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SIO Corner: Teambuilding

This week we look at teambuilding and motivation, two of the ‘softer’ skills that are so essential in managing and getting the best out of a Major Investigation Team.

In this series we look at various aspects of life as an SIO. This includes the necessary skill sets for the successful SIO, the management of serious crime investigation and specific elements of investigative practice from initial response through crime scene examination and investigative strategies to dealing with suspects and the media. The articles are excerpts from the 2nd edition of Blackstone's, the 'Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook', written by two highly experienced SIOs (see 'About the Authors' at the end of the article).


A key leadership function is for an SIO to build their team into an efficient and effective working group. Professor John Adair is internationally acknowledged in the field of management and leadership development and sets the scene by describing how teambuilding consists of three overlapping needs:


  1. Task need
  2. Team maintenance needs
  3. Individual needs

Individual tasks must be completed and will involve frustration and low morale if those who have the task to complete are prevented from or unable to complete it. Team maintenance needs are also important because group cohesiveness is essential under the ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ principle. Individual needs are also key and include psychological and physical needs such as reward and recognition, a sense of doing something worthwhile, job satisfaction, and status.

All three elements are mutually interdependent, ie achieving the task builds the team and satisfies individuals; if team maintenance fails because the team lacks cohesiveness, performance on the task will be impaired and individual satisfaction is reduced; finally, if individual needs are not met, the team will lack cohesiveness and performance of the task will be affected ( J Adair, The Best of Adair on Leadership and Management (Thorogood, 2008).

The effectiveness of a team needs to be constantly monitored and this can be done through essential management functions such as evaluating the standard of work being returned, speaking to individuals and listening to feedback, checking at briefings to ensure that every individual knows and understands what their role is, what is expected of them, and what the SIO’s objectives for the investigation are. It is important to remember the core role that briefings and de-briefings play in the management of an investigation, where communicating (ie speaking and listening) is crucial to get right and should cover the three main issues of task, team, and individual needs (see also Chapter 7).


A key element for holding any team together is motivation. In simple terms it is the amount of effort staff are willing to put into their work, and motivated staff are always more productive - fact. The inverse also holds true.

Increasing demands are often required on finite resources. Therefore the SIO must get their team to perform to a higher standard than available resources would normally allow. They have to generate a strong sense of enthusiasm and energy for the important task ahead and sometimes make the most of what is available by maximizing the potential of all available resources.
One way to motivate is for the SIO and management team to demonstrate openness (unless the issues are too sensitive - if so, record in a separate and secure policy file). Explaining policy, objectives, ideas, and thinking is preferable to 'management behind closed doors', which creates mistrust and discontent. Gone are the days of blind obedience; whereas a more inclusive approach will engender a stronger team spirit. The SIO and their management team should strive to create an atmosphere of trust, mutual respect (ie between the SIO, management and their team), and commitment.
Allowing people to encounter new challenges is a useful stimulant and raises self-esteem. Enabling staff to demonstrate their qualities and skills is what makes an enquiry attractive, interesting, and fulfilling. It is important to facilitate development by providing opportunities and responsibilities for tackling new challenges, remembering that it is important to keep an eye on what they are doing.

About the Authors: Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a CID officer with Greater Manchester Police for over 31 years until his retirement in 2009. During his time as an SIO, he led a number of high profile investigations including operations into gangland violence at Moss Side, the Bolton murder of a teenage girl in 2002, and the Denton strangling case. He was a trained assessor for promotion and a qualified Authorising Officer under RIPA. Tony received 14 commendations and a first-class BSc Honours degree in social sciences and a Diploma in Social Policy & Criminology from the Open University. Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit. With over 29 years in CID at all ranks Andy received the Homicide Working Group National Award for his Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Homicide in November 2006.

To see more details about the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook, or to purchase a copy, click here.

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