Selection of fellow team members:
First off, let me say I'm a police commander, and we
have a SWAT team on premises. One of the criteria that is used for
member selection is that the team meets behind closed doors and votes
the candidate on the team. They say that the criteria is job performance
etc, but behind closed doors who knows? My fear is that it becomes a
popularity contest and without a open forum it is impossible to tell. I
distinctly remember my instructor in my team building class telling me
that criteria not withstanding most people rise to the performance
standards of the team regardless so most entrance standards are
meaningless. I guess my questions are twofold, is a open forum for this
team selection the best idea? and do in fact most people rise to the
occasion once joining a team, in other words are all these criteria
necessary? Any help you could offer would be great. Rick, (Illinois)
Nice to hear from you. You pose a couple of interesting questions.
In general I agree with thecnotion that people tend to rise to meet the
expectations of the team. Peer pressure is a powerful force...ability and
aptitude notwithstanding. That is: No matter what the team's
expectations of me, as a 55 year old who runs
two miles in 24 minutes, I'm not going to rise to the level of NFL, NBA,
etc. player. So there would have to be minimum standards of physical
ability, weapons proficiency, judgement vrs. reaction time, etc. Even
though you didn't mention it, I'm pretty certain that all
the swat team meet those criteria.
Then there's the question of the basis on which the SWAT team members make
their decisions as to who will be allowed on the team and who will not be
allowed on. The first question that comes to my mind would be racial,
ethnic, gender bias. Maybe that is not an issue in this case.
I would hope not. But even if it was an issue, I think I would
fight to allow the team to continue the current practice. Here, I hasten
add that a rational person wouldn't select a less qualified, trustworthy
candidate for a SWAT team because of bias. When your own life depends on
the capabilities of the other members of your team you should care very
little about anything other than how good those other team members are. I
think we saw that in Viet Nam with the integrated combat platoons, where
black and white got very tight while in the Zone but once back to USA no
longer stayed in touch or wanted to be friends.
More important factors for inclusion on the team is the ability of the
candidate to achieve a high level of trust with the other team members.
(Here I have to make the assumption that all candidates get a good chance to
train with the current SWAT team for a period of time before the selection
is made). From your vantage point, choices could look like a popularity
contest. I believe that those choices are based on a number of subtle
criteria that add up to: "Can I count on this person to: Do
Lastly, keep in mind the fact that teams that select their team members will
work very hard to make those choices good ones. They'll have more
with the new member and will give them more time in sharing experiences,
etc. than you'll see when you "assign" someone to the
team. I almost always
recommend that people be voted onto existing teams. Even if the choice is
partially based on popularity, what the team is saying is they are willing
to back-up that team member and live with the risk of accepting a lesser
qualified team member. It's their lives that are on the line...Why not
If there's some factor I missed, and the concern persists, why not meet
with the SWAT team and ask them what they thing the pros and cons of team
selection are? Maybe they would rather not make the choice.
Bottom Line: I would allow the practice, assuming candidates train with
team before selection time.