Grab 'Em By Their Hearts

Why should you care whether your training inspires officers? Because information without inspiration is wasted time. A lot of training is based on the myth that: Information + Information = Something of Value. It doesn't. Information + Information = Zilch, unless officers or recruits are inspired to respond, change, or do something with the information.

In traditional training, the trainer usually prepares by:

  1. Selecting (or being assigned) a topic.
  2. Gathering information about the topic.
  3. Presenting the information.

How do we train so officers and recruits change or do something in response? A lot of experts agree such change occurs on an emotional level. Corporate America certainly thinks so--look at advertising and marketing. They've even boiled the experts' agreement down to a slogan: Facts Tell, Feelings Sell. Companies get us to buy their services or products by connecting with our emotions. We need to do the same to get officers and recruits to buy into training. We can't just provide information to recruits and officers. We must also grab their hearts and inspire them. Inspirational trainers:

  1. Decide what they want recruits or officers to do.
  2. Gather the information they need to do it.
  3. Present the information so they are inspired to do it.

Step 1 puts the learner at the center of the training content. Step 2 is self-explanatory. But without Step 3, our training is just information of no value. The preceding three-step training formulas were adapted from Taking Center Stage--Masterful Public Speaking Using Acting Skills You Never Knew You Had, by Debbie Gottesman and Buzz Mauro.

The Science of Inspiration

About 25 years ago, Dr. Albert Morabian conducted a famous and oft-cited study at UCLA. He and his researchers concluded that communication is made up of:

  • 7% WHAT we say
  • 38% HOW we say it--tone of voice, pitch, modulation, etc., and
  • 55% NON-VERBAL STUFF--body language, gestures, demeanor.

93% of the communication in your training is not what you say--the information -- but how you say it: your voice and body language. This has incredible implications for trainers.

How do you prepare to train? Do you spend nearly all your time on what you're going to say? Get it perfect and you're 7% on the way to anything of value. That's why some of the most genius experts can make terrible trainers. How much time do you spend on how you're going to say what you're going to say? How much time do you spend preparing your body language, gestures and demeanor? And, what do you think impacts how you speak and use your body the most--your mind or your heart?

Find Your Passion

Inspirational trainers aren't necessarily the best spoken, the highest educated, the smartest or smoothest. But they all have one thing in common--heart, a passion for their officers and the training. You can have plenty of purpose for your training--measurable goals and objectives. And you can have mastered principles of your training--adult learning theory and instructional methodologies. But if you haven't found your passion, your training will remain pedestrian. It will lack the heart necessary to inspire others.

When you find your passion, express it. A recruit recently told me,

They won't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

Inspiration Takes Perspiration

Once the decision of what to say has been made, many trainers simply review their outline, PowerPoint, or other instructional materials. Plenty of trainers never even say the words out loud until they are in front of officers or recruits. But having something in your head and being able to do it in real life under real pressures are very different things. Isn't that the big push behind scenario-based training? Most of us have come to understand the critical importance of scenario-based training. But how many of us practice what we preach and scenario train for training itself?

What's the key to effective scenario-based training? Making it real. Inspirational trainers take the 93% of their training effectiveness--their voice and body language--and they make it real. They practice out loud where they will be training, or simulate a setting as close to it as possible. They practice in front of live listeners and solicit feedback, or they imagine their learners--they see their puzzled, bored, resentful, hostile, engaged or inspired faces--and they train out loud to each of them. They listen to how they sound. They become keenly aware of how they use their body.

This doesn't mean you have to rehearse an entire 40-hour training. But put some concentrated time into preparing that 93% of your training that will determine its value. Record a five-minute portion of your training to a recorder just like you intend to do it for real. Listen to the recording. Imagine you don't know the trainer. Then, write down your responses to the following questions:

  1. What part of the tape sounded best to you? Why?
  2. What part seemed most important to the speaker? Why?
  3. Did the speaker influence you? Why or why not?
  4. Were there parts you didn't understand? If so, what got in the way?
  5. Which of the following aptly describe the speaker?
Engaging Committed Boring Enthusiastic Bored Authoritative Pedantic Knowledgeable Shy Powerful Friendly Insincere
Sincere Incoherent Intelligent Condescending
Stiff Monotonous Direct Passionate

If you answer all the questions the way you hope the officers you train will, you're done. Otherwise, decide what parts of your vocal communication you'd like to improve and work on them.

As officers, you wouldn't think of using your firearm, expandable baton, handcuffs, pepper spray, or patrol vehicle without training and practicing with them. Do your recruits or officers deserve any less from you as their trainer? Here's another exercise. Examine some videotape of your classroom training with the audio muted. Do you stay behind a lectern or table with your outline in front of you? If you do, you're isolating yourself from your inspiration--your recruits or officers. Get out where your officers are; bring them up to where you are. Make one on one contact with them with a hand on a shoulder, with your eyes, with your voice. Look at your posture. What does it say about your passion for being there, about your commitment to the recruits or officers, about how important they are to you and their communities? Ask yourself if the person you see is committed, enthusiastic, inspired, engaged or passionate? Does she believe in what she is saying? Use your eyes, your hands, your posture, and your body movement to communicate your passion for the training and for your recruits and officers. Examine your movements for distractions: flying hands, toe or finger tapping, swaying, shuffling feet, pacing, fiddling with your hair, adjusting your clothing, shrugging. Get rid of those. Keep the body movements that purposefully communicate your material and your commitment to it and your officers. (These exercises were also adapted from Taking Center Stage.)

FTOs, these tips apply to one-on-one training in the field as well as a classroom or other group setting. Your training to become an FTO should include scenarios where you are in a patrol car debriefing a rookie after an incident and your goal is to inspire them to handle the matter differently. You, too, can audiotape and videotape an incident debriefing and do the same exercises above. When videotaping, look into the camera as you would the eyes of your rookie. If you can tape the debriefing where it might actually occur, all the better.

Greatness Is Within You

American scholar, author and teacher, William Arthur Ward, said,

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

Some say, "those who can't do, teach." I say:

  • You can be the greatest, expert do-er;
  • You can know all there is about a subject and be the best in the world at it;
  • And if you can't communicate in way that inspires others, your sphere of influence is limited to your actions.

Greatness comes from inspiring others to act. When you inspire ONE officer, the ripple effect, perhaps unseen by you, touches countless others ...and so you go on working forever.