Stephen Gower at ILEETA: Celebrating roadkill and butterflies
Looking a the five As, four tips, five rooms, and one word game that can help you to boost your survival training savvy
If you were given the word “roadkill,” could you develop a kick-in-the-butt roll call reminder? Given the words “rotten banana,” or “silly putty,” or “cold coffee,” or “hangnail,” or “septic tank,” what would you create?
That was the challenge posed by public speaking guru Stephen Gower at the recent ILEETA annual training conference in a class that proved to be as quirky as its title: “Celebrate the Butterflies.”
Gower’s presentation was intended to help police trainers be more comfortable — by quelling butterflies in their stomach — as well as be more creative and effective in their group instruction. One of his interactive exercises has memorable officer survival potential.
He divided the audience into twos and then arbitrarily assigned each pair an off-the-wall word or two around which they were to compose and present a brief but meaningful learning moment. My partner — Deputy Jaime Anderson of the Washington County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Office — and I drew “roadkill.”
Think of the teaching points you can get across by having your trainees conjure the image of a blood-and-guts highway splatter and reflect on the mindset of the victim critter as it headed toward its fatal encounter!
Certainly there’s nothing new about these survival principles, but presented in Gower’s imaginative exercise format their importance can be freshly underscored, as can other basics when you play off of other core words.
However long your lesson turns out to be, Gower recommends that you conclude it with a pithy summation that “nails it.” And that’s possible here, too: “Roadkill — Dead Wrong!”
Whatever word or phrase you choose to build a lesson on, you can encourage your officers to use it as a reinforcement trigger anytime they encounter it for real. What committed officers who have heard your interpretation of roadkill, for example, are going to see a mangled carcass on their beat again and not be reminded of the life-saving considerations that they ought to be thinking about on a daily basis? And if you task your trainees to themselves come up with parables based on unlikely words, you’ll embed the memories even more deeply.
Gower, who has made more than 5,000 professional speaking engagements spanning 42 years, told the group he had never addressed a law enforcement audience until seven years ago. Now more than 90 percent of his appearances are before police. He has written a book called “Lessons Learned from the Nation’s Top Cops,” and he’ll be appearing at the annual IACP conference this fall in Orlando, Fla., talking about “Wounded Leaders.”
In his ILEETA presentation, Gower offered reassuring counsel to trainers who are nervous about the speaking demands of their training sessions. Despite his extensive experience, “I am always nervous,” he said. “You can’t kill or ignore nervous energy. Instead, see if you can turn it around so it works for you rather than against you.”
To make your butterflies work for you, Gower suggests four tips:
You should move through what Gower calls the “five rooms” during any training session:
Gower recommends faithfully tending to the “five As” to strengthen your abilities as a trainer:
Stephen Gower, the Georgia-based author of more than 20 books, specializes in leadership training and team building. He can be reached at 800-242-7404 or 706-244-1906 or via email at: email@example.com.
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