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When did you last attend “thought-provoking” training?

Or a training course that made a lasting difference to the way you work?

If it has been a while then maybe a fresh approach is needed.

This autumn, I am excited to be training all of the UK-based senior leaders from a major multi-national on Safety Leadership (in collaboration with some very skilled occupational psychologists).

It is an interactive full-day workshop with a generous helping of delegate cross-examination included, not because the delegates are in trouble or due to give evidence but because it has proven to be a highly effective training tool.

Cross-examination in innovative training

In our court system, cross-examination is the name given to questioning by the opposing lawyer.  In most cases it is termed adversarial and can be seen as hostile. The intention is usually to discredit the witness’s evidence, or perhaps to discredit the witness themselves.

And, for those of you who don’t know, I practiced as a barrister for 15 years so cross-examining is something I love to do.

Bringing this approach into a training day allows delegates a much fuller understanding of what they might face if they find themselves involved in an investigation or a court case after a health and safety breach at work. 

This could be an injury leading to a civil claim or an incident which leads to a prosecution, or even an inquest (or Fatal Accident InvestigatIon) following a death in a workplace.

The impact

By using a realistic and identifiable scenario, delegates can see the scrutiny which might follow those decisions they make on a day to day basis whether that is on a construction site, on the railway or in a factory setting.  Anywhere really where health and safety is important.

The intention is that the delegates then have the chance to think again the next time they are faced with a dilemma – “Shall I depart from this written procedure and use an unauthorized tool for this task because it is quicker? Or will that open up a whole world of pain in the months and years ahead?”

It also helps Board Members and other Senior Leaders, who may be a little removed from the coal face, to recognize the important role they have to play in ensuring that their employees benefit from a safety first culture at work.

The feedback we have had after doing this for some years in various formats is that it really does have an impact on the delegates and brings about a change in their behaviour.

Keeping the delegates safe

As mentioned above, we don’t use this technique in isolation.  On this project, I am working with specialist Occupational Psychologists from the OPC and, together with the delegates, we work to provide a safe space and further useful content including what safety culture and safety leadership are all about and how their own organisation currently measures up.

We also use the experience and outputs from the “courtroom drama” to help the delegates identify their corporate and personal areas of strength around safety and prepare development plans for action back at work.  And we included some background on the legal system including some relevant recent prosecutions.

Other uses for cross-examination in training

But the day itself can be tailored to the specific needs of the group and I will always work with you to ensure that it meets those needs, from the structure of the day to the content of the cross-examination.

This particular project is very focused on health and safety and safety leadership but cross examination as a training technique can be used for many purposes, for example:

– testing whether employees can hold their own in a pressurised environment (and equipping them with techniques to improve their performance under pressure);

– allowing delegates to develop a deeper understanding of how difficult questioning might be should they fail to comply with their day to day duties (particularly useful for example in health and social care settings);

(Whilst they might never have to give evidence on court a great understanding of the reality of that experience can impact their day to day behaviour). 

– testing a team’s understanding of the vision or strategy guiding their work (and increasing or embedding that understanding if need be). This can be applied to any key policy or operating procedure also. 

Next steps

If you want to know more, I am always happy to have a no-obligation chat – just email me on

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