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NATO in Chicago: Career Lessons from Chicago Police

Posted May 23, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

For Chicagoans, last weekend was quite the experience. Hundreds of delegates, security, press, and aids from all around the world converged on Chicago for the first NATO Summit ever held outside Washington, DC in the United States. For months, the city has prepared. Chicagoans were told to lay low, perhaps even leave the city, and to prepare ourselves for chaos in the wake of massive protests. Corporations closed for the day, apartment buildings locked down to only one door. We all braced for the worst. And after days of holding our breath, we emerged from the chaos to realize…….it wasn’t that bad.

Now, this is no small feat. The notion of “it wasn’t that bad” didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of the diligent planning, execution, and hard work and dedication of thousands of Chicago police officers, fire department, and even Milwaukee police who pitched in to help in the city’s time of need. Watching the police this weekend, I realized there are amazing lessons we can learn from these officers and their work during the NATO Summit.

  • Keep your cool. Police officers in Chicago stood strong while some out-of-line protestors ridiculed them, threw water bottles at them, and taunted them in every way possible. They stood stoic and nonreactive. They exercised incredible restraint, a trait we should all try to exercise more of in our careers – restraint. When you’re up against adversity, when you’re sure you can’t make it another moment without exploding or calling your boss a jackass, remember the restraint of the Chicago police and say to yourself, “Keep your cool!”
  • Get by with a little help from your friends. You cannot succeed alone. This weekend when you saw police, you never saw just one. They stayed in groups and walked together. They recognized early on in planning that they were stronger as a group than they were as individuals, something true universally when it comes to leadership and teamwork. Stay close to those you can trust in your career and ensure you have a strong group around you when you face the most difficult trials in your job. 
  • Hold a pre-mortem to avoid a post-mortem. Nothing is worse than a post-mortem after a big event or project, re-hashing what went wrong and what you can do to prevent it…next time. The Chicago Police Department went steps further, planning in a way that all but eliminated mistakes – they held multiple “pre-mortem” discussions – they discussed what couldgo wrong, and how to prevent those things prior to them happening. This admission of what might happen made it easier to react in stressful situations. Every event, every project, every endeavor in your career and business should have a pre-mortem and not just a post-mortem. Admitting that the worst can happen is integral to planning the best response. 
  • Communicate – even with people you don’t like. Communication is the key to success for any career, but where we often fall short is in communicating effectively with those we don’t like. Do you hate your boss? Chances are you’re giving one too many eye rolls and far too many times tuning out his or her ideas. Does your office-mate drive you nuts? I’d be willing to bet you aren’t so great on projects together, either. But take a page here from Chicago P.D. Police leaders communicated flawlessly with protest leaders, facilitating almost entirely peaceful protests because they communicated well with one another, despite the fact that neither truly loved the other’s presence in their midst.

From one Chicagoan, a big thank you to the police in Chicago and the city for keeping us safe during what could have been a disastrous weekend. And a secondary than you to these officers for reminding me of the lessons above to apply to my own life.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."