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The Institutional Crisis Intervention Team (ICIT) is a premium group of correctional officers in Northern Ontario that take their job seriously. They are a prison’s version of SWAT with a captain who holds a fourth degree black belt and the rest of them are, quite honestly, some seriously mean dudes. They undergo vigorous physical fitness testing, weapons training and practice with case-based scenarios. They take part in team building exercises and are called upon to break up fights, brawls, disturbances and emergencies within regional prisons.
There is an honour that comes with ICIT, a concept that teaches us something about building great teams: the initiation. One of the rules of ICIT says that you cannot carry pepper spray until you are sprayed yourself. The principle is that you need to empathetically understand what it is like to be sprayed. ICIT understands first-hand what is it like to have your eyes burn so badly that you want to claw them out while your face intensely flushes and you sweat like a volcano. They appreciate the feeling of being at the mercy of those around you to prevent you from walking into a wall while you suffer. The concept teaches ICIT to respect the weapon and prevent its inappropriate use. This has become a rite of passage of ICIT, initiating you into the team of soldiers.
The initiation within ICIT is analogous to hiring internally. With the right succession plan, we initiate our less experienced personnel to our organization’s culture and systems. They learn from us, they teach us and everyone gets stronger. This makes them more powerful than most entering from an external source. Internal hires underwent some pepper spray and survived. They belong. This gives them confidence and promotes an atmosphere of hard work and dedication. Among our pharmacy teams, some great front shop staff become pharmacy assistants and some great assistants become technicians. By the time people become leaders, they know what it is like in other positions.
Contrasting this concept with the external hiring model, where immediate skill is brought in instead of growing our own, serious disadvantages are apparent. Recruiting someone without proper initiation means unlearning bad habits and undergoing a storming period of fitting in with others while assessing and learning about culture. The external hire feels they need to prove themselves whereas the internal hire has already found their sweet spot.
Build plans that initiate internally whenever possible. Spray pepper spray and welcome them up the ladder!
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