An Introduction to Coaching

Workshop Review: Ann Cartwright

By Meli Solomon


Ann Cartwright, experienced human resources manager, author and EFL trainer presented the key processes, skills and benefits of coaching as a workplace learning tool. Read the ELTABB event review by Méli Solomon:

Well attended and well received.At the outset, I sensed some doubts about relevance, but as Ann responded to the multitude of questions and comments, the participants developed a greater appreciation for how coaching might be relevant to their training.  It’s important to stress might, as Ann herself, was not stating a strong case that we all take up this approach.  She was explaining its concept and methods. 

 So what is it?

She began with what it is not.  Coaching is not therapy, consulting, mentoring, and not about providing all the answers.  This was a helpful way to go at it, as she defined the outer perimeter.  Moving on to what it is, she showed several definitions, the basic idea of which was – to help someone find answers for themselves, and sequentially focus on single issues.

What are the benefits?

She then got more specific about elements, noting its focus on individual needs, working one-to-one towards appropriate targets, and increasing confidence and skill.  One of the benefits stressed is the one-to-one structure itself.  Coaching’s flexibility and focus on the client’s work situations was highlighted repeatedly and stands out as one of the most significant values.  Clearly this is not about transferring data or delivering a pre-planned program.  But likewise, the potential for the sessions to slide into a therapeutic mode needs to be guarded against.  The importance of setting ground rules and focus at the beginning was noted.     

What skills does the coach need?

Given the vagaries of the situation, her description of the skills the coach needs was welcome.  The list is considerable but clear, and she walked us through each element: use active listening, suspend judgment, reframe, give and receive constructive feedback, recognize and express feelings, paraphrase, draw the client out, and use silence.  This last one, notably the difficulty of letting silence continue, prompted general murmurs of agreement and chuckles.  Perhaps the most critical element was being able to get the client to look at their situation from a new perspective, and not just give the answer.  Here again, there was much agreement that in our role of trainer, we are expected to have the answers, making this a tricky area to handle.

 How does coaching work?

To get at those methods, she described two models – a cycle and GROW.  The presentation was then followed by breakout sessions, where we discussed how we could put these new ideas and models into practice.  There were four groups and the conversations were audibly enthusiastic and engaged.  We could have all continued talking.  My group had a lively discussion about the roles of coach versus trainer and the different patterns of interaction.  This was a welcome conversation, and the balanced participation allowed each of us to contribute our experience and perspective. 

Thank you, Ann, for skillfully introducing us to coaching!

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