Carey Mahoney: The L&D Professional that we all want to be

Great hair. Funny jokes. Female volleyball coach. There was little that Lieutenant Carey Mahoney could not turn his hand to. How was he able to do this and, more importantly, how might be useful to L&D professionals?

Growing up watching Police Academy I thought the police force was a laugh a minute, with whacky characters a plenty and eccentric middle and senior management everywhere. Sadly the first half of this theory went out of the window when my parents house was burgled and, as I have moved from one employer to another in adult life, I have found that eccentric middle management is not exclusive to the boys in blue. I mean check this guy out.

G.W. Bailey, David Graf, Lance Kinsey

Sometimes even the good guys end up behind bars… G.W. Bailey, David Graf, Lance Kinsey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But still I would come back to the mixed bag of oddballs, rejects, reformed criminals and subscribers to Guns and Ammo (‘Oh Tackleberry!’) that the movie series provided and see something to admire and aspire to. Never was this more the case than in the example of Steve Guttenburg’s character, Carey Mahoney.

He always seemed to be at the centre of both solutions and problems for the force, though more often than not was trying to do the ‘right thing’ rather than what was right for him alone, so to speak. He rarely did so acting on his own, instead bringing together a team of other officers for the good of the organisation.

Taking this in to account, there must be something to be learnt from this for L&D professionals? Of course there is –  and we don’t even need a guy making funny computer game and gun noises to help explain it either.

‘Harris: “You make me Sick.” Mahoney: “Thank you, sir. I make everybody sick”

There is a lot to be said for not just knowing your audience, but knowing yourself as well. Mahoney knows it – he realises for every person that finds him endearing and funny, there will be those who find him an unwanted distraction and something of a pain.

However, if you are able to realise where your strengths lie this will be a massive help to getting buy in from others. Within the context of L&D, this means that you not only need to be aware of the learning styles of those people you are training/delivering to, but also how you are most effective in delivering on the learning outcomes of the session. Consider not only what is effective in achieving learning objectives but also what you are most comfortable with.

But it is not enough to stay in your comfort zone – sometimes you have to take a risk or two, as did our friend Mahoney…

‘Not the new Zoo, the old Zoo – that’s the old Zoo!’

For all that Mahoney was a confident and cocky guy, even he put himself in difficult situations sometimes. Never was this better illustrated than by him going undercover as ‘Jughead’ in order to infiltrate Zed’s gang in ‘Police Academy 2: The First Assignment’.

Not only did it put him at great personal risk by him having a wire tap attached to him in the midst of unruly criminals (at the Zoo mentioned above, for those who have not seen the scene), it was also a risk with no guaranteed return – he was taking a chance for the greater good of the force.

Fortunately we don’t have to wear wire taps or put ourselves in physical danger – well I hope no L&D professional reading this puts themself in physical danger for their job! However, we do have the opportunity to take professional risks and we should do so when we get the chance.

Dont get me wrong – this is not about being reckless in your work or to taking unnecessary risks on a daily basis. However, there is something to be said for pushing the envelope a bit, especially in the context of having looked at what are strengths and weaknesses as mentioned previously.

Take a structured approach. Find a task that will not only develop your skill set but feels like a risk – so you get a little scared about it (not stay awake at night scared mind!), as it should get your full attention if this is the case. Build it in on a regular basis – for example, once or twice a week – and let others know about it.

‘Let other people know about it? What, so they can be there when I fall flat on my face?!‘ No, quite the opposite. You will find that if you mention it to others, along why you are doing it, that they will be an unforseen source of support as well as a resource that you might not have counted on. Added to this they can help build in some accountability to the process to encourage you further if they ever ask for an udpate on your progress – win-win all round people!

Being vulnerable through taking risks – Mahoney would recommend it!

‘Sir. Look sir – new pants!’

There are always times when your work life (and life in general) will punch you in the head like Rocky sequel – though not always unexpected, the results can be much more negative than you might have imagined (yes, I am thinking of Rocky V).

So it is important to celebrate the small victories in life on a regular basis. In the example quoted above Mahoney is using new pants not only as something to make him smile but also to distract a superior from one of his always hilarious pranks. Feel good times all round.

You will find that by being able to draw some positives from whatever professional situation will help not only give you perspective on your current situation but also give you some momentum to move forward with in future instances. Quick wins really do add up in the long run.

So there you have it – how the life and times of Carey Mahoney can help us all become better in our roles. But perhaps you might think that there is another member of the Police Academy cast that is a more suitable role model for the L&D profession to follow. Maybe you think Hightower should have been given a mention, or that Tackleberry had the real facilitation skills that we all need. If so I want to hear from why you think this might be the case and why. Failing that, perhaps you could take two minutes to complete the poll on Police Academy members below?

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