To Honor and Remember…


Veterans recognize that all service members gave some, some gave all. As Memorial Day approaches I think about not only those who died honorably on the field of battle, but also those whose death was sealed in battle but occurred years later. We should remember the these warriors during our ceremonies and activities.

It is important for citizens to honor those who died establishing and defending freedom. Those who die on the battlefield are treated like the heroes they are. They receive honor guards, special memorial services and words of appreciation for their sacrifice. Their names on our monuments and honor rolls are set apart by stars. Their families proudly display gold star banners. Recognizing the contributions of those who died in battle is appropriate. It is equally appropriate to remember delayed combat deaths and value those warriors as those who died on the battlefield.MemorialDay2014

Our attention is frequently focused on the current crop of casualties and veterans from current conflicts. We neglect the heroics and service of those who die later from service connected afflictions. They receive no Purple Heart. Their families receive no gold stars. Their names not set apart on our monuments, but their deaths are combat deaths. However former GIs dying from cancer from exposure to toxic chemicals during battle or by his own hand years later because of untreated post-traumatic stress deserves the same remembrance and honor as those who died charging Redoubts 9 & 10 in Yorktown, attempting to block the British attack in New Orleans, had the courage to fight against his brother in our Civil War, stepped on a land mine in Korea, ambushed in Vietnam, or died fighting any of the little known conflicts fought during American history.

Remembering is important. Many professionals providing care for veterans of past wars know only of what they learned in a history class. Young people entering the health care system as providers in the next several years will have been born after the instigating events for our current conflict in Afghanistan or are so young they have no independent memories of planes crashing into buildings. Teaching providers about health issues related to military service will be important to ensure care received will address the sources of the issues and not just the symptoms. Additionally, many of these former GIs may qualify for VA care and to have their ailments service connected permitting them to access VA’s health care (which, regardless of current allegations, is high quality). Without an understanding of Agent Orange, asbestos, mental health issues, embedded fragments of shrapnel, and other combat related mechanisms of injuries dooms veterans in both the civilian and VA health systems to potential inadequate care.

During your remembrances this Memorial Day, take time to remember all those who died as a result of armed conflict with our nation’s enemies. Remember those who died on the battlefield, and those who died later from hidden wounds. Honor their memories by not only thanking a veteran for his or her service but by also taking the time to listen to their stories of the great deeds of the fallen. You can never remember what you never knew. Adopt a family of a fallen warrior. Their stories are equally compelling. Veterans will tell you families have the toughest job in war. During your freedom celebration, establish a quiet moment for all to quietly reflect on their blessings as a result of others standing before evil.

Photo by author


Leaders Training Future Leaders

ImageAll trainers are leaders because they influence people in their organizations to accomplish the mission. The flip side to that thought is that all leaders are trainers. In too many organizations however leaders are selected based upon their ability to accomplish tasks more than their ability to influence others and too many organizations fail to train their highest performers to become leaders. Possession of influence is more important to a leader than possessing an ability to complete a task skillfully. Learning how to engage others to influence them to perform is more important skill for leaders than the task to be performed. Teaching the leaders to teach becomes that challenge for the middle and senior leaders of organizations, one that is poorly executed. Consistent leader training and development is critical to any organization’s long term success. Four simple, repeatable steps separate are the foundation of an enduring leadership training program. Those steps are telling, demonstrating, practicing and correcting.

Telling. The quickest way to transfer information is to tell the other person. When sending a message you want the receiver to remember ensure the receiver has a method of recording the information, whether it is a notebook, a voice recorder or a note on their device. Unrecorded information is sure to be forgotten. When someone writes, they remember better in the future and create a record for future reference when the teacher is absent. During the review of the lesson, the teach can have the student read back the notes ensuring all important details were discussed.

Demonstrating. You demonstrate the task. In this blog, demonstration is listed as the second step, but in practice, it is the first. When others work for you, you demonstrate leadership for them daily. When you take time to counsel the new leader, you demonstrate the importance of counseling. Your methods become the lesson as the techniques and practices you expect them to employ in their leadership role. Counseling is just one area, but the example crosses many such topical areas.

Practicing. At first you may be inclined to linger. This may not always work well. For the same reasons it may not be practical for your trainee to sit in on a counseling session with a fellow employee with a family problem, it probably is just as likely you should not sit in on similar situations unless you are invited. The senior leader has other duties. If she spends all her time overseeing one new supervisor, she ignores other areas of responsibility. It is not unreasonable to follow up by asking to see documentation of a process or to check progress of employees. This lets both the employee and their supervisor know you are paying attention to important aspects of their work and lives.

