An Illustration of a Tonyversity Learning Programme
Contacted by a Senior Manager / Account-Handler of an online marketing consultancy. Request for a relatively intensive programme of higher-level, Business English to be delivered over two months to a key, junior manager / technical specialist in web-design who was being groomed for a promotion to Account Handler.
Already I was beginning to see a need for something rather more than the delivery of English teaching, as the leap from technical specialist to presenter, negotiator and relationship-builder would require the development and enhancement of a range of different capabilities (even if English would be the primary language through which these skills would be demonstrated.
I consider that a good relationship between tutor and learner is of critical importance: the better the relationship, the faster and the more enjoyable and productive the learning experience. Accordingly I invited the junior manager to come to meet me and spend some time in English discussing his job, his career aspirations and his specific needs and targets for learning and those of his employer.
The meeting was carried out in an informal atmosphere, after work and away from the office, over an apéro. There were no ‘tests’, just relaxed conversation wich developed into drawing together a programme outline that fit both learner and employer targets within the broad resource ‘envelope’ available. Speaking and discussing a little in English also enabled me to establish the existing degree of language confidence and capability. This process took some two hours.
In this case (and every case is necessarily different: a Tonyversity programme is tailored to the learner’s individual and distinctive needs & constraints), a programme of 21 hours of face-to-face learning was determined on the basis of 7 weekly sessions of 3 hours duration, timed to complete prior to his Account Handler interview. These sessions took place in the evening at Tonyversity in Bruebach (just South of Mulhouse). In the event, some sessions lasted over 4 hours and some only 2 given the energy level of the learner after a hard day at work.
This programme outline (see below), was then costed and submitted with an estimate to the company for approval.
Inevitably, grammar, syntax, punctuation and the general rules of the English Language were to appear at certain times and in certain places, they were sub-text rather than structure.
The learner in this case already had a TOEIC score of some 745 (a ‘Blue’ score – just edging into the upper middle of the TOIEC range), so the first priority was to develop the maximum ‘returns’ to the capability he already possessed.
Developing Language Capability. I asked him to bring with him examples of projects he had worked on and was still working on: reports, powerpoints, letters, memos, meeting minutes, ‘thinkpieces’, web content etc and to ‘talk me through’ them, sometimes reading, sometimes explaining the content. This enabled a number of learning outcomes:
- I could help him to question and reflect upon his own written work: to critique it in terms of English and presentation technique etc. Between sessions and after the course, this self-delivered, reflection and critique would be essential to ‘fuel’ improvement.
- The reading and writing enabled me to assist him, gently, with issues of grammar, spelling, pronunciation and to help enhance his business and management vocabulary etc
- Together we worked on his current projects between the draft and finished stages, ‘finessing’ structure, presentation and content as well as the use of language. Focusing upon ‘work in progress’ enabled me to better understand his needs and the corporate context and to define the structure and content of future sessions.
- Subsequently using/delivering such materials in the workplace and with clients gave him further confidence.
Enhancing Management Skills. Quite early on I was able to establish that one inhibitor to the successful use of English in presentations / negotiations etc, was the fact that his thinking (though excellent in terms of creativity, analysis and evaluation) lacked an organisational ‘sharpness’ when it came to the development of clear, concise and well-focused structures for presentations in written and oral form. This lack tended to mean that not only would a client perhaps get a little ‘lost’, but that he would inevitably have more problems trying to express himself in English without a far ‘tighter’ focus. This resulted in considerable work, in English, upon:
- designing, developing and delivering clear structures for content and the achievement of objectives (such as selling a conceptual web page design to a client.). Once again this was all done using ‘live’ projects from his own work-programme
- developing a more refined commercial/business/management vocabulary tailored to the principal activities undertaken in day to day business.
- ‘reporting back’ on the diagnosis of the delivery of certain projects upon which we had been working togeher: with each project we recorded ‘successes’ to be reinforced and ‘improvements needed’ to be worked upon. This produced a flexible structure for learning from week to week which represented precisely learner needs.
