One of my favorite podcasts is Finding Mastery with Michael Gervais. Michael Gervais is a sports psychologist who works with the Seattle Seahawks and has worked with top athletes and performers from a variety of disciplines. Gervais has some very interesting guests on his show and I really like his interviewing style and the questions he asks.
I recently listened to Gervais’ interview with Sam Darnold, the 3rdoverall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. I was very impressed with Sam Darnold’s leveled headed approach to his sport, his new career with the New York Jets and to life. One of the questions Michael Gervais asked him was, “What did your parents do right?”
Sam Darnold’s answer was, “They let me figure things out.” Not only is that a great insight for parents; it is a great insight for coaches and trainers. In order to develop competent and confident officers, deputies, troopers, constables and dispatchers you have to let them figure things out during training.
Competence and confidence in the real world requires the ability to solve problems and make decisions, sometimes in tense, uncertain, rapidly evolving and time pressured situations. If trainees have never been allowed to experience what Dr. Robert Bork from UCLA calls “desirable difficulties” in training and had to work through obstacles and challenges and figure things out on their own, he or she may not be able to do that effectively in the field where there are potentially very serious consequences.
As a trainer it is usually easier to always just give people the answers, show them the solutions and guide them step by step through every process. It is certainly easier for you. It is also easier for them, at the time. They will pass the test and everyone walks away feeling good about him or herself. That good feeling however, along with the illusion of competence is often shattered in the field when things do not go perfectly and there is no instructor there to guide the officer through the problem.
It would be a great compliment as a trainer if one of the people you had the privilege of training was asked, ”What did your trainers do right in the Academy?” and they said, “They let me figure things out.”
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