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Active supervision challenge: Training

The active supervision skill of training involves seeking out training for yourself and teaching your followers everything that you expect them to do

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There are two elements to training for active supervisors. The first element involves training for yourself, and the second element involves training your followers.

Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Hello everybody, Coach Paul here. Can you believe that we’ll be halfway through this year at the end of this month? I’ve enjoyed being with you on this active supervision challenge and thank you for your continuing interest and engagement.

If this is your first article, know that in January, I introduced this active supervision challenge on Police1. In this series, I describe the 10 skills of active supervision, which I define as the continual and consistent enforcement of the rules of your organization. In the previous months, I have discussed performance management, critical thinking, communication and courage.

This month we’ll be looking at the active supervision skill of training. I’ll describe the two elements of training, discuss why training is important, share ways for improving your training practices, and conclude with a few tips and techniques for supervisors working in special circumstances.

The two elements of training

As revealed in the subheading of this month’s article, there are two elements to training for active supervisors. The first element involves training for yourself, and the second element involves training your followers. Let’s unpack each of those elements.

Training yourself means continuing to develop your professional, technical and supervisory skills. Most departments do a good job of providing you with training opportunities for developing your professional and technical skills. But when it comes to supervisory skills development, they don’t provide you with many resources. So in many cases, you are going to have to seek out those training opportunities for yourself. We’ll talk more about how to do this in a later section.

Training your followers means teaching them what you want them to perform and how you want them to perform before they have to perform those tasks in “real life.” I learned this element during my time in the US Marine Corps and saw it practiced masterfully by the late great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.

Here’s the concept: As your supervisor, before I ask you to do something, I teach you how to do it. Coach Wooden would teach his players everything from how to properly lace up their basketball shoes to how to execute complex plays. He never assumed that they knew how to do anything correctly. He ensured optimal performance by teaching them what he wanted them to do.

Why is training important?

Let me answer this question from two perspectives: Why training is important for you, and why training is important for your followers.

The active supervision skill of training is important for you because it forces you to consider the fact that supervising others well requires learning and practice. So many supervisors see their supervisory responsibilities as ancillary duties or afterthoughts. But, the truth is, once you accept the promotion, and sew or pin on those stripes, your primary duty is to supervise. Everything else is secondary.

Training is important for your followers because they want to be successful in their careers. They need you to teach them how to do things correctly. Under Coach Wooden’s training, his basketball players won 10 NCAA national championships in a 12-year period. They learned what they needed to do to be successful athletes because he taught them.

Improving your training practices

As you commit to improving your training practices, know that it is going to require time. Most of us are already over-busy, so focusing on training is going to mean reordering our priorities. It will be challenging and very worth it.

Understanding that you are going to need to make time for this, here are three things you can do to improve your training practices:

1. Seek out supervision-specific training opportunities for yourself. Thankfully, there is a vast treasure of resources available to you for developing your supervision skills. For example, Police1 is a great starting place for your quest. In addition to articles like the one you are reading, type in the keyword supervisor in the search box to find other resources to help you develop these important skills.

2. Read/listen to good books on the topics of supervision, management and leadership. There are a lot of good books out there that will help you become a better supervisor. Here are three I recommend:

3. Develop training plans for your followers. Implementing this improvement is going to take some time, so plan for it in your schedule. Develop a list of all the tasks that you want your followers to perform and then develop a plan for teaching them how you want them to perform those tasks. Once you’ve developed your training plan, implement it. This will give you several opportunities for practicing those performance management and communication skills that you have been developing during the previous months.

Bonus content: Tips and techniques

Wrapping up our training discussion, here are a few tips and techniques for those supervisors working in those special circumstances that I mentioned in the first article of this series.

Working supervisor (splits your time between supervising and performing line-level duties): When training others, being a working supervisor has its advantages. Because you are often doing the same things as your followers, you have the opportunity to do them first, figure out the best ways to get the jobs done and then can teach your followers what you have learned.

Small agency supervisor (supervises a small group of paid and volunteer followers spread out over a distance): Both elements of this skill are especially applicable to you. First, you will usually not have the budget to get department-paid for supervisory training, so you will need to get comfortable seeking out those opportunities for yourself. Second, you may not have regular contact with all of your followers, so you will need to be very intentional about developing and implementing training programs for all of them.

Minority supervisor (supervises a group of followers who are different than you in regard to race, gender, ethnicity and age): Training is an important consideration if there are big differences between your age and the ages of your followers. If such is the case, remember that their preferred training methods may be different than yours. Take some time to ask them how they like to get trained, and then adapt your style to match their preferences.


In law enforcement, not only are things constantly changing around us, but we are changing ourselves. Focusing on the active supervision skill of training will help ensure that we are thoroughly equipped to excel in all of the tasks that we are assigned to do.

If you downloaded or printed the free active supervision checklist that we provided in the first article and have linked here for easy download, you can update it with this month’s information. Add three lines:

  • Seek out supervision-specific training opportunities for yourself;
  • Read/listen to good books on the topics of supervision, management and leadership;
  • Develop training plans for your followers.

Rate yourself again now that you have a better understanding of training. Give yourself a + (plus sign) if you believe that you are good at the skill, a √ (checkmark) if you believe that you are ok at the skill, or a – (minus sign) if you believe you need to work on the skill. After you have rated yourself, please take some time to write down your plan for improving your training practices.

If you have any questions about this skill or any of the 10 active supervision skills, submit your questions here. We will gather them up and answer them for you.

I’m Coach Paul, thank you again for taking the time to read this article. Keep your eyes, mind and heart open out there.

Coach Paul Conor, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist and management consultant who has been working with law enforcement leaders for more than 20 years. He is a former US Marine infantry officer, who led Marines in combat during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Coach Paul is an award-winning author, California state-certified Team Building Workshop facilitator and former university professor. He is also a reserve lieutenant with the Orange County (California) Sheriff’s Department.