“The Closer” is a tv police drama centered around Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and her team of detectives dealing with high-profile murder investigations for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Chief Johnson is originally from Atlanta and was trained by the CIA.
She has a reputation of getting confessions from suspects that lead to convictions; she is a “closer.” Initially, her team of detectives didn’t like her because she was hired and put in command ahead of others they thought were more deserving. Her womanly quirky-ness combined with her Southern accent made them not take her seriously. Over 8 years and over 100 confessions, she proved just how serious she was. They grew to respect, revere and love her — and so did the viewers who tuned in from the start until last week’s series finale.
As a quirky woman with a eclectic twang of my own, I’ve always felt akin to and affinity for Brenda Leigh. I’m definitely going to miss The Closer — but I’m glad I get to enjoy the reruns in syndication. Here are the lessons HR can learn from this awesome character:
Listen. Brenda’s interview skills were top-notch. She asked direct, open-ended questions and allowed the person to answer fully, even when they sometimes rambled about something seemingly unrelated. She heard what people were saying — and what they were not saying — through their answers. Then she made connections and reached logical conclusions with all the information she gathered.
- HR must be expert listeners. We have to hear what people are saying about their co-workers, managers and the company as well as what they are not. We have to ask open questions that don’t infer or imply the answers we’re looking for.
Gather. Brenda and her team were great at gathering evidence for their cases. They surveyed the scene of each crime. They checked financial records. They checked telephone records. Computer files and web browser history. Travel history. Residential and job history. They reviewed and examined lots of data to add credence to their theories and ensure their conclusions could withstand scrutiny.
- HR needs to gather and use independent information to strengthen our assertions. We cannot just act on what managers or employees tell us without corroboration. We cannot hire people without thorough screening and background examinations. We cannot propose projects or organizational changes without anything to back it up. Metrics, statistics and analytics give us that — and so does getting out of our offices and spending time observing in the areas where the work is being done.
Delegate. Brenda’s team had a host of talents. She utilized the team to gather data based on their strengths. When necessary, she partnered with other agencies and departments to pool talents and resources to solve cases faster. She trusted her squad and the people she worked with to complete their tasks without supervision, be forthcoming with information and produce quality results. When someone failed or dawdled, she made her displeasure clear and held them accountable accordingly for the bottlenecks they caused to the process.
- HR can’t and shouldn’t do everything relating to “people” in our organizations. Unless we’re a company of 1 person, there are people who can complete and/or help with the work. We must be willing and able to direct and delegate others on how to handle issues, require them to report back and hold them accountable.
Still Brenda and her team weren’t without flaws. As much as I love the “Priority Homicide” team, their actions were a cautionary tale of what not to do in many ways.
Tomorrow, I’ll look at why HR should NOT be like Brenda and the gang from The Closer. Then I’ll answer the question Should HR Be More Like “The Closer” or the spinoff Major Crimes?