Many trainers are familiar with the old adage, “You are never a prophet in your own land.” Jesus himself testified that, “a prophet hath no honor in his own country.”
Translated: a stranger would have more belief in you than your own family because they have known you since birth. Jesus couldn't teach His own family because their idea of a King was totally different from what Jesus taught. They thought that His teachings had nothing to do with running a kingdom.
No matter how much you know or how important people believe you are outside of your kingdom, you will always just be a regular old ‘Joe Blow’ to those who are nearest you. Can you handle being unimportant at your agency if you have appropriate outside outlets?
Never Outshine the Master
The book, The 48 Laws of Power states in law number one: “Never outshine the master.”
“Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite — inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.”
Can you be their “Yes” man?
Where am I going with this? I suppose that I am venting as much as letting you know that “YOU” are not alone. It’s probably obvious to any trainer who has been fighting the fight for any length of time.
I have always been very trusting of individuals around me who have appeared to share the same goal. I say “appeared” because in the beginning we all come together out of a common goal or idea.
Sooner or later, someone gets hurt by another’s success, ability, or place in the group and then for that person, a new goal forms — the cessation of any product that continues to lead toward success for the group. Sound familiar?
The King of Fools
Trainers themselves fall into the same mindset as their supervisors at times. They want to run their training kingdom without interference from supervisors above or from influences outside. Many feel that their agency is self sufficient when it comes to training trainers.
If you limit training to what you have always done, how do you grow? If your training cadre is managed by an individual who does not like to be challenged, what type of trainers will he surround himself with? Another saying comes to mind, “Surround yourself with idiots and you become the King of Fools. Surround yourself with excellence and it will rub off on you.”
Some wish to be King so bad that they would prefer to be the King of Fools.
If, as a training supervisor, I do not allow my instructors to go out and be externally influenced, I will never have to worry about being questioned or told that we can be doing better or that what we have been doing may be wrong.
A true leader, however, would prefer to be told what goes on in the world so that he can make a sound decision as to his future progress and endeavors. Ultimately those we train benefit from a well-trained and -educated training staff.
Conflict and Courageous Conversations
If all you ever do is what you have always done, you will never get more than what you already have. Few things anger me more than someone answering a “why” question with, “Because we’ve always done it this way.”
There is no learning or higher understanding gleaned from that response. If you are a person who offers that as an answer (or accepts that as an answer), you need to step back and rethink what you are doing in your position.
I know many trainers who are considered experts and are well respected across the nation in fields of use of force, firearms and defensive tactics (many of whom are authors for a host of respected publications, books, and columns here PoliceOne).
The little-known fact about all of these highly-respected trainers is that they are not (or were not) in good graces with their agencies. Not prophets in their own land! They were (or are being) run off. Certainly not being nurtured for their initiative, hard work, or willingness to create a high standard and then train others to that standard. Can you imagine?
You see, these are the men and women who were either never brought into training or were brought in and then removed. They are the individuals who either wanted to (or attempted to) propel training to the next level, change it up or think outside the box.
They are the ones who dared to ask the “why” questions and were not satisfied with the standard response. They continued to ask the “why” questions and were either removed for their insubordinate behavior or were ignored for so long that they finally tired and left of their own accord.
As a supervisor and trainer for many years, I have had many questions asked of my practices or methods. If I am unable to answer any of those questions with an educated or well researched response, it is my duty to hear the co-instructor or students rational for the question and their subsequent thought process as to the answer.
Sometimes we argue over ideas or suggestions. When egos do not get in the way, such conflict can bring compromise and resolution — greater learning and understanding for all involved.
Egos will hold back true progress for reasons only understood by the animal brain. Egos can mean the difference between achieving the original, common goal — or abandoning it. All too often, the goal is abandoned or it turns a group from working together to individually pursuing an objective (or worse, more than one).
Conflict and resolution can help us grow as operators, trainers, and supervisors of individuals and teams. Unfortunately some folks are unwilling to have these courageous conversations and choose to either avoid conflict or to disengage from the entire objective.
Those options are destructive to the group and to the individual. Anyone who continually runs from conflict will never truly grow. Anyone who remains in the team and yet does not voice their opposition will only hold the team back by failing to carry their fair share. How do you carry your share of a load you do not believe in?
There are hard questions to ask yourself as you begin to take on the beast of training. What am I doing this for? What do I hope to gain? Can I hold true to myself and what I know is right?
Will I allow myself to be part of a program that is doing disservice to my officers? Will I attempt to do the right thing even at risk of my own detriment? Where do you go when you find you can’t do the job you wanted to do in the land you are working in?
Tough questions with tough answers.
About the author
Chris Cerino, who has served with Medina (Ohio) Police Department, Federal Air Marshals, and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, is a nationally-known firearms instructor who has been training law enforcement officers and military for more than 10 years. Chris has worked in law enforcement positions for municipal, county, state and federal agencies spanning 19 years. A majority of those years have been spent in tactical and firearms related fields. As the director of training for Chris Cerino Training Group, Cerino remains immersed in the firearms and tactics training culture. Teaching the importance of fundamentals in a “do as I do” fashion has enabled him to be a respected instructor across the country.