Chris Hsiung on building bridges within an organization to improve culture

Creating Connection to Improve Work Culture with Chris Hsiung

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with speaker and Police Chief of the Mountain View Police Department Chris Hsiung on how communication and creating connection within an organization can improve workplace culture.

 

A few reasons why he is awesome – He’s a speaker and writer on engagement, and the Police Chief of the Mountain View Police Department, rising through their ranks over the last 20 years. He’s a former member of the Leadership Council for Government Social Media and member of the board of directors for the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Centre. A frequent speaker and writer on engagement. 

 

Connect with, and learn more about, Chris on his platforms: 

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • What to put in your communications that will resonate with staff. 
  • How to connect when titles and hierarchy can get in the way
  • How to look at onboarding for building connection
  • Getting buy-in from other senior managers
  • The power of internal employee clubs and committees

“Is it weird? Is it a hit on my ego? If I’m in a meeting and I tell people, you know what, I messed up, of course, I’m a human. I don’t like that feeling. But then again, now I realized that the burden of leadership is to actually proactively message that and push those concepts down the chain because that models to the middle managers to the line level supervisors, that it’s actually empowering to your staff when you admit that you’re human. Because otherwise this false image of perfection is not attainable. It’s just people get discouraged and people don’t want to move up through the chain.”

Chris Hsiung

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FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
On the show today, we have Chris Hsiung, and here’s why he is awesome. He’s the police chief of the Mountain View Police Department. That’s a city in California. For those who don’t know, he’s been with them for more than 20 years rising up the ranks. Formerly a member of the Leadership Council for government, social media, a member of the Board of Directors for the peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, frequent speaker frequent writer on engagement. And that’s actually how he met him, which was, interestingly enough, a Canadian and American on a panel a bit digital engagement in Ireland, but he’s here with us now. Hi, Chris.

Chris Hsiung
Hey, Russel, great to see you.

Russel Lolacher
First question got asked it can’t get around it, which is what’s your best or worst employee experience?

Chris Hsiung
Let’s see, I, you know, I’m gonna go with the, I’m gonna go with worst. And this was as a brand new officer. We were working downtown, and I had a surgeon at the time who basically ordered me to cite some Jay work with Walker’s right and wanted to make a point. And up to this point, you know, we practiced a lot of discretion. But it was one of these like letter of the law. And the poor couple that I stopped. They couldn’t understand why they’re getting a ticket, either. I couldn’t even understand it. But it’s one of those like, rank things where it’s like, no, I’m ordering you to write them a ticket, because technically by letter of the law, they did jaywalk. And just that experience, and I was probably one year on, I think that cemented in my mind, what I will never do for the rest of my career. You know, and, you know, the purpose of laws and everything is for people to understand it’s not to, you know, hit him on the head with it. So very kind of, burned into my memory was that experience and moving forward, you know, I was much more into compassionate, pleasing, as opposed as opposed to just enforcement.

Russel Lolacher
That was decades ago, you’re a police chief now. That was impactful to be that long ago. And when I asked you the question, that was one of the kid that was in the chamber that was ready to go,

Chris Hsiung
Yeah, it’s seared into my memory, you know, I can see their face as a couple to this day. And they’re just wondering why why are you citing me? And, you know, like, I’m sorry, you broke the law, right? And legally are required to get, you know, they’re not required to, but I was under orders. And that, as I rose through the ranks was continually in the back of my mind, like, you know, people need to understand. I’m talking about people internally in the department who don’t understand why they’re carrying out an order. And if they don’t understand it, and they can’t get behind it, there’s something wrong there.

Russel Lolacher
And I mean, this podcast is called Relationships at Work, and it is very much about employees, but you’re looking at a customer more or less. I mean, you’re it’s your community, and you’re willing, it’s really hurting the relationship or any potential relationship that organization may have with those there to serve and protect may get that impression. So, yeah, oh, yeah, fair. And I’m interesting that it seared on your mind. Anyway, that’s gonna bother me for a while. So thank you for sharing. Sure. We’re talking about communications today, internal communications, which again, all about relationships. So for you, I wanted to kind of first cover what do we mean, when we talk internal communications?

