10 Lessons from Special-Ops That Could Help Investigators

Posted on April 3, 2020 by Dean Benard

10 Lessons from Special-Ops That Could Help Investigators

By Dean Benard

Back in 2014 I saw a great article from Jeff Boss in Entrepreneur Magazine titled “10 Lessons from Special-Ops That Could Help Your Business Win”. I really liked it and I thought, “Hmmm, these lessons apply to investigations too.” So below is my adaptation of how investigators can learn some lessons from Special-Ops. Many thanks to Jeff Boss for the concept. Oh by the way, I first published the article in 2014 but the concepts apply as much today as they did then.

  1. Do sweat the small stuff – The details often tell the story in an investigation and giving them the attention they deserve can mean the difference between a successful investigation that pursues all angles and uncovers the truth, and an investigation that misses the mark entirely.
  2. When in doubt, KISS – For years I have been saying to investigators, “keep it simple, you are smart so don’t try to look smarter”. “Keeping It Sweet & Simple” makes your work understandable, clear, and concise. This is particularly important in investigative report writing,
  1. Change your route – Don’t fall into a routine where you fall into a predictable pattern. In Special-Ops settings this can give the bad guys an opportunity to attack. When I was a police officer I developed a habit of taking various routes home from work to avoid being predictable. In an investigative setting “changing your route” (i.e. your approach) helps you avoid getting stale. Think of every investigation as a new opportunity with a potentially new approach or options. Cookie cutter processes eventually fail so be aware of this and change your route.
  1. Adapt for purpose – Consider your purpose and objective for each new investigation. Ask yourself what the potential range of outcomes might be and what investigative strategies will work best and fit the needs of the individual clients you serve.
  1. Build your legacy Your legacy is tied directly to your reputation and integrity. It has been said, “It can take years to build your reputation and a moment to destroy it.” As an investigator your reputation is on the line every day, and you, as well as your work product, will be judged and scrutinized frequently by everyone you deal with. If you lead a group of investigators you must pay attention to their work by praising the outstanding performances and building on the weak ones. It is your responsibility to protect your reputation and by doing so you will build a legacy that you can be proud of.
  1. Spike the market – To quote Jeff Boss, “Throughout history, there exists prolonged periods of normalcy occasionally punctuated by drastic changes that create new trends.” These new trends eventually become the new standard. The practice of investigations is full of new and innovative approaches. You can be a creator and leader in this area or just embrace the changes, but either way you want to be on the leading edge.
  1. Decentralize – Over the last fifteen years in business I have maintained that my team must understand the bigger landscape. The most functional teams are not kept in the dark but rather, information is shared with the team and their opinion is requested and taken seriously. The best leaders surround themselves with people who possess skills they don’t, which results is a team with a greater pool of talent and better capacity to perform at the highest level.
  1. Work hard, play hard – Investigations can be draining work. Let’s be honest, many days are spent dealing with people who would rather not deal with you. Hours can be long and irregular and the pressure to perform on others’ timelines can create stress. It is important to find coping mechanisms to release that stress. Hobbies, sports, family events, whatever works for you, do it!
  1. Rehearse – If your investigation is interview based, surveillance based, involves undercover operations or search warrants, it is key to plan and rehearse what you will do. Try to anticipate what you may encounter and be prepared to have a solution.
  1. Surround yourself with the best – I touched on this already but at the risk of sounding like a Star Trek groupie (which I am certainly not!); I have often suggested that the “Star Trek approach to leadership” works best. When Captains Kirk, Picard or Janeway are faced with a dilemma, what do they do? They meet with their team, who are all accomplished in their own right, and who all approach issues from a different perspective. They are asked for their thoughts, which are often contradictory to the Captain and each other. However, through this approach, the Captain determines the best course of action, and as a result prevails!

Thanks again to Jeff Boss for this interesting concept that I so opportunistically adapted. If you are interested in reading Jeff’s article you can find it here https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235010

In addition to providing investigation, mediation, and coaching services, Benard + Associates also provides comprehensive courses on all aspects of investigations. We will customize courses for your organization. For more information please contact us by clicking here


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