Don't Should Upon Your Trainee
by John Bowden
As an FTO we are in the position where we teach the trainee a task, have them
perform the task and then critique their performance after completing the task.  If the
trainee performs the task satisfactorily, the critique is easy.  You are telling them
things like, “great job,”  “You did it right,” “Way to go’” and so on.  We give them the
high 5 and head on to the next call.  

The difficulty in critiquing is when the trainee fails to perform the task correctly.  It is
imperative that we identify the mistakes and teach the trainee how to perform it
correctly.  This makes our program very negative.  We are constantly telling the
trainee what they are doing wrong, and documenting their failed performance at the
end of the day.  It is usually accompanied by a failing score on the daily observation
report (DOR used in the San Jose program.)  It is the nature of the program and a
part of the training process. Unfortunately it winds up with the FTO telling the trainee,
“You should have done this, you should have done that or you should not have done
that.” No one likes to be should upon.

I have a process I use that turns the critique into a friendlier experience.  My first step
in the process is to tell my trainee that we will critique every call we take, whether they
performed it correctly or not.  If their performance is acceptable, we want to examine
the circumstances considering how it would have been different if we changed some of
the facts.  A what and if discussion.  If the performance was correct, emphasize that
fact and remind the trainee of the importance of critiquing all calls.
When a critique with the trainee starts, generally the FTO starts off pointing out what the trainee did incorrectly,
after which the FTO tells the trainee what they should have done.  There is that word, “should.”  This critique is
based on the trainee listening to the critique, processing the information and making a mental decision of how to
do it in the future. Unfortunately, without any feedback the FTO does not know if he is getting through.  A good
critique results in a two way conversation between the FTO and the trainee, with the trainee acknowledging the
corrections.  My process insures participation and acknowledgement on the part of the trainee.

The first step is to identify 1 to 3 issues you want to discuss.  There may be more; however, if you try to cover too
much material at one time it is more difficult to process the information.  I have also found that if you correct the
major errors, the smaller ones self-correct.

At the beginning of the critique ask the trainee to identify the mistakes they made.  This forces the trainee to
think about the call and their performance.  As they start, ask questions instead of pointing out where they went


The trainee was writing a ticket to a violator.  The trainee is standing on the passenger side of the violator’s
vehicle near the trunk of the car with the violator by the front passenger side, front door.  The trainee turns to the
car, leans over the back of the car using it as a platform to write the ticket.  In the process the trainee’s gun side
is exposed to the violator.  You maintain cover to intervene if the violator attempts to take advantage of the
exposed gun side.  You decide to use this as a training opportunity.

As you start your critique, ask the trainee how the stop went.  The trainee begins thinking everything went well.  It
is obvious the trainee did not realize the safety violation.  Instead of telling the trainee, ask questions.  Where
were you when you wrote the ticket?  Where was the violator?  What was your positional relationship to the
violator?  Where was your weapon in relation to the violator?  Somewhere during the questioning the trainee
should realize the safety violation.  After the trainee brings up the error, ask the trainee what would be the
correct way to perform.  You can now make suggestions in the conversation.  It is best if you use a question style
to bring out your points.  IE: what if you did this, or what if you stood here and so on.

The value of this style of critique is that it gets the trainee engaged in the analysis of the call, gets the trainee
involved in coming up with the correction.  In general it gets the trainee thinking about what he is doing and how
to improve it.

After the first point, move on to the next point, if there is one.  Continue until all the issues are addressed.  
Sometimes the trainee may point out something they think was wrong but was actually correct.  You can interject
and say, “No that was good,” or other comment pointing out it was acceptable.

After you have the trainee identify the bad stuff, you now take over and start pointing out what they did correct.  
In this way the trainee does not direct their frustration of poor performance at you, they take ownership of it by
themselfs.  You become the encouraging trainer giving positive feedback.

This process is a little more difficult if you are not accustomed to it.  However, it is highly effective on the part of
the trainee retaining the information.  A couple of points; keep your corrections to 3 or less points.  Ask questions
instead of telling; stay away from “should have.”  End on a positive note. Point out the importance of critiquing all
calls and how it will improve future performance.