Chris Hsiung
Well, you know, I think most people would default to these are the emails that I send from my golden tower in my in my office or whatever? Not the case or not the way I see that internal communications, to me is how effective we are communicating anything up and down the organization. Right. And and if you play that telephone game, how effective is it that you actually have the same message or story or whatever, by the time it reaches its endpoint? Even more importantly, do people internally understand the why behind decisions, as opposed to they’re reading an email that lacks context and lacks background on how a decision was made.

Russel Lolacher
What are the different ways you internally…I mean, you’re the top of the pyramid. So how do you communicate to your officers to your organization?

Chris Hsiung
You know, there is the formal chain of command where you will have, you know, an email that goes out to every employee from the Office of the Chief. Anecdotally, I think that’s probably about 20% effective, you know, maybe 20% of people might open that email and, and understand it. You know, these these emails are read and briefing and things like that. But more effective in my mind is we actually employ a newsletter that is mobile optimized for smartphones. And you know, it’s very short and sweet. And what I’ve found is I don’t write as a chief, when I write that newsletter, I write as Chris and I talk about things that are on my mind that I see in the industry about leadership. And what I found is voice and tone cut through the kind of bureaucratic layers of an organization. And you know, it’s through that that newsletter, we can actually see through the metrics behind the scenes. We can’t see who’s open it or what but we can see it above 90 plus percent open rate. And it’s been consistently like that for almost a year now. And I’m gonna have to confess I’m the fall on the sword here and embarrass myself. In high school, I was on the yearbook committee. Okay, so as a pseudo wannabe journalist yearbook guy, I was always, you know, very attuned to images, captions, a quick byline story. And that’s basically what that newsletter is. It’s short and sweet. It gets information across, it’s not perfect. But I think it really goes a long way in improving communications.

Russel Lolacher
I mean, you’re talking stories, you’re talking about leadership. So I’m assuming your newsletter isn’t, “hey, I’m the boss, guess what I did this week.” What is in the newsletter itself that is warranting such interest?

Chris Hsiung
I’ll pick whatever might either be in the public. In the media, it could be trending, the most recent one we did, I had a quote that I came across that had Robin Williams, and the quote was about you know, you never know the battles that people are facing that you might meet. And I wrote a short paragraph about, you know, let’s, let’s remember that externally and internally, that those in the public that we meet, are facing battles that we will know nothing about. And so when we’re meeting them at a point in time, we need to have some compassion and understanding that their emotional response to us could be for another reason. And then I make the connection. Internally, as we walk the hallways with our fellow teammates. It’s more than likely that we’re all fighting our own battles, right? Whether it’s parental stress, whether it’s marriage, stress, stress, stress, right. And so I think we’re all phenomenal at putting on that mask. And that armor when we show up in the workplace, and we print pretend that everything’s fine. But in reality, you know, the culture here in Mountain View, is just assume that everyone’s kind of dealing with something and give each other a little bit of grace. And that was just the topic of the last newsletter, right? And I think it gives me a voice in a different way. And I like to try to break through this hierarchical org chart, right? I’ve always been a little bit counter to that, you know, when I say that, I have an open door policy. In that newsletter, I actually issued like a challenge, hey, there’s a chess game, there’s a chess board in my office, you are all free to come in and make a move. And I will try what I can to play against you. And you know, couple officers took me up on it, it was fun. It’s just a different way to go beyond just saying I have an open door policy. It’s like, no, come on. And let’s just talk to me as Chris, as opposed to the rank, the chief, all that stuff.

Russel Lolacher
You mentioned hierarchy. And I really want to kind of get into that because building bridges is something internal communications can do building relationships, building networks, if it’s done well. But hierarchies can really get in the way of that. Specifically, I’ve heard of organizations where you can’t even tell if you’re a certain level, you can’t talk to another certain level, because you’re not on the same org chart level they are right. What do you do to combat that?

