Select and train your people with care, and then care about your people.
Deliberately the dog moves forward sniffing through the bags, stopping and going as his nose directs. With trained care he stops before a large suitcase and sits next to it. Upon closer inspection, a small package of cocaine is found hidden inside a makeup case.
It is not by accident that the package is discovered. It is the result of careful, deliberate, and lengthy training. The dog is a graduate of a special school that provides training in the detection of drugs. Even if the drug is hidden in something that seems to completely overwhelm the drug’s own smell, the dog will succeed if it can smell at least 10 percent of the drug. How is this possible?
Through careful screening, dogs are chosen for entrance to the school. To begin the training, a bag of illegal drugs is used in a game of catch—a dog’s favorite activity. If the dog continues to play, the distance is slowly increased and the dog is rewarded with encouragement. Next, the dog waits while its trainer hides the drug. Using its nose, not its eyes, the dog learns to detect the drug’s location. After about a month of successful retrieving, the dog will be challenged to find the drug hidden inside a suitcase.
There will be only one suitcase containing a hidden drug in the beginning. As the dog improves, more empty suitcases are added. As the dog succeeds, the task is made more difficult. After about two months, the dog is ready for the last test. The drug is hidden inside an item that has a potent smell. If the dog successfully finds that drug, it is ready for the real-world tasks of being an official drug detection dog.
Training of people is very similar. A good leader will never go faster than the success rate of the group. Clear instructions, realistic yet challenging goals, and positive reinforcement provide the best learning environment. If employees are supported and properly trained, if they work in an environment that is free of fear and they feel positive about their growth, there will be an increased level of performance. In direct contrast is the leader who places tremendous pressure on a group and forces them to move at an unrealistic time rate, instilling an element of fear and manipulation into the people.
Drug dogs are specifically helped to understand exactly what is required of them, and they are given adequate preparation for the task. The trainer individualizes the training to each dog. The results are outstanding.
Though we do not want to manipulate people like dogs and teach them to catch and fetch, we can learn to follow this simple plan: have the desired skill in mind, then slowly teach it through gradual approximations to the desired outcome. Select and train your people with care, and then care about your people.
A few tips:
- Think of how you attempt to develop and train your people. Is it gradual, realistic, and reasonable?
Consider the support you provide them as they face new and tougher assignments.
- Not everyone in your group will respond the same way. Each team member deserves to be treated individually for maximum effectiveness and growth.