This week’s posts are my way of honoring one of my favorite shows on television — The Closer, which ended its 8-year run last week.

In case you’ve never watched, the show follows Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and her team of detectives as they solve high-profile murder cases for the LAPD. Because of her reputation for closing cases by getting suspects to fully confess to crimes, Brenda is known as a “closer.”

I think she’s a great example for HR and anyone responsible for managing people of how to get the job done! However, Brenda is also a great example of what NOT to do  … I know, I know. It’s just as hard for me to criticize her as it is for fans of the show to hear the criticisms. But keep reading.

Here’s why HR should NOT be like Brenda:

She didn’t develop her team. While Brenda was fantastic at utilizing strengths, she did not do a very good job at developing across disciplines. Did you ever see Lt. Tao do anything that wasn’t related to tech or forensics? Nope. And why was Det. Gabriel the only one ever assigned to research and review financial records? It wasn’t because they weren’t capable of more or different. It’s because they weren’t given the opportunity.

  • Specialities are fantastic and necessary. However, cross-training is still essential. Don’t let your team get stale or stagnant by failing to create opportunities for them to learn new, different things.

She was self-centered. While Brenda always kept the focus on the work, she was very inflexible with others. She wanted what she wanted, when she wanted and how she wanted — and she was unwilling to accept anything else. While most would say that is admirable (and entertaining), it often made working with her difficult. She wasn’t truly interested in partnering or cooperating unless the benefits to her outweighed the benefits to the other party.

  • It cannot be “my way or the highway” all day, everyday if you want to cultivate a healthy workplace and healthy working relationships. Compromise, consideration and compassion are required — and from the start, not just after bullying through an issue has failed. Figure out how to work well with others without losing yourself, sooner rather than later.

She was manipulative. While Brenda made it a point to work across departments and agencies to gain information and close cases faster, she wasn’t always sincere in her efforts. She would often use others to gain the information needed then cut them out or cut them off so she could close the case and get the credit on her own. Her husband worked for the FBI and she steam-rolled him several times for her own gain. She always apologized and felt badly for it … but not badly enough to not do it again.

  • Pooling resources is always a good idea. It gives access to more information and more ideas. It enables the work to be done faster and more thoroughly. Never lose sight of that as the goal. If you’re going to share resources, be prepared and willing to share accolades as well.

She was insubordinate. While Brenda was focused, efficient and commanding in her role as Deputy Chief, she was rarely deferential. She was known to ignore and downright disregard orders from her superiors. She frowned on rules and procedures and the politics associated with her job. That approach eventually sent her on a trajectory that changed her career, her life and the lives of the people closest to her. Arguably, it stifled her growth and advancement — and that of those around her.

  • Rules and procedures were not meant to be broken — they were meant to be followed. And politics, while not always fun or helpful or necessary, are a reality. Learn to be successful and accomplish your goals with the parameter and spirit of the rules in mind. Know how to lead — but also know when to follow. You can’t help anyone if your need to be “right” or “superior” marginalizes you or (worst case) gets you fired.

Don’t misunderstand. Even with all her faults and flaws, I still love my Brenda Leigh! However, after years of these kinds of behaviors, it is understandable why it was time for her and for the LAPD to make changes. So Brenda resigned her job and moved on. Her “Priority Homicide” team has been renamed “Major Crimes” — and they are continuing without her under new command … The spinoff show, entitled Major Crimes, is clearly different!

So the final post in this series is going to attempt to answer the question: Is Major Crimes better than The Closer? Stay tuned.


In case you missed it, read Part 1 of this series — Be Like Brenda.