Op-Ed

Millennial Mentoring

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Millennial Mentoring 
Jeremy Stafford

While the millennial generation is much maligned for being impatient, over-sensitive and narcissistic, if we give up on them we’re giving up on our future. Their parents and the education system have failed them. We can’t.

By we, of course, I’m referring to the military and law enforcement communities, although hopefully some of you involved in in other endeavors or industries will also gain something. I design the in-service and recruit firearms curriculum for a very large police department and I also teach and certify all the firearms instructors, so I’m in a pretty good place to see the transition from Baby Boomer (my Instructors) to Gen X (me) to Millennial (many of my students). Here are some observations I’ve made, and in some cases, some suggestions to bridge the generation gap.

Most millennials are already aware of our perception of their generation, and rubbing their faces in it is counter-productive. If you really want to engage and mentor them, start thinking like them. Put your ego aside and remember our mission is to train and make them better. Get their buy-in early by explaining the “why” of things before delving into the “how” of things. Telling new recruits or instructor candidates “because I said so” or “because we’ve always done it that way” is lazy and ineffective. It was lazy bullshit when we had to deal with it “back in the day” and it’s still lazy bullshit. Take the time to explain to them exactly why the subject matter is important, and they’ll usually respond in a positive manner.

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The best method that I’ve found for making corrections with a millennial student or partner is the “praise, correct, praise” method. I tell them something they’re doing well, I make the correction, then I leave them with something else they did well. This has worked very well for me, especially on the firing line and on the mat. I’ve found that while the millennials may crave more attention than my generation might have, they usually aren’t afraid of putting in the hard work if they can see that it’s leading somewhere and they’re being recognized for it. Several years ago, before I parked my ass behind a desk, I was a line instructor for the firearms training academy. Before I put my last class through I was accused by the rest of the staff of being too “buddy-buddy” with the recruits. Trust me, I wasn’t buddying up to the recruits. I simply changed my teaching style to match their learning style, and I didn’t lose a single recruit. Mentoring is not about me or you, it’s about them.

The last thing that I want to discuss is technology. Embrace it. During a recent shotgun instructor school, I changed the way I wanted the instructor candidates to set up their final presentations. Instead of a standard five-minute oral presentation, I had them prepare and instruct a fifteen-minute presentation that included multi-media, handouts, lecture, and hands-on.

The overall quality, thoroughness, and attention to detail across the board was the best that I’ve seen in dozens of these classes. I still got the five minutes of oral presentation I wanted, but I also got really great video tie ins, great new teaching aids, and most importantly, I actually learned some new things.

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Keep in mind, under no circumstances am I proposing that we lower any standards, ever. In fact, I’d prefer that we raise the standards and demand excellence at all times. That being said, many of the young people I’m getting in have an incredible amount of potential, it’s just that they’ve never been forced to live up to that potential. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s our duty to make sure they do. If that means that we have to change tactics to win the battle, we change tactics. The goal remains the same: excellence. This is a battle that we can’t afford to lose.

-JS



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About the Author: Jeremy Stafford is a truculent old school LEO and a combat veteran of the Marine Corps. He has just one beady eye (the right), a single shriveled testicle (the left) and is rumored to be the adopted son of Burt and Heather Gummer. (Grunts: truculent). Probably only part of that’s true, but really does it matter? Jeremy has been serving with the Los Angeles Police Department for nearly 20 years, both on the road and in specialty assignments. He is currently a senior instructor at the LAPD Firearms and Tactics Division, is a Krav Maga instructor and probably the guy responsible for those few times you see some Hollywood type actually handling a gun correctly. He’s written for several publications like SureFire’s Combat Tactics Magazine and is one of the main reasons we started reading Guns & Ammo again (the other is Mudge.) Stafford teaches for the SureFire Institute, mentors local youth (including kids doing the Spartan Race) and he runs many courses himself (think marathons, Tough Mudders and assorted other needless exercises in self-flagellation). Follow him on Instagram here (@jestafford).
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More about Propper: Propper was founded in 1967 by William T. Propper, an entrepreneur with a passion for manufacturing. With hard work and a dedicated staff, Propper eventually landed its first government contract with the U.S. Navy, manufacturing caps known as “Dixie cups.” As the years marched on, they grew their business – and their reputation for quality.
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2 Comments

  1. While a good article, I will state what I’ve said on this forum, and a hundred other places; Millenials are essentially no different from any other generation of human beings. When I went to Basic Training back before gunpowder, I got smoked many many times by the crappy Drills because I always wanted to know “Why?” – The good ones understood that I wasn’t being insubordinate; rather that if I understood the why, then it would make me a better soldier. My problem was that I failed to appreciate that it takes time to explain why, and time is something Drills and Recruits don’t get a lot of in Basic. Ahhh, memories.

    “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

    Socrates (maybe)

  2. There was another article about this kind of topic a year or so ago and it asked for advice on dealing with these “kids”.

    I’ll repeat a bit of what I said back then: Just like anyone else of that age group they yearn to be adults and exercise some level of independence. That has been denied to them by a PC coddling school system. A lot of these younger people know what they’ve been told is total crap but they don’t know what the actual truth is. A good chunk, if not most, of what comes across as egotistical shit from them is actually them trying to find a way to talk to you on the same level they expect that you expect/respect.

    Most of them have never talked to someone in a teaching/position of power who isn’t some asshat pussy high school teacher/administrator/parent (1000 pardons to you hardass teachers/admins/parents out there. I know you exist.). I don’t necessarily mean someone who is/was/acts like a DI. What I mean by that is someone who says what they think and tells it like it is minus all the PC nonsense about feelz and whatnot. People who were out in the world outside of education and did work before coming to education. People with something beyond textbook experience who know that sometimes (often) these days the regs for schools are happyday horseshit and aren’t afraid to say it. These “kids” generally know BS when they smell it and they crave the truth from someone who knows their ass from their elbow. Provide that and your mentoring will produce results.

    In short: develop a rapport with these people and you’ll find hardworking, intelligent people (as the author has). Insult them repeatedly while not giving them any direction or explanation as to what they’re working towards and you’ll get the finger. Sure, there will be some idiots, slow learners, assholes and general shitbirds but I don’t see that as being much different from any other generation.