Last week I wrote a post on the concept that stress is not the key to effective training, context is king. That post generated a lot of discussion and sharing of stories of inappropriate training being delivered under the guise of “stress inoculation training”. The question is how do we fix the issues with training? There are multiple elements to this and over the next couple of weeks I will share some of my thoughts on the topic. I certainly do not have all the answers, but I do have lots of questions as well as some thoughts and opinions on the topic.
First we need to understand the impact of training, starting with the Academy. I recently read the book The Tao of Sport: Reflecting on Purpose, Passion, and Growth from a Hotbed of High Performance by Duff Gibson in preparation for an interview with Duff for The Excellence in Training Academy. Duff is a former World Champion and Olympic Gold medal winner in the sport of skeleton, and elite level coach, and is also a Captain with the Calgary Fire Department. Read the below except from the book The Tao of Sport and when you do, substitute the word ‘training’ for the word ‘sport’.
“Sport has the capacity to be a very powerful force in the world, but to an individual at any given moment in time, it can be either good or bad. It’s not inherently positive. It’s up to those who lead to make it so. That’s why it’s critically important to take the time to consider the purpose of sport and the experience an individual or an organization wants to inspire. It’s a tremendous responsibility to have such sway in the lives of young people when the repercussions, good or bad, can be felt for decades. That’s one of my hopes for this book—to get parents, coaches, athletes, and organizations to consider their purpose, and to then be purposeful in making it happen.”
We need to understand the long-term impact; positive or negative, training can have on people in the profession. For many new law enforcement professionals the academy is their first exposure to the world of law enforcement and law enforcement training. Based on their experience in the academy it can create a love of training, learning and growing or it can create negative associations to training that can carry on throughout their career. I have heard countless trainers over the years share their frustrations and challenges in trying to overcome training scars created by poor academy and in-service training. I have also heard countless officers talk about their negative experience in the academy and the long-term impact it had on them.
If the environment in the academy is one where the recruit is subjected to constant screaming, yelling and punishment one of the things they learn is that they have to take abuse from people in authority in the profession. Some of the recruits see it as a game, figure out how to “play the game” to get through the academy, and are usually fine once they are on the street. Others learn to be subservient. They learn they are not allowed to speak up or make decisions. Some learn to question their own abilities. Others learn that once they are in a position of authority they can treat people the same way. They tend to generate a number of citizen complaints for agencies. Those who decide to become trainers themselves too often carry on “the tradition”, usually ratcheting it up a bit.
Recruits who have been embarrassed, demeaned, and belittled in training can develop an aversion to training that can last through their entire career. Training scars can be created when recruits are intentionally and continually set up to fail in poorly designed scenarios and then are subjected to poorly run debriefs. Recruits who are thrown into confrontation drills when nothing they do works and the instructors, who are also the role players, simply beat the crap out of them learn that the skills and techniques they were taught are useless. Some also learn to fear, despise and distrust the instructors.
Trainers who still run “kill a recruit day” drills at the academy (Yes, sadly these still go on.) fail to understand the potential long-term negative programming at the subconscious level and the training scars they may be creating.
The academy should be a place where people new to the profession learn the importance of training the mind, body and craft. They should learn the importance of developing a growth mindset and striving throughout their careers to make continual incremental improvements. They should learn how to learn and train based on the research and evidence. They should learn how to work out in short time blocks, in limited space with limited equipment so they can continue to strive to be fit to be useful throughout their careers. They should learn the importance of sleep to learning and overall wellness. They should learn to view training as a challenge to be embraced, not a threat to be avoided. They should learn that trainers are coaches and leaders committed to helping them be their best and to develop their competence and confidence. They should learn that being a trainer is a specialty area within the law enforcement profession that attracts professionals committed to their own growth and development and to the continual improvement of the profession and the heroic men and women in the profession.
What they are learning in your academy?
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Providing practical leadership training.