I was searching one of my hard drives today for a training-related file, and I found some extremely useful hints-and-tips documents.
One was the excellent ‘Training Basics – Getting It Right’ from Toastmasters International – which as far as I can tell was only ever made available to those of us who were involved in training members in the new Pathways educational programme which was rolled out a few years ago.
Others included ‘From Speaker to Trainer’ (also from Toastmasters), scripts for training videos that I have voiced as part of my voice-over business, how-to handbooks on public speaking (in my role as a communications trainer), training in compliance with the Australian Commercial Radio Codes of Practice (for my part-time gig as a radio journalist) and more.
But also flagged in my search was a video I shot on board a cruise ship (The Norwegian Jewel, in Puerta Vallarta) as a group of sailors practiced a lifeboat drill.
And specifically, what to do if their life raft was upside down when it hit the water.
The interesting thing was that it followed all the strategies I employed as a trainer – but I was suddenly struck by the relative disparity in importance.
If I fail as a trainer when coaching someone to give a wedding toast, it’s a bad thing – but not (generally) fatal.
If these sailors fail to learn, however, the ramifications are much more serious.
Another example comes to mind.
A few years ago, I was at a conference when one of the speakers stepped off stage, and promptly collapsed with a heart-attack.
I did basic CPR training as part of my first aid certificate – but I was still thinking “OK – Danger, Response, Send for help – Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillation” when three of my colleagues had the patient in the recovery position and had made sure his airways were clear.
I was just getting out of my chair to see what I could do to assist when a fourth colleague was on the phone to Triple-Zero (the emergency number in Australia) and another was searching for the defibrillator we assumed would be nearby (it wasn’t but that’s another story…)
I spoke to them later to discuss why they were so quick into action as I was still assessing what I needed to do – and the answer was simple.
They were trained as if someone’s life depended on it. And it did.
In each case, their training was part of their jobs – personal trainers, disability care-givers, etcetera – while my training was just ‘part of my first aid certificate’.
Oh, I took the training seriously – but I never really expected to need it.
Of course, they also drilled regularly in the skills needed to save a life – and when the time came, the training kicked in.
The patient survived, by the way – and my colleagues all came through the ordeal well (although one later told me they had utilised the services of their employee-assistance programme for counselling).
But all the drilling in the world can’t help if the basic training is flawed.
Here’s a story I was told of a change to the training offered to cabin staff at an airline regarding the use of epi-pens for those suffering from anaphylactic shock.
The ‘old training’ involved getting the device, removing it from its the safety tube, putting ‘blue to the sky, orange to the thigh’ (making sure the device was aligned correctly) and jamming it down into the leg, to simulate delivering a dose to the victim.
The problem is that on more than one occasion, when called upon to use the epi-pen, those who were delivering the dose JABBED THEIR OWN LEG, rather than the intended recipient, because that’s what happened in a training session.
It was a perfect (but tragic) example of the law of unintended consequences.
So when you are being trained, or when you are designing training, train as if someone’s life depends on it.
Because it may.