The following blog post written by Lou Hayes

Yup. I got promoted a few weeks ago. As a supervisor in a matrix organization, I’ve assumed responsibility for not only an operational team but also managing the agency’s training function.

In essence, I’m in the middle of two interwoven hierarchies, each running in different directions and environments, with different purposes, people, and systems.  With one unit, I’ll be alongside the members most every day, in fast-paced conditions. With the other team, I may not see subordinates for weeks, but will be coordinating long-term goals and innovative projects.

It’d be easy for me to become overwhelmed and bogged down by the minutiae. Because of that, I’m embarking on this new journey with a set of three foundational principles – core leadership concepts that I believe will serve me well regardless of the role or organization.

Support our team in its work. Instead of an authoritative top-down view of supervision, I believe in underlying unification and support.

I will see to it our team members have the equipment, time, systems, and manpower to successfully handle the problems and opportunities in front of us. This means asking them what they need, but also giving options, suggestions, and direction.

I will find that balance between delegating to specialized experts…and decentralizing responsibilities to avoid reliance upon linchpins. 

Support also means to ensure the emotional well-being of our team members, as our unique functions tend to be stressful, wearisome, and often unappreciated.

Help our members grow. As a longtime trainer, I’ve studied human performance, education, and growth. Constructive, emotional feedback is a vital component of resiliency. I expect that we learn from failures, mistakes, and bad outcomes…and share those lessons with each other.

I will nudge our members to extend themselves outside their comfort zones. Experiential learning, much like the “shapes box” with which toddlers play, allows them to test different alternatives, especially when the landscape is fresh.

Our teams will challenge themselves in the Why and How we operate. They will be permitted to tap into their creativity, to better navigate complexity and unpredictability. Technical proficiency, while critical to standardization, will take a backseat to social skills and adaptive problem-solving.

Be courageous in what is right. Courage is different than bravery, in that courage is about being afraid and standing up when it’s unpopular.

My teams do not operate solely in objective Right versus Wrong environments. We function according to a mix of law, policy, ethics, science, research, interpretation, perspective, culture, tradition, and more. As such, discussions and debates will be intent on harmonizing those factors for optimal mindsets, decisions, behaviors, and outcomes.

The expectations and standards will be set high. I refuse to allow fear to keep me from having difficult conversations with my team members. My team members also have my permission to challenge my decisions, in the appropriate conditions and context. Discipline and reward will be based on shared organizational values, principles, and concepts.


These three principles have served me well in the past, as a husband, father, trainer, athlete, coach, mentor, and supervisor.

Support our team in its work.  Help our members grow. Be courageous in what is right.

I will continue to reflect on these leadership principles and turn to them as a guide in my new responsibilities…and those still on the horizon.

Follow Lou on Twitter or send him an email


I Could Do That


The following blog post is written by Judy Bethge - Chief Education Officer

I love it when people say “I could do that” about someone who is successful.  See, but you didn’t.  That’s the difference.  I saw this picture quote on my Facebook feed this week and it got me thinking about the power of getting it done and not just talking about it.  I don’t know if anyone out there suffers with the same issue as me on this—but sometimes I’m afraid to act because I won’t be in control of the outcome, or it may be messy and not “perfect”.  I can control the here and now—in my safe comfortable bubble.  But once I act, the ball is in motion and the horse is out of the gate.  I cannot un-ring the bell.

This week I sent out my draft proposal to my dissertation chair, a woman I respect greatly and whose opinion I value.  I poured hours into my writing revision, corrections, edits, and additions.  This manuscript represents hundreds of hours of reading and writing over the past three years.  But there was some fear as I sat looking at the email attachment, with my finger hanging over the send button.  Would she like it?  Would she think I was a worthy doctoral candidate?  Would she shred it to pieces?  Would she think I was stupid?  And then—there it was.  The voice that whispers, “Are you really going to let fear keep you from taking one more step forward towards your dream?” 

So, what actions are you putting off that would get you one step closer to your dreams and goals?  I’m not ready yet.  I’ve got too much going on.  I’ve got all these other responsibilities and things that need my attention before I can focus on this.  Give me two weeks, then I’ll have more time to focus.  We can make excuses…or we can take action. 

This month I’ve been thinking about self-discipline and creating small daily habits towards success.  Your actions don’t have to be monumental or earth shifting.  Your mountain is climbed step-by-step.  But are you staying stuck or moving forward?  Send the email.  Ask for that meeting.  Register for the training class.  Make the phone call.  Write just one more page.  Read the next chapter.  And put yourself one more action-step closer towards your success.  And maybe one day you can say about yourself, “I believed I could do that…and I did!”

Send Judy an email

The following blog post is written by Roy Bethge - Co-Founder + Lead Instructor

Driving back from vacation with my family last summer I had a strange conversation with my wife.  For the first time in my 28-year law enforcement career I wasn’t sure if I still liked being a cop.  Let me give you a little context to help you understand exactly what was going through my mind when the uncertainty struck me.

