand that each employee is an individual that has needs and wants that need to be addressed. Some employees are skilled at writing, some are good with numbers, and others have superior presentation skills. The skills that each employee offers to the team contribute to the larger picture and have the potential to produce high quality work.
In order to get the most out of teams, it is necessary to understand that each team is made up of individuals that want to succeed. In order to succeed they must be allowed to be free to explore their role in the organization and be comfortable with the challenges expected of them. As each individual sees the world from a unique perspective, it is essential to understand that different personality types have different strengths and weaknesses.
In a healthcare security setting it is challenging to attract and retain quality employees that possess certain personality traits that are necessary for the safety and well-being of staff, patients and visitors.
An effective method for motivating teams to reach beyond average expectations to that of a level of excellence is a tried and true experiment called the “Pygmalion effect,” according to Duquesne University. With the Pygmalion effect you coach and mentor your employees that are good and worthy of achieving excellence. It is a lot like a goldfish in a fishbowl. The larger the fishbowl the larger the goldfish can grow. If you put average expectations on your employees, you will at best achieve average results. In today’s real world environment for security services of benchmarking per square foot, ROI values and cost-savings initiatives, average performance for a security leader is not in line with today’s CEO expectations.
In our security department, we set the goal of being the first accredited security department in our state. This was no easy task, as we had many long-time employees who felt that they should be exempt from taking exams. Our senior security leadership preached and practiced the value of the importance and pride in being an extraordinary security team and that we were far better than simply trading “dollars for hours.” We met our goal within 10 months, and now are embarking on how to celebrate our victory. Our officers are very proud that they can see our accreditation marble plaque hanging proudly in the main lobby with a spotlight on it. The plaque represents many things, but quite simply it demonstrates what a well-focused and professional team can accomplish.
While each employee has different life experiences, there are non-negotiable traits that each employee must possess or develop quickly. Empathy, assertiveness and enthusiasm are all needed to successfully navigate the complex hierarchy of a hospital setting.
The search for employees that possess all of these qualities can be daunting. The field of healthcare security generally attracts individuals that have retired after a career in law enforcement, corrections or military service. While it is very likely that these individuals possess a strong and assertive personality needed to successfully interact with agitated patients or visitors, it is equally important that they have empathy for others and infectious enthusiasm that radiates throughout the workplace.
Formal interviews have a place in the hiring process, but the artificial environment of several interviewers on one side of a table asking questions of a potential employee trying to show themselves in the best light possible can often results in hiring mistakes. Hiring someone based on prepared answers to standard interview questions does not allow the hiring manager to see the true personality of the potential new employee.
The introduction of personality tests into the hiring process would allow the hiring team to gain insight into the thought process of the candidate and gain more information before determining whether or not to bring an individual on board. While the cost of hiring and training a new employee is high, the cost of hiring the wrong employee is significantly higher.
The goal of this research is to understand and celebrate diversity in the workplace and harness the power of a high-functioning team to produce a service that is much greater than the sum of its parts. It is possible to have different thoughts and beliefs while pursuing the same goal of exceptional service.
The key is to understand the unique traits of each team member and develop each individual in a way that they are able to contribute their maximum effort into each and every assignment. An old African proverb states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” A successful team must be both nimble and team-oriented to succeed.
The healthcare industry has seen many drastic changes recently, and the team I work with has adapted well. In this dynamic environment we must anticipate the needs of our customers as well as ever-changing rules and regulations related to the healthcare field. With myriad state and federal regulations, best practices and the ever-looming reality of our litigation-heavy society, we in healthcare security find it necessary to “drive beyond our headlights” and anticipate future events before they happen. This can only be achieved with the help of a well-developed team. We have a phrase that we publicize of “Semper Gumby, Always Flexible.” Many of our officers have grasped that concept, and “Semper Gumby” graphics can be found in and around the security offices.
A harmonious team capable of positive working relationships can only be accomplished with a group of staff that can anticipate each other’s actions and function together as a single unit when necessary. Personality differences are welcome, and positive dissention is encouraged. In order to achieve the benefits of a high-functioning team, it is necessary to understand personality differences and find creative ways to inspire others to work well together. Sharing the results of the MBTI tests within the team helps the individuals to understand why certain team members act and respond to situations as they do and to help them value each other’s differences.
