How to Build Instructor Credibility


Over the years at the range, alot of people have asked when I am going to start instructing "for real".

I was interested in posting shooting challenges and “super scientific” videos online regarding the “why” behind the techniques we use on the gun, but didn’t think that anyone would want to officially learn from me. My answer was always that I didn’t have the resume to instruct “for real” and didn’t think people would be interested without great credentials to back up the instruction.  

It's a common fear that most of us have. We need to know someone’s resume before confidence or trust is extended to a person’s knowledge, skills or experience.

The thing is… I do have a resume, but it’s not a resume that I would trust myself because of the lack of bestowed confidence I have in some of the abilities of people with my same resume. For this reason, I did not want to use my resume to provide credibility to my skillset, especially because my resume had little to do with it.

Here are some problems with boosting credibility through a resume…

We can only apply so much credibility to an individual based on their group identity. This is because there are stars and duds in every profession, along with a good amount of institutional dogma that comes with learning the ropes in many professions.

How many school teachers and professors have we learned from in our lives that should have never been instructing? These were people that had the perfect resumes and schooling to be in a place of instruction and yet lacked the abilities to pass on knowledge in an effective manner.

In terms of dogma, a tremendous number of law enforcement or military personnel believe, based on their training, that the slide lock/release lever on our pistols should not be used under any circumstance because it is a fine motor skill that will not be able to be used under combat stress. In the same instance, the instructors, and therefore the students, say that we must use those same fine motor skills to hit our tiny emergency button on our radio, defeat the retention devices on our holsters and apply perfect trigger control to send a round to its intended destination. This is dogma. There are many forms of it that come along with good resumes.  

Further, I'm sure anyone in an army or policing career would agree that the majority of persons they work with have a lackluster ability to pass on knowledge or skills and often times have "meet standard" as their way of life. If this is the majority, then this means that the simple fact that someone has a title or rank in front of their name means little in terms of their ability to offer worthwhile instruction, or their individual ability to perform.

We’ve all seen a few too many instructors that were relying on the fact that they had law enforcement or military backgrounds to boost the credibility of their training curriculum, without the requisite individual skills or knowledge that should likely come with that background.

If we look at Tier 1 and Tier 2 special operation units, we are extremely likely to see individuals that are highly skilled. However, from the instructional side, this does not guarantee that they also have a great ability to pass on knowledge, even though they have a high-level skillset.

If we can accept that there are no guarantees that a resume will produce an instructor that is both skilled and able to pass on knowledge, then we must look past the rank, background or resume and decide for ourselves if what a person has to offer is worthwhile, or accurate in relation to how things work in reality.

Therefore, an instructor enhances their credibility and student's trust by displaying an ability to perform the skillsets they are teaching beyond the ability of the average person, and explaining why it works. This does not mean an instructor must be the best in his field, as none of us would have been able to get to where we are today without imperfect people in our lives teaching us how to become better. It's fair to say that a majority of these same people were also not the best in their field.

However, confidence and credibility is lost when an instructor is unable to demonstrate a technique at a level of ability that exceeds the majority of his students, or the instructor is unable to pass on their knowledge in a way that the individual student requires to learn. Above all, confidence and credibility can be destroyed by an instructor that does not display humility and hold the student's improvement as their primary goal

In the end, if someone lacks the requisite abilities to instruct or perform, then it should be easily and quickly determined by observing them in these environments, and less by simply observing their title or background.

If the content is accurate, then it should be accurate on its own merit.

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