Chris Hsiung
So here’s an interesting idea. I learned this from a couple of different chiefs, over in Colorado, so they started a book club. And, you know, you go and you learn together. And so we tried one out, we’re on our second book. Now, the first book we did was Simon cynics infinite game. So here’s the ground rules. And when I tell you the ground rules, I want you to listen for what this does to that hierarchy, you’re talking about ground rules is this, there’s no rank in the room. There’s actually like a swear jar, but it’s equivalent, it’s a rank jar, if you address anyone in the room by rank, you got to put a virtual dollar in there, right? There’s no seniority in the room, there are no roles, you know, police departments, you have sworn officers, and then you have support staff. So naturally, you’re gonna have a little bit of division, right? Much like in private sector, you’re gonna have management and non management or whatever. And so another ground rule is there’s no titles, and there’s no rank, no seniority, no roles, first name only. And we are here to learn together. And when you create that opportunity like that, a lot of magic happens, it breaks down, because you’re going to interact with the same people in the book club later on, in a different manner in an official manner. But you’re going to have a layer of trust and communication that you didn’t have before. Because in the book club, we were kind of vulnerable, right? We talked about what we’ve learned, we talked about our failures, where we fallen down. And now we’ve moved on to Brene Brown’s dare to lead. So you take those two books, incredible authors, and you’re just on this journey together. And then a month later, you find yourself in a different, you know, official meeting. There’s a little something extra there. And I’m trying to just build on that to really break down the hierarchical layers that prevent just great communication.

Russel Lolacher
It’s funny, so you’re breaking down hierarchical stigmas by removing the workplace.

Chris Hsiung
Kinda, yeah, I guess you could say that.

Russel Lolacher
By taking people out of it, because there’s a lot especially new people coming in. How do you get to them? Because I don’t No. Are you inviting anybody at every level into the into the book club? Or is there some onboarding challenges? Because I know somebody coming into an organization immediately will be intimidated by about four levels above them. Sure, yeah.

Chris Hsiung
Everyone’s invited the book club, but to answer your question on onboarding. So when we hire a police officer, first thing they do is they go to the police academy. And that setting in the police academy, they join maybe up to 60 to 80 other cadets that just get yelled at doing push ups all the time, everything is about rank, everything is about structure. So we try to push against that, because we’re Mountain View. So what we do is very strategically, within about the first month, month and a half, I’ll come in, and I’ll bring our recruits the ones that are representing Mountain View, I’m bringing them lunch, and I sit down, and the first thing I tell them is, don’t look at the title. Don’t look at the stars. This is Chris, I’m checking in on you. How are you doing? How’s your family? Are you having enough time at home, outside of shining your boots? Are you taking care of your family, because in Mountain View, family comes first, the career and the job comes second. And we believe wholeheartedly that if things are good at home, things are generally good at work. But things are stressful at home, it’s gonna manifest in work. So I sit down and I make it okay for them to just relax and know that we care for them. And then a month or two later, a captain will come and do the same thing, no rank, just how’s it going? We’re going to treat you to lunch. It begins there. And they’re assigned a formal mentor, they’re also assigned an informal mentor from a prior academy class that, you know, just kind of checks and shares their experience, right? Because you’re right onboarding is so important to keep that consistent. Is it perfect? Are we perfect? Absolutely not. But we’re constantly trying to figure out different ways to push against the way the system has been to date.

Russel Lolacher
How do you get other managers, senior leaders to get buy in? Because they may have come from other organizations that did not do that? Right? Did not approach things like that. So how do you get their buy in?

Chris Hsiung
Well, this is where the the rank is kind of handy. You know, when you are at the top, you can force that. But I will back up a little bit. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Simon Sinek’s Law of Diffusion of innovation. He didn’t create it. But he talks about it. It’s a it’s a quick Google search on the YouTube video. And you’ll see it’s like three minutes long. But he talks about if you want to make change, you don’t try to change the center of that bell curve, that the masses, you actually focus your efforts on the front, the innovators and the early adopters, which is about the first 12 and a half percent of people. So proof of concept, we’ve done this on a bunch of different ideas where you try to effect change. And sure enough, you get about that front, you know, curve part of people who are interested and willing to go, you know what I want to try a little bit, I want to learn a bit a little bit more about that. And they do and before you know it, the people in the middle of the bell curve start to look over their shoulder and go, you know, that seems pretty cool. And it seems more acceptable now, because others have gone before me.

Russel Lolacher
How do you get into the personalization of it because everybody’s different. So to come at a new or even a mid level career person, the organization, and you have this, say a book club? Well, there’s a lot of introverts that will never show up at that book club, just because it’s a different energy that they’re not used to. So how do you cater to a different type of people to make them feel a little bit more inclusive when you’re building those bridges?

