It’s no secret that most loss prevention professionals are passionate about conducting investigations. While different aspects appeal to different investigators, recognizing clues, pulling threads, chasing leads, and building metaphorical puzzles are among their favorite pastimes. Unfortunately, too many LP professionals don’t apply their investigation skills outside the LP office.
The same skills, perspectives, and techniques that generate investigative success can propel LP professionals throughout their career or even into other careers. In many ways investigators are problem solvers whose perspectives and inquiring minds allow them to spot patterns and irregularities others miss, while making sense of potentially complex situations.
The ability to solve problems and simplify complex situations should create competitive advantages for LP professionals as they pursue new career opportunities. Below are five investigative skills that drive career development opportunities:
Prioritize outcomes. Focus on the outcomes that need to be achieved before getting lost in the roadblocks that may impede your efforts and the actions necessary to accomplish your objectives. Develop a big-picture understanding of how your role impacts the greater LP mission and, in turn, how the LP mission impacts the success of the organization. Then align your actions and priorities with this understanding to ensure you are contributing to these larger goals and not becoming distracted by the tactical, daily responsibilities of your role.
Educate yourself. Develop your business acumen beyond your current job. If your time and budget allow, enroll in business classes or study for relevant professional certifications. Read books, listen to podcasts, and consume other resources that enhance your ability to contribute to the larger business. At the very least, work to schedule meetings with executives inside and outside of LP to learn from their experiences, understand their priorities, and determine how various business units support each other.
Ask thought-provoking questions. Leverage your investigative mindset to make people feel better about sharing sensitive information and tease out the intelligence other leaders either struggle to obtain or are unaware they need to obtain. The right questions can help leaders save face and protect their images while they explain the decision-making process, goals, and alternatives they considered. Make employees feel valued by asking for their input in unexpected and novel ways. Add value to systems and processes by inquiring about the strategic value of specific components or timelines. Improve the quality of your team’s decision-making by increasing the quality of the questions asked during the deliberation process.
Recognize clues others miss. When people attempt to solve problems, they often mistake what is focal for what is causal—it’s the center of attention so it must be the most important—and default to the easiest potential solutions. When you are in meetings listen for hidden values, layered opportunities, and unrecognized trends. While everyone else is looking for the quickest way to solve the surface problem, search for potential long-term solutions to the underlying issues contributing to multiple issues.
Solve problems for people. Demonstrate your value to the organization by using your expertise to generate solutions for problems that impact the company beyond your current role. Determine the larger issues and opportunities the LP department is facing and contribute sound, well-researched, field-tested solutions. Engage with sales and operations leaders to learn what issues they are tackling. Investigate these issues, facilitate conversations with appropriate employees, survey relevant data, and approach these leaders with solutions they may have overlooked.
Investigators are curious and resourceful problem solvers. Feed your curiosity in as many ways as you can. Find new applications for your current skills and continue to expand the resources you have at your disposal. Become the problem solver leaders can depend on. Leaders love working with solution-oriented individuals. LP professionals begin developing key leadership skills early in their careers. The most successful LP professionals continuously challenge themselves to find new opportunities to apply, refine, and develop these skills.