This topic was setup for delivery over two sessions on the final day of Interski; one in the morning led by US Snowboard Eric Rolls and one in the afternoon led by US skiers Jonathon Ballou and Ann Schorley.
From SBINZ, we had one of our team attend in the morning (Keith) and one in the afternoon (Leo). We found it interesting to discuss the different highlights and key points after the workshops were delivered, so we’ll give you the key reflections from each of us after outlining the clinic.
What the PSIA-AASI has essentially done is split the role of an instructor into three main components; technical skills, teaching skills and people skills. This has evolved into something they call “The Learning Connection model”.
A simple explanation of each is to consider the following:
- Technical Skills – the ability to ski and ride and the understanding behind that ability.
- Teaching Skills – the connection made between the student and the skill being taught.
- People Skills – the connection made between the student and the instructor.
There has been a conscious and deliberate decision to split teaching and people skills into separate components. Comparatively, in other systems, those two skill sets often fall together in unison. The clinic was driven by interactive discussion surrounding the idea of people skills given the PSIA-AASI definition.
After some discussion around what we believed were crucial people skills for an instructor to have, we were given the PSIA-AASI four components of People Skills:
- Trust – Develop relationships based on trust.
- Communication – Engage in meaningful, two-way communication.
- Self awareness/management – Identify, understand and manage your emotions and actions.
- Social awareness/management – Recognise and influence the behaviours, motivation and emotions of others.
In both the morning and afternoon groups, we essentially worked through mini-workshop style discussions to try and establish if any of the current systems around the world had methods to train and/or examine any of the above components in their instructors. It is very apparent that whilst these values are highly regarded in instructors, there is little in the way of formal training processes around. It now becomes clear why PSIA-AASI are walking the road they are.
It’s important to note that the US are very focused on the belief that these skills are teachable, i.e. they are not necessarily innate characteristics that we are born with. We like this ‘Murica!
How you actually teach these people skills to new instructors is one of the hardest parts of the process and takes time but let’s begin by summarising each area…
An effective connection should begin with trust. For an instructor, this allows the students to put their faith in your ability to make decisions and steer the lesson effectively. If the student doubts your ability to keep them safe or your understanding of the skills, they are unlikely to learn from you.
This was highlighted in the morning snowboard clinic through team decision making. In teams of three, we agreed on a specific task to highlight fore-aft movement and nominated one person to lead it. Eric asked how we chose this person; did they volunteer or did we chose them together? In our case the person who suggested the task was encouraged to lead it, demonstrating that the other two of us showed trust in their abilities.
The old adage; “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” is the essence of this part, however communication is much more than verbal. Think eye contact, body language and facial expressions.
The afternoon clinic leaders, Jonathon and Ann highlighted this well when they discussed as a group the different channels of communication (verbal and non-verbal) and what an important part non-verbal communications actually play. Literally, during the conversation we were having, someone smiled and nodded about something, which showed a genuine display of non-verbal communication. It was a simple example that highlighted the point perfectly.
This is the awareness one has of themselves in particular environments. Do you have a tendency to react in a certain way? Maybe you get defensive easily or feel the need to put your opinion forward quickly before hearing others? Knowing your strengths is one thing but having a good awareness of your idiosyncrasies or natural tendencies is highly useful as a teacher.
In the morning snowboard clinic, Eric shared a personal example from earlier in the week where he was quick to pull out the phrase “In the USA we do it like this…”. This showed enormous self awareness and good self reflection skills. Let it be known that many other countries had a habit of doing this also and, in fact, our American friends were much more contained than you might imagine.
Does your demeanour change slightly when in social situations? We can often be affected by the number of people we are spending time with, whether it’s becoming more withdrawn or finding ourselves playing the centre of attention. The ability to recognise this in the people we surround ourselves with (or the people we are teaching) is a highly valuable “people skill”.
As above, the first step here is to become aware of it. Reflecting on your own tendencies in social situations and taking the time to consider other people’s tendencies. Managing them, of course, is a whole ‘nother level.
In a nut-shell, what PSIA-AASI are setting out to do here is look to develop training methods and evaluate a candidates ability to perform within the four people skills, in a way that is as genuine as possible. With such an interactive session with a lot of content driven by the attendees, we were keen to ask the question “How does PSIA-AASI train and examine these skills?”
The answer itself wasn’t the best bit, more simply the way in which it was answered. Simply put and with honesty, they do not have a 100% complete process (although nearly there) and they are finalising their processes for the upcoming winter season. It’s a huge topic with lots of grey areas, and to bring this to Interski to share and discuss without having all the answers was awesome – that level of humility and honesty was a living reflection of the topic itself.
My key takeaway from this is the “management” part of the latter two people skills. It’s one thing to be aware of your natural tendencies as a teacher or in a social environment, but the ability to catch yourself before that same old attitude creeps out is quite tricky to master and takes a lot of diligence.
I’ve been through this myself with a particular frustrating characteristic that seems to be an innate part of my personality and still, to this day, I have to work on it. I’m 100% aware of it I but don’t always catch it in time to manage it properly.
It’s no use constantly apologising for doing the same thing repeatedly. Be aware and make the change!
I’m excited to see PSIA-AASI take on an incredibly subjective topic and break it down into more objective and measurable parts. The process of breaking it down, building it back, breaking it down and then piecing it together again will at the very least leave their organisation with a depth of knowledge that will no doubt benefit their organisation.
In contrast, I believe the very nature of training and assessing People Skills may well change the perception of those skills in the real world. I think there will be mixed opinions on whether or not emotional intelligence can be trained well, and trained at a level to be a natural outcome for the candidate. Or, whether emotional intelligence will become a “learned process” and simply become more boxes to tick on a candidate’s mental checklist for their examination process.
Regardless of success with this avenue, I’m on board with the intentions behind this development pathway and am keen to see where it goes. It’s a topic I care deeply for and believe that there should be more of a focus on this side of personal development in the school curriculum from a young age. After all, increasing the emotional intelligence of others around us will ultimately be a great change for the future and not just for snow sports.
– By Leo Carey and Keith Stubbs