By Brett L. Ward, CFI

“No certificate ever proved competency in anything…”

Since the program’s inception a few years ago, every single Premier Investigators Workshop I’ve been privileged to conduct with teams around the globe has begun with this very statement.  What a certificate proves is that effort (subjective) was extended to complete the task, assignment, course training etc.  That, in itself, is positive because, at the very minimum, it shows the desire to dedicate time to grow.  Now the real question is, can what we learn be executed in the real world – live fire? That is a completely different ballgame.  This coming April, I’ll be embarking on year twenty-two with this outfit.  It’s been a privilege to work with tens of thousands of professionals on multiple soils.  I think I’ve learned more from them than the knowledge I’ve ever been able to deliver.  Exposed to key components and roadblocks within different verticals, challenges from different nations’ laws, unique twists of policies faced due to organizational philosophies and cultures. These are things you can’t learn, or at least understand, until you’re confronted with them face-to-face. You can’t pay for that kind of education, and the exposure has forced me to grow not only as an instructor but as a person.  I’ve come across some incredibly gifted and talented investigators in both the public & private sectors, but I’ve also exchanged syllables with a few “Legends”. Shall we dance?

How do you prove your skillsets in any art form? How do you take the knowledge someone gives you and prove an ROI to those who provided the opportunity? How do you know when you’ve maximized your potential in that particular arena? I wanted to utilize this platform to provide a few ideas that I’ve learned through the years and continue to embrace to this day.

1 – Are you comfortable with your current skill set?  I mean, come on, is it really that bad to be proud of your current achievements?  I looked up “proud” online just for giggles and it produced a humbling reaction.  Adj:  Feeling self-respect or pleasure in something by which you measure your self-worth (Oh Boy): or being a reason for pride.  Ok, relatively harmless.  Then directly below that definition: Having or showing feelings of unwarranted importance out of overbearing pride (Ruh-Roh).  Let’s be honest with each other for a second.  If you’re satisfied with where you’re at, but what you do is an art and not a science (therefore cannot be perfected), are we brazen enough to chalk that up as “I’ve earned it”?  If I had a dollar for every person I’ve come across who had a wall full of certificates and a plethora of initials on their business card but couldn’t get the truth out of my nineteen-year-old, I would be hiding in the mountains currently and not writing this blog.  When was the last time you walked away from a conversation and your first instinct was to find a quiet room and comb back through “what could have gone better,” versus patting oneself on the back and announcing “someone give me the phone so I can inform folks of my latest success”?  (Hmmm.…me thinks me shall avoid eye contact with all reflective surfaces henceforward)

2 – Are you mentoring someone?  Or even better “Should I be mentoring anyone”? If you’ve muttered (some from the highest rooftop at an octave unbecoming) “I have a 100% confession rate” or “What I would have done in that situation”, you may, in fact, be in need of mentoring, not offering.  I have mentioned before in blogs what a true blessing it was going to work with brutally honest leadership. One-on-one dedicated guidance (no cell phone in sight), offering reflecting “I’m going to take the time to listen to your frustrations and we’ll work through this together” moments, counts.  I enjoy every opportunity to work with the teams that I do, but there are no more valuable consulting jobs than when organizations reach out to our “In Your Area” program to build trust and confidence back into someone who feels overwhelmed.  How damaging can it be for someone who feels discarded due to not reaching expectations set by others, let alone themselves?  Those whose confidence has been shaken but fought through because someone restored their belief can become the best mentors, and the best leaders.  But the one thing they have that “Legends” don’t, is the desire and the fire to prove it.  Always take advice from someone who remembers valleys before someone who initiates the conversation with their peaks.

3 – How much time have we truly invested in working on our game?  Yes, education plays a huge role in that, but what someone does after grabbing their certificate is the real measure of leadership. What was the investment (time /resources/practice – yes Allen Iverson, practice) in post-training to enhance and lock in skills?  In our case, did the education of investigatory PREP practices stick?  How much homework was completed prior to that next interview? If I called you out of the blue and said, “Give me your game plan on tomorrow’s interview,” would I hear strategic thought placed into specific components of techniques delivered, or locker room talk resembling “I got this” followed by cricket noises? Did we fall back into the trap of memorized guilt-transference stories? Did we document anticipated objections up front with strategic counters? When we transition from interview-style questions to truth-seeking questions, are they structured so that deception is minimized versus enticed? What specifically was our “Plan B” should that initial path not be all baby ducks and rainbows?  If someone were to depose me tomorrow, would I be able to justify my choices on strategy, let alone define the reasoning behind them?

What’s that saying – “Jack of All Trades, Master of None?”  Time to remember that certain components of our professional careers demand excellence.  When we’re dealing with human beings and their future, maybe it’s time we all shelve our pride and embrace growth once again.

Be safe out there……