Correcting. Do this as close as possible to the performance of the activity. Often in performance oriented training we ofter students feedback in the form of an after action review within a few minutes of completing the activity. There is no reason to not apply the same practice. If you are invited to observe a process improvement meeting, plan on five or ten minutes after the meeting to review the supervisor’s performance.

When you have completed all the steps, repeat them until the leader performs them nearly perfectly. As they improve, you allow them to tell you how they can improve their performance instead of providing feed back from you. As you do so, you prepare them for increasing levels of leadership and improve the organization.

Good leaders are also trainers. They set the standard by telling, They live the standard through demonstration. They allow others to try to practice and correct mistakes so success is achieved. These steps train and develop leaders follows the same model. Tell them what the expectations are, demonstrate the way you expect them to behave, allow them to perform, make corrections and repeat. Leaders who practice these steps increase their sphere of influence, allow others to see he uses power to make the organization better, has concern for the future of the group and its people and is willing to e what he knows. Observers recognize the spark and passion of the leader doing the training and the overall success of the organization. Take the first step today with your young leaders.

Photo Credit:  tanakawho from creative commons license

Practice, Practice the Practical Exercise

One of the joys of being Chief Instructor at a military school house is the time I shared with instructor trainees during their final presentations becoming qualified Army Instructors. During one memorable presentation, the student instructor engaged classmates with two practical exercises. The first allowed students to work in small groups discussing how to apply lessons learned upon returning to their units. In the second, students developed a presentation for their commanders for adoption of principals of this lesson in their units. Both effectively ingrained important points of the lesson by allowing the students integrate what they prior knowledge with newly acquired information to develop their own ideas and reinforced what the instructor taught. This presentation raised several questions including why instructors choose to lecture instead of facilitate, use presentation software instead of practical exercises and how can instructors develop effective exercises to reinforce learning points.

Inexperienced instructors often choose lecture based training because they have the knowledge the students need, lack the skills to develop training that is learner based. They feel more comfortable talking than showing. Developing lecture based training is easy and the least time consuming. Lectures ensure presentation of important information, adhere to time constraints and repeatedly provide the same information during every presentation. Unfortunately, most adults do not learn well with the lecture style and many will leave forgetting most of what was said, defeating the purpose of the training.

Slide decks have become the standard to accompany the lecture method. Pictures, text and video supposedly stimulate the learner’s verbal and auditory centers improving retention from lectures alone, but one phrase says it all, “Death by PowerPoint.” An unfortunate reality, PowerPoint and other presentation software alone fails to engage learners as a result, some organizations forbid use. When used well, they amplify important instruction points, but most of the time slide are used as a crutch. Plenty of books, blogs, articles, TED Talks, comedy skits and ,yes, PowerPoints have been created to improve presentations and truly Impress (an open source alternative to PowerPoint).

ImageDeveloping practical exercises requires genuine understanding of the concepts and principals supporting training, information and task steps. Understanding allows the instructor to identify the basic knowledge required to achieve success. Basic actions required to complete the task create the practical exercise the same way that learning goals are the basis for test questions. Often people are selected to provide organizational training because the have a history of providing great training or are the most educated on the topic within the organization. Lacking expert wisdom, the instructor parrots what he was taught, but their lack of understanding of the concepts and principals prevent development of practical exercises. Students are denied the opportunity to experiment and discover how to use the ideas to improve their performance.

Good practical exercises achieve several objectives for adult learners. They allow the a review of new information learned during class increasing retention. They require learners to integrate new knowledge with what they all ready know. They permit students to teach and learn from each other. They require back briefs allowing peers to learn from their challenges and successes. Each step is a repetition of the information provided in class. Each iteration, embeds knowledge and skills learned increasing the likelihood of desired change.

Lecturing and showing slides permit training to check boxes. Lectures poorly translate knowledge into desired behaviors. Practical exercises allow trainees to practice what they have been taught. They provide opportunities to repeat key points. Repetition increases recall and creates deeper understanding of the material. Creating practical exercises requires the instructor to understand the concepts and principals of the task being trained. Development requires greater time and effort by the instructor but payoffs include increased student understanding, performance and changed behavior on the job. Next time you conduct training, create and conduct at least one practical exercise.

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I have prepared and posted a slide deck on SlideShare supporting this blog. 