We were heading up to Minnesota where my son’s soccer team was scheduled to play in the USA Cup.  A few days before leaving there was an officer involved shooting in a suburb of St. Paul, MN. 

As has happened several times in other cities around the country, the main stream media and some cop haters decided that this was a bad shoot without having any context of what exactly happened and certainly before any type of investigation could possibly have been completed.  Because protests were planned near the hotel we were going to stay at we ended up changing some of our plans at the last minute because I wasn’t about to put my family in harm’s way.  While the soccer tournament went off without a hitch, and my son’s team won their division in the USA Cup, the protests and general atmosphere created a lot of stress for me.  We ended up going further north in Minnesota to get out of dodge and do some fishing for a few days after the tournament was over. 

I realized the stress wasn’t confined to a location but it was stress that I carried with me because of all the negative attention this noble and honorable profession was getting.

So that takes me back to the conversation we were having on the drive back.  I’ve devoted my entire adult life to serving and protecting those in my community and those who wear the badge anywhere in this great country.  Suddenly my entire adult life was being called into question by a small but loud group of people who were getting a lot more than their 15 minutes of fame.

I was still in a bit of funk when I went back to work.  Then came National Night Out.  I lost count of how many people from my community came up to me and the other officers to thank us for our service and for keeping them safe.  About half way through the evening this woman came up to me and asked me if I remembered her.  Sadly for me I didn’t, even after she told me her name.  Then she introduced me to her young daughter.  The adorable little blond girl was smiling ear-to-ear which brought an instant smile to my face.  The woman then said to her daughter “this is the officer that saved your life.”  I was a little stunned since I couldn’t remember ever meeting the woman, let alone her daughter, ever before.  Apparently, some years ago the women and her young daughter were involved in a bad car crash.  She told me that her daughter was on the side of the car that got t-boned and I was the first officer at the scene and pulled her daughter out of the car to safety.

Here it is January of 2017 and I’ve been replaying that conversation in my head since August.  For the life of me I can’t remember the crash she’s talking about.  Oh! I found the police report! But, I have absolutely no memory of the crash or pulling her daughter to safety.  It makes me wonder how many other times I’ve helped in some way, big or small, and I just don’t remember.  Months earlier during the car ride back from Minnesota, we talked about looking for the good and the positive to get through the darker days.  It’s easy to focus on the negative-especially when the media saturates the news feeds with it.  But each of us needs to do a better job focusing on the positive impact we’ve had on those we are charged with serving.  Like the old saying goes, haters are going to hate.  I’ve decided on a new saying… Go hate on somebody else.  Your 15 minutes are over.

Follow Roy on Twitter or send him an email.

Blog post written by Jamey Gadoury

I've got this stack of Fast Company hard copies that I'm slowly working through. Very slowly. I was in a 2014 issue, and a blurb by Stephanie Vozza caught my eye. She shared ways to make meetings better, faster, and more fun. Under "Faster," she shared author Dick Axelrod's idea of "asking participants to share what they need to do or say to be fully attentive." Good stuff. 

I used to work at a company with a similar practice. Before meetings and workshops, we'd ask what the "needs and expectations" were. This did two things. It allowed the group leader to understand where participants were mentally, and thereby engage with them more effectively. It also jumpstarted the engagement process by inviting participants to share something personal up front. 

It's incredibly effective. Truism: when we are genuinely interested in a meeting or training, we will be more engaged. Contrast that with the times you've entered a room doubting whether it was worth your time and dreading the slow slog through someone else's agenda. There's a vast difference between that and a meeting where your interests are fully represented. 

When you ask the simple question, "what do you need to get out of this?" - and act on it - you communicate that you value your team members. You're inviting them to participate and share of themselves. As a result, both their experience and that of the entire group will be better. 

When someone asks, "why are you here?" I'm confronted with the need to step out of my task-focus and look at myself in the third person - to think about my thinking. Such metacognition and reflection are immensely valuable for our growth and performance. Unfortunately, our frenetic task-list often prevents us from even considering our own expectations and ideas.

Until someone takes the time to ask.  

"Why are you here?"

Follow Jamey on Twitter or email him

By Lou Hayes, Jr of The Virtus Group.

When you ask a question that begins with Why, expect the reasoning, rationale, logic, intent, or purpose behind something.

When you ask one that begins with How, expect the methods, options, plans, procedures, or techniques.

We standardize the How, without coming to agreement on the Why. Or if we share the Why, we argue needlessly about the How.

My SWAT teammates gave me the nickname Tactical Philosopher when jesting me on my relentless challenges of Why we did what we did and How we met those objectives. As someone who had self-described as a systems thinker, I embraced the moniker. I’ve always been a seeker of the relationships, priorities, harmony, correlations, and causes-and-effects between variables.