There are many personality tests that have been developed over the years, but one has come to the forefront as an accurate indicator of personality type. The Myers-Briggs personality test has been used since the 1940s, with a recent resurge in its use. This test is used to categorize individuals into 16 different personality profiles. A quote from psychologist Carl Jung is the basis for the test: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding about ourselves.” The test prompts users to answer specific questions about how they perceive and interact with the world around them.
In an attempt to better understand the LRGHealthcare security team, all staff were invited to complete the test on a voluntary basis. Roughly half of the team completed the test and sent in their results. Although the sample size was small, there were obvious trends gleaned from the results.
More than one third of staff that reported their results was classified into the ESTJ category. According to the test, the ESTJ is practical, realistic, matter-of-fact, decisive, organized and focused on efficiency. They have a clear set of logical standards, systematically follow them and want others to do so as well.
The need for security staff members that possess many of these traits is imperative for the safety and wellbeing of staff, patients and visitors. The safety of others is the main concern of security staff.
An uptick in violent behavior exhibited by unstable patients has increased significantly and security staff must be able to work together in a cohesive manner to protect themselves and others.
Budget cuts have reduced or eliminated services for individuals with mental health issues, according to New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan. With nowhere else to go, these individuals arrive at hospital emergency rooms and frequently display irrational and sometimes violent behavior during their stay. This is one reason that many successful security officers must exhibit traits of the ESTJ. Staff members that are hired and don’t yet display these personality traits can still assimilate effectively with time, given proper training and determination.
The ESTJ personality type is referred to as the “Guardian.” Protecting people and property comes naturally to successful individuals with careers that involve life safety. They thrive on protecting life and property. While one third of the security staff falls into this category, this leaves almost two thirds that do not fit this
Two-thirds of the surveyed individuals were categorized as extroverts. In a healthcare system with a motto of “Care, Compassion, Community,” it is essential to live by these values and present the “Disney Experience” to everyone that enters the facility. Identifying staff with introverted personalities and working with them to become more involved and outgoing benefits the entire department as well as the patients, staff and visitors of the facility.
One lesson learned about the difference between extroverted and introverted employees is how each group processes stressful events and decompresses afterward. In his book “The Awakened Introvert,” psychologist Arnie Kozak recognized a rhythm of rest needed after social interactions. Extroverts, who more naturally interact in social settings, generally need less down-time between interactions with others. Introverts can require more time to rejuvenate after stressful situations.
This information is useful when debriefing security staff after engaging with violent or verbally aggressive individuals. Allowing staff that have introverted tendencies additional period of time to decompress would improve their performance and reduce their stress level for the remainder of their shift.
I have personally witnessed all of the LRGHealthcare staff perform well in stressful situations. Despite personality differences, they are able to come together seamlessly in times of crisis. While extroverted employees very easily handle tense situations, somewhat introverted staff can temporarily project extroverted personality traits in order to diffuse disruptive behavior and project a command presence when necessary.
With such a diverse group of individuals working together day in and day out, it is crucial to develop a dynamic team that is capable of extraordinary work. In order to do this it is necessary to develop plans of inclusion and engagement, according to Diana Bilimoria of Case Western Reserve University.
Understanding what motivates each individual is important if you wish to motivate a team. Hospital leadership has approved an incentive plan called a “Career Ladder” that offers a clear career progression that includes hospital-wide recognition and monetary incentives for achieving milestones. This program has shown immediate positive returns resulting in increased communication and teamwork within my department.
In the past, department meetings occurred with much less frequency. Meetings with leadership now occur on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. This face-to-face time allows staff to express comments or concerns. It is also a time to discuss the future of the department. Transparency within the hospital and the department helps to foster trust between employee and employer. It also gives employees a sense of ownership over their work. This sense of ownership translates directly into increased productivity, higher quality work and better teamwork.
In addition to including employees in discussions of the future of the department, it is critical that they feel that leaders genuinely value their opinions and trust that they will do what is best for the employees. Former navy commander and author D. Michael Abrashoff stated: “Leaders need to understand how profoundly they affect people, how their optimism and pessimism are equally infectious, how directly they set the tone and spirit of everyone around them.”
Leading a large staff of individuals with different personality traits can be a challenge at times. Understanding that each team member is a unique soul with thoughts and feelings that may differ from a leader’s preconceived notions allows us to celebrate diversity and work together to create positive change. A high-functioning team accepts personality differences and knows that each individual is a value-contributing member of the team.