When it was announced that the company was investing in training in coaching skills, I was really quite excited about taking part in it. I confess that I had only a vague idea of what coaching might be — something about inspiring people to achieve their full potential — and no idea about how to go about it.

As we discovered on our first training day, my vague idea wasn’t wildly off the mark. Coaching is a practical and creative approach to supporting people to solve problems, achieve goals or simply develop and be the best they can.

The training course involved three hands-on training days, with lots of time to practise on each other, a theoretical written assignment, at least 6 hours of coaching practice, and two more practical written assignments reviewing and reflecting on that practice.

We learned about the importance of confidentiality and contracting with the coachee. We practised some of the coaching models, or protocols. We discussed the attributes of a good coach and looked at how people’s personality types and learning styles can influence the coach–coachee relationship.

And then it was time to start practising. At first we practised on our colleagues in the training group. This was good, because they knew what we should be doing and so we got helpful feedback. Then, other colleagues kindly volunteered to be coached, and that was really helpful because it felt much more ‘real’ to us as trainee coaches.

Six hours of coaching practice didn’t seem very much, but I learned an awful lot from it and discovered the real power of coaching. Sometimes, just giving people a bit of time and space to talk somehow frees up their thinking and helps them to come up with their own ideas and solutions. They come back more relaxed, positive and confident that they can achieve their goals. They feel better about themselves and more in control of their own lives. And that affects how they approach their work.

That is why I think it is so important that we work towards developing a coaching culture at Prepress Projects — to make it a workplace where everyone understands that coaching is an opportunity for self-development and where informal coaching is part of everyday interactions.

Finishing the course and gaining a qualification is not the end of the story. Good coaches are like good copy-editors — they never stop learning and developing by reflecting on their practice and taking on board constructive feedback. And that will be crucial in developing a coaching culture.