Chris Hsiung
You know, I think it’s creating the expectations for leadership that we do everything we can to create psychologically safe teams, meaning you have the freedom to fail, you had the freedom to admit that you don’t know the answer, you have the freedom to be yourself. And we’ve often said, you know, and we’ll use this analogy that a prior chief used to use you guys if you want, if I gotta pick a landmark that we both know, if we’re gonna go to the Yellowstone, right, so you’re insured. We’re gonna go to Yellowstone, and I’m looking on a map. My mission to you, as the leader to the subordinate is take me to Yellowstone, but I’m not going to dictate how you get me there. Right? But if you if I see on the map, that you’re going the wrong way, I’m going to kind of raise my hand and go, Hey, and the takeaway from all of this is people are encouraged to find solutions their own way. Maybe they’re introverts, maybe they’re extroverts, maybe they have this talent, maybe they have another talent. But what they should always have is the knowledge that the rank above them or the rank of two ranks above them supports them, and it’s their safety net, to enable them to get empowered, you know, and I say all this and it sounds great. But you know, in reality, it’s not we’re not perfect, right? I can think of so many often times sitting where I sit, it’s like, Oh, I wish I wish this was uniformly pushed through the organization. It’s not and but I’m going to keep trying because I think that’s the role of leadership is to set that beacon out there and go this is the direction we’re going. And you know, some we’re kind of dragging You can use screaming to this kind of new culture and many others are just like, Yeah, we like this and we want more of it.

Russel Lolacher
What are some red flags? I mean, you come into an organization, I mean, you were, you’ve been with this one organization for a very long time. And as you move up and get to, you know, I’m at the top now where I can make actual change. How do you know you need to make change?

Chris Hsiung
You know, I think I was very fortunate that the chief before me and the chief before him were both pretty progressive, right? So even talking 15 plus years ago, when I was beginning to get my first promotions, I was promoted with examples of progressive thinking, you know, I would always hear things in meetings like, okay, we’re not going to skate to where the, I’m gonna use a Canadian sports reference here. “We’re gonna skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been”. Okay, so I figured you would get that.

Russel Lolacher
You’re quoting Wayne Gretzky. I’m here for it.

Chris Hsiung
Okay. So, so that type of cultural leadership, right. And, and, you know, it enables that. And so I think I had the fortune of being raised in a leadership culture that was more open to change. But then if I dial it back and look at the industry, like if I would go to a conference, that was an international conference of police, they have International Association of Chiefs of Police, right, then I started to realize that, you know, some of the things we’re doing in Mountain View are a little bit on the edge, or the bleeding edge, or, you know, and that actually is what kind of started our journey down speaking a lot of conferences is we figured out that a lot of things we try are like, oh, you know, you get a lot of people going, we like that, we want more of that.

Russel Lolacher
And how do you know it’s working?

Chris Hsiung
You know, it’s validation, I will tell you, when you’re at the front edge of something, it’s a very terrifying feeling, because you don’t have anything to compare it against. And you don’t know, you know, I’m not a big data guy. And so, I kind of go more by like, anecdotally, like looking around going does this work, right. And so for us, a lot of it was our approach to social media, where 10 years ago, when we jumped into this concept, like using sense of humor, or changing our voice and tone to not sound like government was so foreign back then. And then as we shared that, and we shared, what we saw, were communities latching on and wanting more of that. And then you start to see it replicated by the people that you’re kind of sharing this with, and you go to different conferences, right, and you talk about it more and more, and you’re like, that’s validation that we are on to something. Now, I’m not here to say we invented that, I’m just saying that, you know, we’re, we had the right tools in place to allow me to make those mistakes, because my boss is at the time, let me and create that environment, right. So to me, it’s a lot of different things that that kind of make that perfect recipe for innovation.

Russel Lolacher
This is definitely about employees. So I want to I want to talk about what you’re talking about, which is the outreach, the digital digital engagement. Because what I don’t think a lot of people realize, and I speak on this a bit, too, is the benefit to employees, by being so forward by being so engaging by seeing the value of their work in a public sphere. The public sees it from the outside looking in going, Oh, good, they’re engaging, they’re customer centric. But there’s that internal validation that people don’t see and don’t understand that it actually helps your culture by feeling like what you do matters.