The above stages rapidly developed technical capability, but, perhaps even more importantly, instant positive feedback which added dramatically to learner confidence, to the extent that colleagues and clients remarked upon the difference. Even during the training period, on the basis of this marked improvement, he was given further responsibilities for handling accounts and developing client relationships.
The final sessions reviewed progress made and set priorities for the time remaining, which involved, in this case:
- Remaining critical pronunciation difficulties to resolve
- Formalities of address and salutations in English in written and oral situations
- Opening and closing telephone conversations and meetings, socialising ‘small talk’ and the changes in these as relationships develop (ie movement from: ‘yours faithfully’, ‘yours sincerely’, ‘regards’, ‘cheers’ etc….)
- Transitional vocabulary, moving from one subject to another etc
This simply allowed him to add ‘gloss’ to what was already becoming quite stylish.
- reviewing the Job Description and Person Specification for the Account Manager post
- a candid assessment of the candidate against the above criteria: strenghts and weaknesses
- the development of an interview strategy designed to accentuate the strengths, deal with any weaknesses and predict likely questions and develop coherent responses thereto
- dummy interviews in English with feedback both on use of language and performance.
- He is very much more confident now both in the skills acquired and in his use of English in a variety of new professional situations and contexts.
- On the basis of 21 hours of coaching he improved his TOEIC score by almost 200, now being within just 60 marks of the 990 maximum and in the upper portion of the highests ‘TOEIC GOLD’ echelon.
- His employer is now confidently giving him ‘Account Manger’ responsibilities with international clients where English is the working language.
- He feels his network of clients and their relationships to be growing more productive as a result of his Tonyversity training and support.
- As a tutor, I also learned a lot generally about the industry concerned, the sector, and the particular functional speciality of this learner which can be brought to bear in future learning sessions with different clients. Learning is a proverbial ‘two-way street’.
Week–to-week support. In this instance, the learner was not asked to follow a textbook between classes, but rather to immerse himself in listening and speaking English. This was achieved by:
- Continuing projects at work in English and switching over to speaking English with colleagues where possible.
- Listening to the BBC World Service or Radio 4 internet-radio broadcasts and podcasts for The News etc
- Changing over the ‘language’ default on menus for familiar software programmes like Microsoft Office and on mobile phones
- Occasionally this was supplemented by a small amount of investigative work: in this case the learner was asked to listen to Barack Obama’s speeches at his ‘Victory’ party in Chicago and at his Inauguration and analyse the nature and framework of the speech: what made these speeches so good and to what extent could this be distilled into principles that could be used in the learner’s own projects and presentations? These principles were then subsequently ‘built–in’
Tonyversity ‘panic button’. I also offered the learner the opportunity for contact via online chat or email concerning items of such urgency that could not wait until the next programmed session. This facility was used sparingly, but in the following circumstances:
- Review/critique of an important Powerpoint presentation in English for Senior Management
- Review / enhancement of a client Powerpoint sales pitch for a new web marketing concept.
This training programme was effective and achieved learner and employer objectives principally because of:
- The strong motivation of the learner which was sustained over almost two months both in and between sessions.
- The clarity of employer and learner objectives: these were well-defined, logical and feasible within the time-frame and were ‘sharpened up’ and even extended during the training programme.
- The productive tutor / learner relationship – largely ensured by our meeting and discussions pre-commencement and the professional yet informal and flexible way of working.
- The use of the learner’s ‘live’ projects from the workplace which made the focus of the training sessions real and their outputs instantly useful.
- The immediate application of the new skills and capabilities within the workplace, enabling the learner to feel the sense of improvement and receive feedback from colleagues and clients (as well as from Tonyversity) = strong reinforcement.
There is no reason why the above cannot be achieved in most, if not all
Tonyversity English and Management Development Programmes.