"I pay close attention to the people and their personal needs."
Since 1990 Susanne F. Gopalan has worked as a Professional Trainer for managers and employees from different industries. A winner of the 1997 German Sales Manager and Trainer Award, she's now an internationally recognized Coach leading seminars in Germany and English speaking countries.
Interview from Ms. Ranftl with Susanne F. Gopalan about her training & coaching philosophy
You have been working successfully as a Coach for 25 years. What exactly makes working with people so appealing to you?
Gopalan: The self-realization and personal development of my seminar participants. This experience helps me considerably to find my fulfillment and develop my personality. Besides, I really enjoy endowing my tools with content and passing it all on to my clients.
What kind of problems do you mostly encounter at your clients' locations?
Gopalan: I have created a worksheet listing eleven job-related problem triggers. These include:
- flagging motivation
- increasing demands
- selfish behavior
- bureaucratic concerns for personal welfare
- lack of commitment
- lacking identification with company objectives
- disinterest in the work environment
- low tolerance level
- fear of the future
Your entire seminar series is based on three terms: Consulting, Performance coaching and Training - Do you offer these services as one unit or separately?
Gopalan: I offer these services both separately and as one unit. In any real-life situation these terms cannot always be separated. The client company's size and needs are the deciding factors. There are companies to whom I offer these components as a unit. In general, though, I begin with a consulting and then the client and I cooperate to work out the training steps. If need arises, I might offer coaching to individual managers. My work basically depends on the company's objectives.
What is the difference between performance coaching and training?
Gopalan: Training means working in groups, whereby a group can consist of but two people. Coaching focuses more on particular themes and is generally carried out in private. During the so-called team-coaching individual participants constantly form new teams. Here the dividing line between training and coaching disappears. In coaching the participant and I try to overcome an obstacle while I indicate a specific direction. Afterwards we work together to analyze the limits and goals that he has set for himself. A training step is a global method which applies to the entire team.
Does your seminar content reach the majority of your participants, in other words, do your clients really return to work with a different attitude?
Gopalan: Before the end of a course my clients' behavior tells me whether the content has been received or not. Besides, I often get positive feedback from the seminar participants themselves. How they integrate the content at work varies considerably: some might conclude that this isn't the right job for them or that they have to change. Others have dared to take the step into self-employment or learned to value their work.
What line of work are most of your participants in, or rather, which companies use your services?
Gopalan: I couldn't name a particular line of work or an industry. Due to my professional experience I received training in banking and later graduated from business school-my clientele for coaching includes many financial services and consulting companies. Several German Top-100 companies, including manufacturers, use my services. Start-ups and family businesses are also among them.
Where do you see the differences between individual trainers and their seminar offers?
Gopalan: First of all, the trainer's professional background is crucial. The methodology and topics can vary considerably.
Where do you see your priorities?
Gopalan: I pay close attention to social and personality competence and design my training accordingly. I am a behavioral trainer with a tendency toward attitude training. There are trainers who focus on expert and methodological competence. I pay close attention to the people and their personal needs, which results in a variety of themes, for instance, how do I organize myself at work?
Now a general question: where does the term "communications trainer" come from?
Gopalan: The job title "Trainer" is not protected. However, there are recognized institutions that educate trainers. I am a Trainer from the Academy of German Cooperatives, which is a registered member of the German Association of Trainers and Sales Promoters. They have issued a brochure that details the prerequisites for the job. Continuing education is essential for anybody aspiring to be a good trainer.
You hold a business degree and graduated from the MSBA at San Francisco State University. Do you think that an American university education offers better opportunities for trainers in communications?
Gopalan: Every communications trainer needs to know where his priorities are. My years in America were an enriching experience, and I was able to develop and integrate my strengths. Which is not to suggest that the professional education available in one country is superior to another one's.
How do you recognize a good trainer?
Gopalan: The learning objectives have to correspond to the client's needs. Ethics is an important part of the interplay between the trainer and the seminar participants. For one thing, the trainer must never use his methods in a manipulative way in order to make the participants dependent. The German Association of Sales Managers and Trainers has issued comprehensive guidelines in this respect.
Thanks for the insights.