In the movie Training Day, Denzel Washington’s character, Alonzo, tells Ethan Hawke’s character, Jake: Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, you might learn a thing or two. While Alonzo is talking about the streets and how actions there affect a Narc officer, these words apply to us as leaders.

Our teams, much like the streets, offer a certain dynamic. Read the team: what does the team do? How they do it? What motivates them to complete tasks? Do they ask for feedback or does it need to be forced? Do members slack off and use social media instead of accomplishing tasks? Does the team watch the clock?

What things happen to cause an affect on the aforementioned dynamic to make it better or worse? Early release, additional tasks, PT, shift in duty hours, just to name a few can change those dynamics.  We are charged to recognize those baseline measures, changes, and lead the team to success. Be the change you want to see in others.

Learn who is who in the zoo to build that baseline.  Strengths and weaknesses also need to be understood. Learn where power resides within the team.  Is it expertise, referent, or charisma?  How does the power holder lead others? Why does the team follow that power? Who is the “go to”? Why? Which team members are struggling with the mission or the admin? How can you help grow the everyone from the struggling team member through the go to?

These answers will not reveal themselves quickly. Rapport and trust need to be built with the individuals and the team as a whole. Slowly, as rapport and trust are built through daily interactions and you become more comfortable with the team and vice versa, answers to the why will start to become clear. Then, the time to speak, act, and implement changes will be up to you.

Alonzo fails to recognize the time to speak, act, and make changes to the environment (streets), grow his team, or enforce any standards which become his ultimate demise in the movie as he carries out his self-serving actions.

Fortunately, we aren’t limited to a 150 minutes in a movie, and have much more time to capitalize on the opportunity to change the environment through our actions as leaders.

We can make changes through understanding our team members, which helps build an individual plan for each team member; we need to understand their (personal, professional, educational) goals, then guide the member to reach those objectives. Those individual goals lead to meeting greater team goals because an inspired member will share their story and inspire others.

As leaders, we should also set high standards for the team as a whole and for each individual.  These high standards will help push to each member to hit goals. We cannot forget accountability with standards though, as it is our responsibility to hold them accountable throughout the process. If there is a break away from the baseline or a failure to perform, inject yourself, course correct, and give the feedback needed. 

Lead on and make it happen.