What Kind of Cop Are You?

(Note: In interrogations, the roles of interrogators are designed to play off one another. The “Bad Cop” first creates much fear and tension, through heavy handiness and threatening behavior, allowing the “Good Cop” to come in and gain compliance using a softer, friendlier approach.)

Back in November, I spent a week parenting alone.

My wife, who was visiting our son abroad, certainly helped through a variety of pre-trip preparations and mid-trip guidance, but in essence I operated solo.

Me and the kiddie crew had some “longer” days, including Thanksgiving weekend and the Sabbath, in which we were all home for extended periods of time.

And we held it all together, in part because everyone chipped in.

There’s no question that I am stricter than my wife is, in terms of chores and the like.

Which often makes me the Bad Cop.

So, while the Good Cop was away, I knew I needed to compensate.

I did this by making food the kids really liked. And promising to take them out for dinner. And taking my eldest daughter driving. And…

Just to keep everyone happy and to help me preserve my sanity.

In the end, it worked out well. My wife returned to a happy clan (they were even happier when she shared the gifts she had bought) and a clean, organized house. Even most of the laundry had been done.

My Bad/Good Cop balancing act was good enough to pull us through.

Many managers struggle in their role.

They don’t know if they should play the role of Good Cop or Bad Cop.

But what about when you’re the ONLY cop?

Can you be nice and still get things done? Is it possible to be pleasant and still respected?

The short answer is yes. It is possible to balance the two, to set high expectations and yet find ways to be giving, demonstrate care, and go the extra mile. (For more about leaderships styles and how to best leverage your style with others’ needs, clink here.)

Leading others is less about choosing a persona (changing who we are at our core can be awfully difficult and can lead to all sorts of unwanted side effects) and more about finding a way for your inner self to balance against what your people really need.

If you’re of the stricter, more work-oriented variety (Bad Cop), seek out ways to lighten up and express appreciation. Set high standards but roll up your sleeves at times and help out. Offer some perks when people have really put themselves out. (Warning: you may need to remind yourself to do this, especially if you’re the kind of person who is self-motivated and doesn’t need to be praised or recognized to get things done.)

Leaders who tend to be light on their people and more empathetic (Good Cop) must be able to stay focused on getting things done. No one wants to work for a company that is being outperformed or a team that is failing to meet its goals. Nor do companies look favorably on such managers.

The trick is to operate from a clear understanding of “how you roll” and seek ways to ensure that your team has the tools, goals and support needed to get the job done. If you do, you’ll simply be viewed as The Cop, not in the authoritative sense of the term, but as the facilitator that makes it all happen.