Chris Hsiung
Yeah, the most interesting kind of takeaway, and I’ve had before as you start to think, like, why do we as management saying that the employees don’t see the things that we’re broadcasting externally to our stakeholders? Right? It’s like, do we think that they’re just blind to it? No. And as I started to watch for that, I would see a lot of the content that we would put out, be liked or shared by employees or by stakeholders in the community, right. And so, to me, it’s that that’s what kind of took us down the road of that internal communications newsletter is that the same tools that we think about when we want, you know, engagement with the community or internally as well, you can, you know, create culture, you can create little communities within your organization through digital tools by employing the exact same approaches, right, because if you put boring content internally, guess what, you’re gonna have no engagement. No followers, no one’s hitting like or share, right?

Russel Lolacher
I once had someone at a conference asked me like, how quickly can my podcast become more, you know, popular and more listeners? How fast does it happen? Does it happen right away? My first question was, how good is your podcast? It’s not about a bubbler. It’s the quality of the content. It’s the story you’re trying to tell. How have you seen it benefit your organization? Because I mean, I, I get it from a public standpoint, but I’m from that employee subcultures how have you seen it benefit?

Chris Hsiung
You know, it’s it’s interesting like giving methods of appreciation to employees, right, you could You can write them a memo and embarrass them in front of their co workers and say, oh, so and so did great, right. And most people, at least in in policing culture is like, they’re kind of almost embarrassed if you write a story about them, and brag about them online about the great work that they do, and that same employee sees their family members and their friends going, Wow, that’s fantastic. This is awesome. And they’re liking and sharing. They’re never, they’re not going to admit it. But you know, that makes them feel good that that is validation. Because, you know, especially in our line of work, they do, no one that goes into police work, really wants the credit or the the attention, they just want to know they’re making a difference. And that right, there is just an example of, they’re making a difference. And now the family members that they don’t typically go home and share this with are seeing that as well.

Russel Lolacher
Where does empowerment fit into all this? Because we’re talking about your communications, and the newsletter and so forth. But you can’t be the only person communicating within the organization to help with that culture. How do you work empowerment to do it?

Chris Hsiung
So another thing that we started was an internal communications committee, right. And this is drawn from across a cross section of the organization. And it’s not the first time we’ve done something like this during COVID, we actually created an innovation team, same ground rules, no rank, everyone’s got ideas, but you know that the solution to COVID is somewhere in this group. So this internal communications team is just that it’s made up of people from across the organization, there’s no rank, there’s, in fact, the first few iterations of people that came on my only challenge to them as the chief was Okay, for our next meeting, I need you to go bring two to three people each kicking and screaming if you have to, because I want to hear from different segments, I don’t want to just hear from the ones who have raised their hands and say, I want to, you know, talk to you, right. So it’s interesting, because, you know, you bring them in, figuratively kicking and screaming, but you’re gonna hear their part of the world their visit their lens that they see the organization through. And that is what’s always been missing, as things are filtered up officially through the official channels. But what I found is like, the more you uncover that the more there is that I realized, as a leader that I don’t know, you know, as a leader, you’re like, I have this control thing I need to know as much as I can to make the most the best decisions. But you know, that the employees, the staff, they hold all the info, but you just got to provide and break down the barriers that prevent that. And there’s not one thing that does it, if you’ve taken anything, so far from all these stories is, we’re like hitting it from all different angles and approaches to encourage as much communication up and down the chain as possible.

Russel Lolacher
One of the things I’m trying to hammer home, oh, hammer home a lot with my talking about employee engagement is that missing middle, I know, that gets used a lot with housing. But that 80-10-10 rule, which is 10% of the rockstars at the top and the 10% are the problem people at the bottom, get most of the attention from the organization from leadership. It’s the 80% in the middle that are doing their jobs that never get an opportunity to talk because they’re never pointed to because they don’t raise their hand. They’re just too busy doing their work. They’re setting their boundaries strongly. And it’s cracking that down. So I love the idea that you’re inviting people to this communication Council, but you’re also going now bring into people and hopefully their voices that you’re not hearing all the time.

