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Active supervision challenge: Inspiration

The active supervision skill of inspiration helps you give your followers purpose and provide them with motivation to persevere under challenging circumstances


Inspiration is the skill of giving your followers purpose in their jobs.

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Hello, my friends, Coach Paul here. We are nearing the end of our active supervision challenge. If you are just joining us, in January I introduced the active supervision challenge on Police1. In this series, I describe the 10 skills of active supervision, which I define as the continual and consistent enforcement of the rules of your organization.

So far, I have discussed performance management, critical thinking, communication, courage, training, problem solving and innovation.

This month we will be unpacking the active supervision skill of inspiration. In this article, I will define inspiration, describe the two aspects of inspiration that active supervisors need to develop, explain the importance of inspiration, and conclude with tips and techniques for supervisors working in special circumstances.

What is inspiration?

Inspiration is the skill of giving your followers purpose in their jobs and, as Simon Sinek writes about, explaining why you want them to do what they are doing. The truth is that all jobs, even adrenaline-filled ones like those found in law enforcement, can become boring, routine and uninspiring. Active supervisors need to constantly remind their followers of the compelling reasons for doing what they do. And they need to continually explain to their followers, time permitting, the reasons behind their decisions and directions.

Two elements of inspiration

When it comes to inspiring followers, active supervisors must consider two elements:

  1. Giving your followers purpose. My father was a Vietnam War veteran. Near the end of his life, he was hospitalized at a local VA hospital. During one of my visits to him there, I took a break while he was getting something done with one of the nurses. Standing outside with me were two hospital employees, also taking a break. I said hello to them and asked them what they did at the hospital. One said, “I work in the kitchen.” The other said, “I take care of the bedsheets and hospital clothes of all of these wounded American heroes. I help make their stay here as pleasant as possible.” That second follower had a clear understanding of his purpose for working at the hospital. I told him I was impressed and inspired by his answer. He told me that’s what his boss tells all the laundry crew at the beginning of their shifts. His boss was a skilled active supervisor.
  2. Explaining the “why.” As a group, we in law enforcement tend to be secretive people. That is fine when we are preserving information that is confidential, sensitive, or related to an ongoing investigation. But when it comes to interactions with our followers, that secretive approach can become unhealthy and damaging to our relationships. Active supervisors explain the reasons behind their instructions to their followers. They also share with them why they made certain decisions. The more information followers have about why they are doing things, the better able they will be to implement the supervisors’ directives when the supervisors are not around.

The importance of inspiring your followers

I am sure that many of you are wondering why I included inspiration as a critical active supervision skill. I included this skill because experience and research show that inspired followers perform better, work harder and stay longer with their agencies than their uninspired counterparts.

We spend a lot of time and money recruiting people into our organizations. We then spend more time and money training people and getting them ready to do their jobs. If more supervisors developed and practiced their inspiration skills, we would spend more time building high-performing teams and less time saying goodbye to those talented followers.

Bonus content: Tips and techniques

Working supervisor (splits your time between supervising and performing line-level duties): If you are a working supervisor, your challenge will be in reminding yourself and your followers of your noble purpose when the job becomes boring or challenging. Take some time to write down what your noble purpose is and then remind yourself and your followers of that purpose at least once a month.

Small agency supervisor (supervises a small group of paid and volunteer followers spread out over a distance): If you are a small agency supervisor, your challenge will be in providing the why to your followers. You will have a tendency to assume that everyone already knows why you are asking them to do something or why you made a decision that you did. But they don’t. Take some time to intentionally share the whys and ask for questions about your instructions and solicit feedback on your decisions.

Minority supervisor (supervises a group of followers who are different than you in regard to race, gender, ethnicity and age): If you are a minority supervisor, your purpose may be different than the purposes of your followers. Spend some time sharing your purpose with your followers and ask them to share their purposes with you. This activity will help increase understanding between you and them. As time progresses, take time to develop shared purposes that incorporate your purpose and their purposes in them.


These past several months have shown us just how challenging this profession can be. Now more than ever, your followers need you to inspire them. By giving them a sense of purpose and sharing with them the whys, you will be able to help them navigate through challenging times while still providing high levels of service to your communities.

If you downloaded or printed the free active supervision checklist that we provided in the first article and have linked here for easy download, you can update it with this month’s information. Add two lines: Give your followers purpose and explain the why. Rate yourself again now that you have a better understanding of training. Give yourself a + (plus sign) if you believe that you are good at the skill, a √ (checkmark) if you believe that you are ok at the skill, or a – (minus sign) if you believe you need to work on the skill. After you have rated yourself, please take some time to write down your plan for developing your active supervisor skills of inspiring your followers.

If you have any questions about this skill or any of the 10 active supervision skills, submit your questions here. We will gather them up and answer them for you.

I’m Coach Paul, thank you again for taking the time to read this article. Keep your eyes, mind and heart open out there.

Coach Paul Conor, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist and management consultant who has been working with law enforcement leaders for more than 20 years. He is a former US Marine infantry officer, who led Marines in combat during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Coach Paul is an award-winning author, California state-certified Team Building Workshop facilitator and former university professor. He is also a reserve lieutenant with the Orange County (California) Sheriff’s Department.