Making Training Work for You
I have an assignment for you.
Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and list all of the training opportunities which are available to you as a supervisor or a manager.
Maybe you can start your list with the nearest ones, such as your own agency. Do they sponsor supervisory or management level training? No? Well, maybe you can put your local regional academy on the list – or maybe you can’t. Although I don’t know the laws in all the states, I do know that most have no mandatory training standards for police supervisors (last I knew, only eight states do) and I don’t know of any state which requires mandatory management training. So, many of you reading this can’t list your own department or local police academy as a source. With that, where else can you go to get supervisory and or management level training?
I can’t list all of the options for you, but I can tell you that they are out there – maybe through a nearby agency; maybe through training academies in other parts of your state; maybe through academies in other states; maybe through professional associations; maybe through other government agencies; etc. Now, spend some time and complete this assignment. With a little research and a little “outside the box” thinking, I can tell you that there should be a variety of potential sources for you to put on your list. That’s the good news.
Now, the “not so good news”: Even with a list of a dozen potential sources for your training, there will be limited seminars or classes for police supervisory and police management training for you to attend. Part of that reason may be because (for reasons I don’t understand) too many agencies don’t see the value in, or the need for, this level of training, so classes and seminars may not be regularly scheduled. Another problem for you may be that the training which is offered isn’t close to you, so the travel costs have to be factored in.
Let’s assume you have compiled a list of available options which you can potentially attend. How do you take advantage of these opportunities to their maximum potential? Effectively managing your own training schedule throughout your career can dramatically increase your promotability and competence as you outdistance your competition for new career opportunities.
Here are a few tips to help you take charge of your own training program and to maximize its impact on your career.
Make Your Intentions Well Known
There are three steps I have found over the years for getting what you want in your career. The first step: It seems like common sense, but if you want to go somewhere in your career, you have to let someone know where you want to go. If you have a plan, let your bosses know. If you have plans to be upwardly mobile and want a certain path in your career, let it be known and give them a chance to help.
The second step: In order for your agency to “invest” in you, you have to be worthy of the expense. There is a phrase in the business world called “Return on Investment” (ROI). Basically, is the “benefit” worth the “cost”? This is what bosses use to figure out when they decide who should go to certain training classes and who shouldn’t. If you want to be sent to management training (or any other type), you have to prove that you are worth the investment. Are you a valuable employee who has proven your worth to the agency? If not, then start!
The third step: What I have found over the years is that “you can’t always get what you want.” So, if you are not getting what you want out of your agency for your career development, then start taking charge of your own career. Don’t wait for your agency to send you to training – go on your own; use your own money; and invest in yourself.
Seek Out Training
Your department will help you meet the minimum required training standards for your state. That includes the “usual” mandatory training programs – firearms, legal updates, OSHA standards – but not supervisory or management training. Of course, you realize that the minimum training standards set by your state isn’t even close to what police officers should receive, never mind a command officer.
So, as that upwardly mobile command level professional, what options do you have? The list! You have already started the research on your career roadmap. You now know what management level training programs are available from a variety of sources and you know when and where they are offered.
Once you have identified the list of potential sources, make a progressive plan of the training classes which will be most beneficial to your career in specific order. Look ahead at your career possibilities and see which courses will help you the most to reach your personal and departmental goals. For example, it would make sense to attend a class in basic supervision before requesting that your agency send you to the FBI National Academy. Planning on your part may allow your agency to take your training requests more seriously.
It would seem that a logical first step would be to make a request through the chain of command for training opportunities within driving distance of your department and/or those which may be low cost or free. List options and details in your request so that the decision-makers will realize that you are serious and that you have done your homework. There may be training being offered across the state (or across the country), but is it realistic that your agency will send you? Use your requests selectively. Also, be selective in the courses or seminars that you request. It might be better to wait for a “quality” training program from the best instructors rather than waste a training request just to try and get “a day away from the office.”
Prepare for Your Training
Once you have selected the best courses for you, mentally prepare yourself to maximize your experience. Prior to going, get as much work cleared from your in-basket and calendar as possible. Clean up as much pending work as you can, delegate appropriately and go to the training class with a clear head and an open mind.
You may think that you can remember everything you hear, but many studies have repeatedly shown that you can’t. Writing down key points will help to reinforce the material you are covering. Be sure to write down the contact information of the instructor, as well as any addresses and phone numbers that are given for additional source material. Your notes will also ensure that you have a record you can refer to months or years later.
Network, Network, Network
Whether the training is strictly for your department, at a regional facility or in another state, take advantage of the networking opportunities. On the breaks, make new contacts and get to know people from other units, departments or agencies. Discuss common issues, share experiences and learn from them during and after class. Be sure to take plenty of your own business cards to distribute and be sure to collect contact information from as many participants as possible. That chance meeting in the classroom could turn into a critical contact for you in the future.
Reread Your Notes
After you have returned to work and have gotten caught up, sit down and reread your notes. You will be surprised to find that they may apply to your current job or specific situation – much more so than it appeared when you were in class. Write a short synopsis of what you learned and how it applies to your department. If appropriate, share it with your bosses, peers and subordinates. If you have questions about the material in your notes, don’t hesitate to contact the instructors.
Document Your Training
Be sure that a copy of the diploma or certificate you received gets sent to your training officer, gets into your personnel file, and gets onto your résumé. Make an extra copy for your own supervisor’s rating file for your next performance evaluation. That will help your supervisors to better evaluate you and it might raise your score a bit as well. Also, be sure to keep the originals of any diplomas or certificates in a safe and central location for future use. You never know when you will need those documents as proof of your training on that particular topic.
Enjoy the Training Experience
Training classes can provide you with the information you need to stay up-to-date and out of trouble on the job. They can also give you a welcome break from your routine and new perspectives to take back to your unit or department. But, perhaps the greatest value of a planned training program is the expertise you gain to make your job easier. Over time, your effective management of your training will set you apart from your peers and make you more competent and promotable.
There are training opportunities out there for you. Make the most of them.
Farewell, but Not Goodbye…
It is with great sadness to reveal that this will be my last installment of “Law Enforcement Leadership.” After authoring a police management column in this periodical for the past 17 years, I have simply run out of new ideas.
Without a doubt, it has been a genuine pleasure to share my thoughts and experiences with the readers of this publication over these many years.
Thank you all very much for the feedback which you have provided – it is very satisfying to know that the time invested in writing this column has been well-spent.
Please note that I will still contribute an occasional article to P&SN – please look for them and stay safe.
Note: Do you need supervisory training? “Police Management Services” is offering a new online supervisory training program. Successful completion will give students three Continuing Education Units (CEUs). For more information, please visit their Web page at http://policemanagement.com/expert.html. You can reach them by E-mail at MCarpenter@policemanagement.com or call them at (518)761-9708. Also, see their ad in this edition of P&SN.