Coaching Cops Isn't a Game

What can coaching do for an individual officer, their career and their agency? If other professions are any indication–-lots.

The "personal coaching" industry formally began in the late 1980's in the business sector. Since then, news of personal coaching has flooded the media with stories in countless newspapers, magazines and on TV, including: U.S. News & World Report, Time Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and

There seems to be no let up. There are an estimated 40,000 coaches practicing in 70 countries worldwide and over 50 coach training schools located globally. The coaching industry continues to grow at a rate of approximately 20% per year.
The increased demand for coaching and increased number of coaches has resulted in the need for coaches to specialize. This trend has yielded specific coaching for nearly all walks of life -- weight-loss, presentation skills, marketing, relationships, spirituality, politics, ADHD, dating, health, conflict, victimization, religion and, of course, where it all began with career coaching, including advancement, leadership, change and retirement.
Career coaching has also begun to specialize amongst professions, e.g., lawyers, dentists, teachers and, as I saw at an international law enforcement conference this year -- police.
Coaching in Policing
The annual conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) in Wheeling, Illinois is one of the best and biggest law enforcement training bangs for the buck in the world. In addition to many certification courses, there is a buffet of breakout sessions that makes the offerings of a Chuck-a-Rama seem like nouvelle cuisine. It was at the 2012 ILEETA Conference that I first sampled coaching for cops.
Coaching in Policing …it’s on the horizon! was a breakout session put on by Bill Mikaluk, Ray Bailey, and Karen Sullivan, all of whom have extensive backgrounds in law enforcement, as well as being Certified Professional Coaches. Their presentation and materials got me interested enough to do my own study of the topic and decide that “coaching” is a valuable leadership and training tool for law enforcement. One of the things I learned is that coaching cops is also a growing niche.
What is Coaching?
Coaching is a collaborative, solution-focused, result-oriented and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of individuals from normal (i.e. non-clinical) populations. (Greene and Grant, Solution-focused Coaching) The process involves focused conversations between the coach and protégé. (I don’t like coachee; sounds too much like coochy as in “coochy coo.”) The conversations comprise strategic questioning and enhanced listening. (Logan and King, The Coaching Revolution, 2004.)
The ILEETA session I attended offered a “PROBE” coaching model in which the coach
  • Paraphrases
  • Reflects/Repeats
  • Observes/asks Open-ended questions 
  • asks Breakthrough questions 
  • Encourages, Empowers, Enables
What Coaching is Not
One of the best descriptions I found about what coaching is not is in Mark McGuiness’s free eBook, Creative Management for Creative Teams – Business Coaching for Creative Teams. McGuiness distinguishes coaching from training, mentoring and counseling. Coaching vs. Training Training and coaching both promote learning, but they do so differently. 
Training teaches specific skills or knowledge. Coaching facilitates someone else’s thinking and helps them learn on the job. 
Training usually takes place off-site or in dedicated classes. Coaching takes place on the job and, when done by a supervisor or co-worker, can be integrated into every day workplace conversations. 
Training is typically done in groups. Coaching is a one-on-one process, tailored to the individual’s needs. Coaching vs. Mentoring While both coaching and mentoring are typically one-on-one conversations aimed at facilitating professional development, the roles are different.
A mentor is usually a senior person who shares experience and advises a junior person working in the same field. A coach is not necessarily senior to the protégé, and does not typically give advice or pass on experience. Instead a coach uses questions and feedback to facilitate the other person’s thinking and practical learning.
Coaching vs. Counseling: Again, both of these activities are typically one-on-one conversations, but their tone and purpose are different. 
  • Counseling and therapy generally deal with personal problems. Coaching cops addresses workplace performance. ·
  • Counseling usually begins with a problem. Coaching can begin with a goal or aspiration.
  • Counseling is often sought by people having difficulties. Coaching is used by high achievers or aspirers as much as beginners or people who are stuck. 
  • Many forms of Counseling focus on the past and the origins of problems. Coaching focuses on the future and developing a workable solution.
The Value of Coaching
Last year the International Coach Federation reported that a global survey of coaching clients revealed coaching generates a solid return on investment (ROI) in for individuals and companies. Companies that use professional coaching for have seen a median ROI of seven times their initial investment, according to the newly released Final Report of the ICF Global Coaching Client Study.
Individual clients reported a median return on investment of 3.44 times their investment. This study indicates that 86 percent of companies that use or have used coaching report at least a 100 percent ROI, as well as a significant impact in other client goal areas.
Coaching can also add value to training. Coaching is an excellent way of helping people apply what they learn in training to their day-to-day work. A research study found that post-course coaching had a dramatic effect on the effectiveness of a training program in a public agency. Business and private professional sectors have concluded that coaching is a valuable leadership, training, work performance enhancement and leadership development tool. Global competition ensures they can’t afford to invest in something that doesn’t pay off.
Stay Tuned
Coaching professionals understandably advocate hiring external coaches. That might not be feasible for many officers and agencies. Sure, we’d all love to have the benefit of an Olympic-statured coach. But that doesn’t mean individual officers and agencies can’t learn how to reap some of the benefits of coaching. In the next Coaching Cops article, we’ll look at “how to” coach officers in their professional development without the benefit of an external consultant. We’ll also wrestle with whether a supervisor can be an effective coach and, if so, how the supervisor balances her role as a coach with her duties to the agency.


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