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Interview of the month: David Webster, School of Coaching, the Industrial Society


As a publisher, course provider, consultancy and advocate of best practice in training and development, the Industrial Society has established a name for itself over the last 80 years in responding to government initiatives and advising decision-makers. With over 10,000 member organisations, the activities of the Society as an independent, not-for-profit campaigning body are driven by 'a commitment to improve working life', through initiatives such as the recent 2000 Vision programme focussing attention on Britain's under 25's.

The Industrial Society's School of Coaching was established jointly by The Industrial Society and coach, consultant and author Myles Downey to provide training and development for those 'seeking to become first class coaches, capable of transforming the performance of individuals and teams in organisations'. Its programmes are intended for senior managers, senior HR professionals or those regarded as role models or agents for change, whose role involves supporting others to make changes in their performance, but who require new tools and approaches to make this happen.

The School's definition of coaching is 'the art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another'. It aims to develop these skills by focussing on the use of a non-directive approach, creating partnerships and acting out of the belief that people have huge potential. The School also focuses on aligning the individual's drives, the demands of their role and that of the business.
David Webster

TrainingZONE spoke to David Webster, the School's Managing Director, about the role of the school in developing managers at a time when many are facing an increasing number of challenges in the workplace.

TrainingZONE: What's the relationship between the School of Coaching and the Industrial Society?

David Webster: It's very much a partnership approach. The common values are an interest in developing high-profile interventions which impact on organisations, and helping individuals to learn to enjoy work.

TrainingZONE: Pushing forward initiatives seems to be a key part of the Industrial Society's work - how does this impact on the work of the School of Coaching?

David Webster: The world of work has fundamentally changed in the last five years - the manager's role has changed. For coaching, this means that a manager needs to be quite different - to operate as leader, manager and coach in order to get better performance out of an apparently smaller number of networked people. This has real challenges.

TrainingZONE: Can you define the difference between coaching and mentoring?

David Webster: There's a common skills base needed in order to do both, but the intent is different. Mentoring is used more to develop a career, to support someone who has more experience over a longer period of time. Coaching relationships are more to do with helping people learn and perform to their best - developing awareness in an individual. As a coach, you create the right relationships for people to perform to their best, and develop self-satisfaction in seeing others develop.

TrainingZONE: It seems that coaching has some elements in common with teaching...

David Webster: Teaching for me implies one who knows more. However, the non-directive end of teaching is similar to coaching - giving advice, guiding.

TrainingZONE: Which theories of learning inform your work the most?

David Webster: We use a whole range of techniques and tools, which draw on the inner game rather than the outer game - the conversation that goes on within your ears. The idea is that everyone has enormous potential but that it doesn't always get used - the aim is to reduce those interferences that get in the way. We draw on discussions, teaching, group and one-to-one coaching, and also use books, videos, websites for the public programmes. People are also expected to put together a learning log.

TrainingZONE: Does e-learning feature in any of the programmes?

David Webster: Participants share web addresses and use e-mail support.

TrainingZONE: Are the programmes accredited at all?

David Webster: Yes, the public programme is accredited by the University of Strathclyde - the programme leads to a Certificate of Development in Coaching. We were the first in the country to develop this sort of link. For programmes run inside an organisation we would talk to the University before accrediting them.

TrainingZONE: Do you think the skills involved in coaching are innate? Do some people find it easier to develop as coaches than others?

David Webster: This is as yet untested. The ways in which people perform to their best vary - some people keep them well covered! When a great coach is operating well, their 'coachees' are in a different place to the one they normally inhabit. They're not judging themselves, they can see clearly the issues that face them, can develop their own understanding of how they perform and they're letting go of judgement that's been piled on them. So many things mitigate against this happening. Coaches can have the same thing going on for them as 'coachees'. The role of the School is to get people into this space - it's an unusual place to be.

TrainingZONE: What are the key issues affecting managers today?

David Webster: That's a difficult question! The world in which many of the more senior managers grew up is very different to that of their junior managers, who expect to be treated differently, to be developed, to have choice, to be trusted. If they don't build a supportive relationships with their manager, they'll go somewhere else, more exciting to work - people have a choice. Organisations have to retain the best, whether they're contract or free workers - as a report published recently by the Futures Team shows, engaging those kinds of people is key. You have to ensure there's a space for people to learn and perform to their best.

TrainingZONE: It seems like there's a lot of pressure on managers today?

David Webster: Yes - they also have to deliver results with seemingly less resources, although these are more likely to be networks of free workers and project teams. This is why coaching is key in retaining focus and clarity amongst senior management.

About the School of Coaching programmes

The School of Coaching's programmes are either delivered in-house or run as a series of open programmes throughout the year, consisting of a three-day residential workshop, fortnightly one-day workshops and one-on-one development at the start and half-way through the programme. Participants also select three individuals and one team to coach as practice during the programme, and undergo 360° feedback before and after the Programme to give specific feedback on their coaching skills and to provide a measure of their progress. As an optional extra, after the Programme has been completed, the School offers a quarterly one-day workshop to provide supervision for coaches and further opportunities for development. The final 2001 open programme begins in September - course fees are £8,806.63 including VAT. For more information, e-mail


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