Chris Hsiung
Yeah, it’s almost like a bad pyramid scheme for the right purpose.

Russel Lolacher
No Ponzi schemes in this communication council. We’re good! So why is this so hard? Because Chris, I mean, organizations are not great at internal communications, they almost think of it as an afterthought of the “Oh, yeah, we should. Oh, yeah. Can HR do that? Oh, I know, they’re doing 17 other things. But can they do that, too?” So just trying to understand why do you think it’s such a hard thing to do?

Chris Hsiung
You know, I think people only see the end product of a decision, they never really get visualization of how the widget is made in the widget factory. Right? And so I remember being a brand new promoted lieutenant, which for us is the first time you step into the management ranks. Pre lieutenant, I used to think, you know, I had the answer to everything. It’s very simple. And then that comes time for promotion. The first time as a lieutenant, you sit there and you listen to all the different nuances of what the department needs, short term, midterm, long term succession planning all those things, and you come out with a selection of promotions. Right? And then you’re like, that’s probably the best decision. And then the, that news goes out into the organization, the first thing you hear is what in the world are you guys thinking? Right? And so again, that was kind of a defining moment for me too. It’s like, you know, with personnel issues, you can never really open it up totally transparently. But for everything else, you probably can’t so like one of the things we do is our command staff meetings, which is our leadership team, typically open into management. We open them up now to line level supervisors, especially with Zoom, they can zoom in and just listen, and even contribute to how decisions are made even benign stuff or, you know, to me, it’s like, why not take use of that? Technology? There’s nothing secret that we’re discussing. And my hope is this. If an officer sees a decision that was made, and they go, What in the world were they thinking? The hope is that the line level supervisor happened to zoom in that day, or stop and and go, Oh, yeah, I was there for that. No, no, this is what went into that, right, the informal information and context that gets added in. And then people will walk away kind of figuratively nodding their heads going, okay, that makes sense. And that instills more confidence that instills better communication, etc.

Russel Lolacher
It also is a demonstration of walking the walk when it comes to psychological safety, because there will be a lot of frontline staff and a lot of organizations that will not say anything, because their boss’s boss’s boss is on that call. And that might be a career limiting move. Right? So having a demonstration of that also, what I really like is, you’re demonstrating that it’s not scary to be at the leadership position. And for someone that’s brand new, or somebody that’s working their way up, you’re giving them a career path of look, this is what we do, you might be interested in doing this one day.

Chris Hsiung
Yeah. Yeah. And, and I’ve learned really early on, you have the model, even like, you know, I think the old school way of leadership is I make no mistakes. And I have all the information. I’m just a smart guy. I came in totally different than my very first leadership team, as a chief, the first thing I said was, Okay, folks, we’re going to make mistakes, I’m going to make mistakes, and we’re going to do it together. And then we’re going to pick each other up. And I’m gonna keep going, right? And so is it weird? Is it a hit on my ego, if I’m in a meeting, and I tell people, you know what, I messed up. Of course, I’m a human, I don’t like that feeling. But then again, now I realized that the burden of leadership is, is to actually proactively message that and push those concepts down the chain, because that models to the middle managers to the line level supervisors, that it’s actually empowering to your staff when you admit that you’re human. Because otherwise, this false image of perfection is not at not attainable. It’s just people get discouraged. And people don’t want to move through up through the chain.

Russel Lolacher
One of the best chats I ever talks ever heard from an executive was she was going through her career. And she kept talking about the job she applied for and didn’t get. And it was mind blowing to me, because up until that point in my career, your executive chats were always about, well, I did this and I’d experienced doing this. And I had experience doing this. And here I am. It was like they like you said the leadership was infallible, there was no job they didn’t get and didn’t succeed at. So for her to say that, after the fact, you would not believe the amount of people that ran up to her and goes, Oh, if I did this, and this, I could follow your career path.

Chris Hsiung
Yeah, when we have a promotion, and it’s about time for us to do it. Again, I’ll give a pre kind of here’s how to prepare yourself. And one of the first things I’ll say is, I think I’ve been told no on promotions more times, and I’ve been told yes. And that’s just the fact it’s not a career ladder, it’s a career jungle gym, and you’re gonna get knocked down and fall off the slide a few times, the real true test of character, and shows your true self is how you get back up, and what you learn from that. Right. And that’s, again, these different messages that we kind of try to scatter throughout the organization.

