Want to Be a Better Leader? Know Your Officers

Several years ago, I attended a very beneficial leadership course.  One of the things that I took away from that class that I still do today is knowing your officers.  The instructor encouraged us to get some index cards and a recipe box (yes this was before smart phones) to capture important information about each one of our staff members.

You can use the old style index cards and recipe box, or enter the data into your smart phone.  Regardless of what you use, it is important to capture this information to gain respect and trust.

Information of your staff that you should capture:

  • Name of spouse
  • Name of children
  • Name of grandchildren
  • Name of parents
  • Birthdates
  • Anniversaries
  • Hobbies and special interests
  • Favorite sports teams
  • Goals (professional and personal)
  • Anything else you feel important to enhance your professional and personal relationship

It is important that when talking to your staff formally or informally, you should talk to them about some of these topics.  More importantly, you need to be genuinely interested when mentioning these topics.  Just talking about something of interest to strike up a conversation without being genuine is not as productive in your relationship building as really being interested.

Instead of asking, “How is your wife and kids?”  Ask, “How is Shannon and Tim doing?”  It is much more personable when using names rather than titles.  When you demonstrate a true interest in your entire staff, they will feel valued and you should see an increase in morale.

Dallas Sergeant Keith Wenzel (ret) made it a practice each year to send each spouse of the those that worked for him, a personal letter.  He addressed the family by name and made sure they knew who he was and had his phone number.  You can never underestimate in showing a personal interest in those that work for you and Wenzel saw the benefits of that.


One of the key components of gathering your staff’s information is having exceptional listening skills.  We are bombarded with so much information and technology in today’s society and often times, our listening skills are diminished.  Our minds are always processing information when people are talking to us.  Taking a deep breath and concentrating on listening when our staff is talking to us is critical.

Put the phone down, get off of Facebook, and listen!

If it is important to your staff to talk to you, it should be important for you to listen intently to them.


You do not need to be in a leadership position to capture and use this information.  This works up the chain as well as down the chain.  Gather this information on your Sergeant, Captain, etc.  Strike up a conversation with your lieutenant and ask him how Tim is doing in football or how was Julie’s first day of school.  I’m sure your relationship with your Lieutenant will be a valued relationship.

Working with others that have a great bond no matter what the rank is makes for a much more productive and cohesive work environment.  Your goal should be to maintain a healthy and genuine connection with each person you work with.  Continuously and intentionally go out of your way to strengthen and develop your relationship with your co-workers. You will not be disappointed!  You may be very surprised and gain a new fishing buddy!


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