In the policing profession some agencies have FTOs (Field Training Officers) or PTOs (Police Training Officers) for officers who have just graduated from the academy. The job of the FTO / PTO should be to train, coach and mentor the new officers to help them assimilate into the organization, learn how to apply the theory from the academy to the real world of policing and prepare them to be able to function as a solo officer. I say this “should” be the job of the FTO / PTO because that is not always the case. Not everyone is intentional and deliberate about selecting, training and continually investing in their FTOs / PTOs even though the FTO / PTO is one of the most influential leadership positions in their agency.
Do you put the “T” in the FTO / PTO and help them to become teachers, trainers, coaches, and mentors to new officers? Do you teach your FTOs about the importance of creating a sense of belonging for the new officers they are training, or do you still have the old school mentality that the FNGs are “lesser than” and “not real cops” simply because they are new?
We have FTOs / PTOs because we recognize that the street is a completely different world than the academy and if we want to help develop good, solid, professional policer officers we need to help coach them through this critical transition phase.
So why then do most agencies not have LTOs (Leadership Training Officers)? Ideally there would be LTOs for each promoted position, or at the very least for the first two promoted positions, starting with frontline supervisors. Instead, we assume that because someone is good in his or her current position then he or she will also be good at leading people in that position as soon as they get promoted. Many agencies compound the problem by waiting until someone has been promoted, and are already in their new position before they send them to leadership training. The LTO would serve as a mentor for newly promoted people to help them navigate the often-turbulent waters of leading people through the complexities of policing. What about your FTOs? Do you have FTOs for your FTOs, or do you just throw them into that role after taking a course? Being a good patrol officer does not mean you are automatically a good FTO.
A promotion or title does not make a person a leader; it puts them into a formal leadership position. Once a person gets promoted, they quickly discover that all the skills that made them a great candidate for promotion are now irrelevant, and they need to learn a whole new skillset. An LTO would be invaluable in helping develop people who are new to those leadership positions creating a positive ripple effect throughout the agency.
Leadership training should ideally begin at the pre-service academy level, be reinforced throughout the FTO / PTO phase, and then continually delivered throughout people’s careers. Some agencies are intentional and deliberate about creating and sustaining cultures of leading, many are not. Start with one rank, probably the frontline supervisors, and start to build the program form there. Make sure you include the non-sworn professional staff, not just the sworn members.
Once you have developed a sustainable and robust program at that level then look at how you can expand the program to other levels of the organization. The deliberate development of your people should be an organizational priority. This includes developing both emerging and promoted leaders in your organization. The cost of failing to do so is too high for us as a profession to continue to ignore this issue.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.