For the past 12 years, I've had the privilege of working with the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree, MA. I say privilege because when you work in a setting such as this you are invited into the world of law enforcement and the special environment in which they live and work. It's a world that is foreign to most of us but when you peel away the layers, it is comprised of high quality men and women trying to do their best each and every day. They are people just like us but are faced with daunting responsibilities at times and a need to make good and quick decisions based upon greatly varying situations.
Our work with them has involved the team that conducts the six month training and development for each new class of potential Troopers. This is a group of 12-15 veteran troopers who take on the enormous responsibility of shaping the future of the MA State Police during this training period. Our goals with this group during our 5 day workshop are twofold; 1.) to train them in challenge course technical skills so they can safely run the program on the Academy's challenge course and; 2.) to work with them to shape their team chemistry to prepare them for the arduous six month training class. It is classic adventure education wrapped in the environs of law enforcement and military like discipline.
As with all of our programming, it's benefits are measured in how effective the outcomes are for the participants. In the spring of 2013, I got a sense of how powerful our work with them has been. That was the year of the Boston Marathon bombing and I as I watched events unfold on television, I knew that many of the troopers I'd had in class just months earlier were involved in the events unfolding. It was sobering to have just spent time with them and to envision what they were going through during this awful time. A few weeks later, I emailed one of my contacts at the Academy to say,
"I've always been honored to work with you guys but never more so then when I watched the exemplary work you all did during those challenging and horrific days."
Soon after I received this response.
"Thanks Jim, it is times like these that we rely on trust, teamwork, communication and confidence to accomplish the mission and to bring us home safely to our families. The skills that you teach us on our challenge course are utilized during critical incidents like the marathon. Please know that you and High 5 are part of what makes operations like that a success."
I have never had a more touching compliment about the work we do in my 38 year career. I was honestly a bit speechless upon receiving it. But it doesn't end there. Each year since receiving this note, I use it with our Edge of Leadership students during our summer program. On their final day with us they create an action plan for their team to implement back at their school or within their community. I try to convey to them that their work over the past three days to discover, develop and refine their leadership skills comes with some responsibility.
The question I ask them is...
"What are you going to do with those skills to make good things happen?" Then I read them the letter from the State Police. It is always a very quiet and reverent at this point as folks ponder the implications of words they're hearing; a powerful testament to power of the work we all do.
Connect - Empower - Lead...Be the Example! Yes indeed.