I look forward to feedback.  Please take a moment to let me know how this blog has helped with your training and leadership activities.  I am also interested in know what other topics you are interested in reading.



Memorial Day…a time to remember those who sacrificed their lives serving our country.

This weekend there will be plenty of speeches about their sacrifices as they did what others can’t or won’t. When was the last time you thought about the leader that sent those brave Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen into harms way knowing they probably would not survive?

While taking classes for my degree, we had a discussion about Level 5 leaders, particularly who had known one and what traits and characteristics made that person a leader who builds enduring greatness. To my surprise there were few in the class who had, and that I was the only one who had known more than one. All those I’ve known were military or veterans.

Imagine being a U. S. Army squad leader, serving as Military Police supporting local security forces in Iraq during their first independent elections. You have gunner refusing to enter the turret and are receiving pressure from the commander and platoon sergeant to meet the start time for your joint patrol to collect ballots from the polling places. You cannot guarantee the young man’s safety. How do you accomplish your mission and convince your gunner to do his duty? You accomplish success by showing concern for your people everyday. This squad leader developed relationships with all his Soldiers allowing him to encourage his gunner to overcome his fears, enter the turret and complete his mission. Everyone in the organization would have known if this leader failed. The soldier would have been ostracized. The leader would have been replaced. The mission would have failed. That did not happen.

Being a leader means involvement in the lives of those you lead. Had this leader not cared for minor problems the Soldier had earlier in the deployment the ending may have been different. Several years later I was watching a show on television recounting that election. There was video of the ballot counting where we worked. In the background, a group of soldiers including the squad leader and his gunner. That night they both made a difference in the lives of thousands of people, enduring greatness.

The squad leader’s duties officially ended several weeks after this event. They continue to this day however. I receive periodic status reports from each of my squad leaders about their Soldiers. They remain involved in their lives even though their official duties have ended. Leadership is about influence. To be truly influential one must genuinely care about others. Your people understand you may not always know what to do next. They understand you cannot promise what will happen in the future. They will not tolerate a leader who doesn’t care.

To build enduring organizational greatness, leaders need to care about those who follow them. Caring brings great rewards and sometimes great pain. I once read a comment from a civilian asking why the veterans don’t do as much on Memorial Day as they used to do. The reality is Memorial Day is not for veterans to remember those who have fallen, they never forget. Memorial Day is for everyone to remember. Memorial Day is an example of what combat leaders do to influence non-veterans to remember those who served but did not make it home. They still care.

Photo courtesy of Jon Foote


Welcome to my blog. I have been a supervisor and trainer in the public sector for over 20 years. I have trained soldiers, emergency medical responders and police officers across the country and around the world. I have had the pleasure of working with first responders and public sector managers both in person and in cyberspace.

I envision using this space to share the lessons I’ve learned on public safety issues, leadership training and management. I expect to post two new articles each month during the second and fourth week. While I believe people new to public safety leadership will learn many lessons here, I also expect those of you with some experience will share what your have learned also and create a positive learning space for everyone.

My qualifications include 31 years of service in the United States military, three years in the regular Army the balance in the National Guard where currently serve a the Chief Instructor at a Regional Training Institute at the rank of Master Sergeant. I completed two combat tours in the Middle East training the security forces of the host nation and training military security forces. After completing the hitch in the regular Army, I joined the police department in my home town and also worked on the local rescue squad. After four years there, I moved to the next town where I expanded my knowledge and was promoted to supervisory positions.

During my time studying and practicing leadership, I have noticed the more tools one has, the better one adapts to the situation at hand. No single leadership theory takes into account all the variables that exist in any leadership situation. Leadership is a continuum and fluctuates based on the leader, the followers, the situation and communication. The same is true of adult training. Training is a formal attempt to change behaviors to achieve a desired outcome. If leadership is a process of influencing others, then training is one method of applying influence. Again the strategies employed to teach adults new skills and theories and how to apply them to real life is a mixture of the trainers skills and knowledge, those being trained, the situation they are training in and for and how well they communication. As a result, there are many parallels between training and leadership.

This blog will seek to explore and inspire others to improve their leadership and training. The discussions will center around applications in the public sector, however the principals apply equally in the private sector. Learning to adapt the principals to your situation is the secret to success in leadership and training. I look forward to sharing what I have learned and from hearing from readers how they apply the concepts we discuss. You may contact me by email at christopher.saint.cyr at