Russel Lolacher
Do you have a process in place? Because I mean, the way to do this, when it comes to building bridges is consistency. So I’m curious about how you go about being consistent.

Chris Hsiung
It’s probably more of in my head when any decision is made. One of the first templates I run through is who are the stakeholders? And what order are they told? Right. And in general, a very simplistic way is that employees should always be told first before externally there, you know, the community is like that the leadership team meetings I was telling you about our association, which is some people call them unions, but our association president always has a seat at that table. You know, any decisions that are made in my head, it’s like, okay, these three work groups are stakeholders. So let’s communicate with them first, before the written memo goes out in email. So if you take that kind of template, and you apply it throughout the organization, how any decision is made, it’s not perfect, but it does help avoid the situation when people are like, What in the world? Are they thinking? Or why am I the last one to find out right? But again, I think my mind is always trying to search for the next way. And I’ll give you another one. I don’t know if there’s a private sector equivalent, but I like to get in a car and drive around and patrol with the staff and just be out there. It gives me the visualization of what’s truly happening ground truth of what’s happening on the street, even down to the equipment. Oh man, this, this car has the technology sucks or it’s broken. Now I understand right? It’s those types of things. So I think that you know, The private sector equivalent could be, you know, just walking the hallways and doing the actual tasks that you’re calling your staff to do.

Russel Lolacher
What keeps you up at night when it comes to trying to break those barriers within your own organization? Because it’s not always easy. It’s a lot of effort. And you’re even admitting to the fact that it’s not perfect. Come on, it’s got to be perfect. Anyway, it’s not worth it. Right. So what what’s challenging you?

Chris Hsiung
I am a highly empathetic person, that’s my, my superhero skill, right is, is in a meeting, I can tell if someone is just doing a green screen or whatever. And the natural me wants everyone to buy in to whatever the mission is, and I want them to feel great about work, I want them to love being part of the Mountain View ped team. But what keeps me up is the knowledge that not everyone feels that way. And, and I just, you know, I just know too much about different segments at different workgroups, or different relational things. And I hear, you know, there’s always personnel issues that pop up, or you hear about someone kind of doing something not so wise, you know, it’s just those types of things. And you’re always striving to create the best work environment. I want people to have purpose, right and not just come to work because they’re punching a timecard. And so these are the things that you know, when I’m waking up and way too early, or, you know, my mind starts racing, it’s things like that.

Russel Lolacher
So my favorite question to always ask when people are going down a path of culture change and trying to enforce it is, what does success look like for you?

Chris Hsiung
I think when you start seeing people throughout the organization, talking and talking and living in themes that are consistent with the culture trying to build, right, it’s, it’s no longer just spouting off the the mantra, the mission statement or vision statement, but you see, their intentions, their motives are in line with where we’re trying to go. Right. And we’re trying, you know, are you it’s nebulous a little bit. But you know, and I approach this from a policing perspective, right? We have a national crisis, where, you know, the narrative of policing and all the bad examples typically come to people’s mind first, so I’m really trying to push against that and but it’s, uh, I don’t know that it ever ends. I don’t know if you’re familiar with, you know, like Simon Sinek’s Infinite Game, right. We’re an infinite game situation. We are not in a finite game. We’re never, this police department will and myself included will never stand up on dango. Well, we’re done. We finished it. We did good… beat the competition, not going to happen.

Russel Lolacher
You don’t win a relationship. You have to keep building and keep playing the game. No, I’m big fan of Simon Sinek. Great. Well, I have one more question to ask Chris, which is what’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work.

Chris Hsiung
Be vulnerable. You’d be surprised what happens when you drop your guard and you just are vulnerable. And this is right along the lines of Brene Brown’s book. But great things happen when you figure out that the person to your right and to your left are struggling just as much as you are and different levels of communication, closeness, team cohesion. A lot of great stuff comes out of that.

Russel Lolacher
That’s Chris Hsiung. He is the police chief of the Mountain View police department and a bit of a communications nerd. Thanks for being here, Chris.

Chris Hsiung
Thanks, Russel. It’s been a true honour.

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