Leaders share a vision of the Why. Managers employ effective coordination of the How in search of reaching that vision. Both are vital to progress, growth, and success.
The Why will always be more critical. Adaptive, resilient, persevering people may need to make adjustments to and shifts in the How. But, they are grounded in the Why; it’s what drives them forward.

The next time you find yourself in disagreement, use questions that begin with Why and How to find your common ground.  You might find out that the debate needs to be had at a much more of a foundational level.

And don’t stop there; when you find yourself in agreement, ask the same questions to make sure you’re doing what’s right for you and your organization. There’s really no sense in sharing the How if your team is doing something for the wrong reasons.

These How and Why inquiries are not meant to be comfortable. They poke and prod at conventional “truths” and traditions.  If you’re doing something because you’ve always done it that way, make sure it’s still what’s best for you.  Or if you’re moving through unchartered territory, be open to a list of options and alternatives on how to reach your destination.

How can you benefit from asking these questions?

Or better yet…Why?

Following Lou on Twitter or email him at lou@virtusleadership.com
This blog post written by Laura King, Ph.D.

In a wildly popular TED TALK, Shawn Achor explains that a brain that is happy is 30% more effective than a brain that is negative, neutral or stressed.  Put into context, this means that when you are in a happy state of mind things in your world get accomplished more efficiently and effectively.  In addition to these improvements, you start to enjoy your work in a very different way.  If all these things are possible with happiness, the question then becomes; what does happy look like and how do we get there?

For purposes of this discussion, happy is a place without underlying frustration or resentment. A simple concept, but not an easy place to find in the modern world. One thing is for certain; to discover happiness, each individual must make a consciousness choice to seek it out.  Happiness is not something to stumble upon.  It is not something that comes with a larger salary or a promotion. Finding happiness is something each one of us must actively do. It is much like building character. It is a series of small, righteous actions, repeated again and again, over an extended period of time. 

When we wake up in the morning, each of us has a real opportunity.  We can actively decide to make each day a good day.  Personally, I use a mantra. 

When my alarm goes off, before I even open my eyes, I tell myself, “Today is going to be a really good day”.  This simple affirmation has the ability to have a profound psychological impact on the way my brain processes my reality.  When used repeatedly, my brain actually makes cognitive changes in response to this message.  A positive outlook is now my reality and I am become hardwired for happiness.

By using this mantra, I am priming my brain for success.  By building this foundation for happiness into the first moments of the day, I am taking an active role in creating my reality. Through these unspoken words, I am creating a cognitive pathway in my brain to process challenges as opportunities.  I have already decided today will be a good day.  I have taken action to start my day with my brain in a happy place.  No one is able to change my mind or take that perspective from me unless I allow it.  From a neurocognitive perspective; this is very powerful stuff.

I still encounter obstacles and have difficult moments.  The difference is, I do not allow those moments to define my day.  Through making a commitment to having a good day, I interpret challenges as temporary occurrences. Rather than allowing these events to overshadow the good things in my life, I see them as temporary, isolated incidents.  When I catch myself ruminating on difficulties or starting to focus on negative occurrences, I stop my mind from spending too much time engaged in those destructive behaviors. I refocus on the positive and move forward with my work.

Then end result is quick and efficient work.  I am fully focused on the task at hand which increases focus and minimizes errors.  This contributes to a positive work experience.  The best part is, the happiness advantage identified by Shawn Achor is not just applicable to our professional effectiveness.  By leveraging the power of happiness, we become better in our personal relationships as well. We are more attentive partners, more considerate friends, and more mindful parents. 

Through making the daily decision to choose happiness, we become the type of people other people want to be around.  Our quality of life improves because we bring optimistic and energy to everything we do. If you are thinking it cannot possibly be this simple, I promise you it is.  And while simple is not always easy; choosing happiness is actually a very easy thing to do.

Follow Laura on Twitter
or email her at laura@virtusleadership.com

The following is a blog post by Judy Bethge - Chief Education Officer + Co-Founder

Everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions—either embracing them, making them, or rejecting them outright.  All over social media, I’ve been reading about why this can be my best year yet…how to set achievable goals…or why I’m better off not making any goals for the new year.  Truth be told—I’m a skeptic and a little caught up in my head about this.  Do I want to achieve great things this year?  Of course, YES!  Do I want to change some things about myself?  For sure, YES!  Do I want to set myself up for failure and disappointment?  Heck NO!  So what do I do?  Goal-set or not?

The parking lot was packed and I had a work-out just getting into the fitness center from my car.  Every weight machine was in-use, the track was packed, and I thankfully got the last elliptical.  I looked around and wondered who was going to be here in two-weeks.  Well, I can tell you that the next morning at 5AM, there were only 12 cars in the parking lot. 
An article from Psychology Today shares many reasons why people backslide and do not achieve their resolutions.  One concept that stuck with me was the idea of “false hope syndrome”, reflecting a resolution that does not fit with the way a person truly views themselves at the deepest levels.  Because you do not really believe about yourself in a way that is congruent with your resolution, you actual sabotage yourself and double down on the damage to any positive self-view.  Essentially—you find yourself worse off than if you had not even made the resolution in the first place! 
One of the antidotes to failed resolutions and
worse-off places is to first change your mindset.

Behaviors flow from beliefs.  So this year, I’m not making resolutions in the traditional sense.  But I sure want to be resolute or someone marked by firm determination.  I want to work on my mindset and strengthen those beliefs about myself that will power my actions for the years to come.  So, I’ve themed each month with a focus rather than a specific goal.  This month I’m focusing on discipline.  For me, this amounts to developing daily rituals and habits to lay a foundation for success.  In the past, I have believed myself to lack discipline in many areas of my life.  But this month I am going to focus in on changing my mindset about myself in only this one area.  Epictetus said, “No man is free who is not master of himself.”  So, this month is going to be about me making conscious choices about my time, focus, and consumption.

Now it’s your turn!  What do you really believe about yourself?  Are you willing to dive in deep and ask yourself those scary questions?  Instead of making some grandiose resolutions this calendar year, shift your focus with me to examining your mindset with a different theme each month.  So here’s to the disciplined life!

Follow Judy on Twitter @JudyBethge or email her at judy@virtusleadership.com

The following is a blog post by Thom Dworak - Instructor + Content Developer

On Wednesday November 16,2016, I was fortunate to be working WINx 2016.  A premier event featuring speakers from around the United States to provide thoughtful insight to influence the now and next generation of law enforcement leaders.  At the event, I saw many influential leaders, the Director of Illinois State Police, local Chiefs, Deputy Chiefs and Commanders and others in supervisory positions in law enforcement.  Many are acquaintances and a few are friends.  All have some degree of influence in law enforcement at the local, state or national level.

Among the attendees I spotted a former academy student and boots on the ground working cop.  Unlike many former students, I have been fortunate to remain connected to Sam (not his real name).  Sam and I chatted at breaks throughout the day and I was interested in his take on WINx. 

At the end of the conference Brian Willis (owner of Winning Mind Training and co-event developer) asked the attendees several questions. 

What are your key take-aways?

What can you do right now?

Who are you going to tell about your take-aways?

The last question is about accountability and influence.  Telling someone your key take-aways holds you accountable to what you want to accomplish. The telling is a conversation about what you believe to be important and is shared with those who either influence you or you may influence.
I walked up to Sam as the conference ended and asked him about his experience at WINx 2016. He said the speakers all had important messages and he had acquired many of good ideas to put in his back pocket.  Then joked about it staying there because he did not have influence, "I'm a street cop, nobody listens to me". 

Sam's dilemma is share by many, a limited or fixed mindset about influence based on position.  Every time you take a moment to talk, text or post on social media you are applying some level of influence to an individual or group.  So I have two questions for you today, (1) Are you willing to influence the people in your circle?  (2) Is that interaction positive or negative?  Only you can answer that.

Follow Thom on Twitter @dworakt

The following is a post by Roy Bethge - Co-Founder + Lead Instructor at The Virtus Group, Inc.
In reflecting on my 28 years as a law enforcement officer it’s easy to focus on the ugly, messy, dangerous things that happened during my career—especially when so much is being debated about our profession on social media and in the main stream media. But for me and the legacy I want to leave behind, I need to focus on the positives and so do you.

Legacy is often thought of as what you leave behind when you die. But legacy is something you build every day of your career and your life. I reflect on this concept every time I walk down the hallway of my police station. Until very recently we had pictures on the wall of each retiree from our agency. When I look at the pictures I begin to wonder “how will I be remembered when I retire?”  Will people remember me for the positive things I did for the agency and our people or will I be remembered for the mistakes and dumb things I did during my career? The mistakes and dumb things are certainly easier to remember, no different than when I look back at my career and remember the ugly, messy and dangerous things more vividly than I remember the lives I’ve impacted and in some cases, even saved.

Thankfully, we all have some control over our legacy. The control comes in the form of decisions we make each day. During our Growing Courage™: Leadership for Law Enforcement courses, I often ask attendees near the end of the day to reflect and create a professional legacy statement. These are some questions we can ask ourselves about our professional legacy that can help you create your own legacy statement:

1.     Why did I choose this profession?

2.     Why am I sacrificing myself for this profession?

3.     What is the higher purpose for which I serve in this profession?

Ask yourself these three questions and write your professional legacy statement.  As we enter a new year, commit yourself to creating your legacy—today.

Follow Roy on Twitter @RoyBethge