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Edie Seashore: On Coaching

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Edie:  We didn’t know that’s what we were doing, but I would say that everything that my experience as a facilitator and even in the NTL group was in some sense a form of coaching.  I think that the fact that we were actually helping people to understand their own behavior in a group setting and the impact it had on a group was a curious form of coaching.

Mentoring and Coaching

Edie: I was a co-trainer at NTL for eight years, and I was being coached constantly by my “senior(s)”, they were all older than me and more experienced than I was. They all had their PhDs in Applied Behavioral Science, and I just had my Bachelors and getting my Masters at the time.  But, they were coaching me in how to become a more effective facilitator of key groups at the time and working in skill sessions. When I went out into the field, I went with Richard Beckhard Associates, and he was clearly my coach. He came in, you know, from the theater.

Dorothy:  He came in from the theater.

Edie: He was the stage manager at New York City Theater. Some of the big shows in New York.  And during World War II he was with USO around the world.  That’s how he met his wife.  She was also with the USO.  Richard came in through stage managing and setting up scenes.  That’s how NTL picked him up. They got very intrigued about the fact that he actually could help us stage manage some of the role plays that we were doing.  Role playing was a big thing then.  Also, some of the skill exercises that he would be–he understood the drama of it all.

His firm at that point was called “Conference Counselors”. He was changing large conferences into working conferences rather than just lectures. Richard was the one who initiated the idea of putting in round tables. In New York City, the hotels had to go out and find round tables and bring them in for his conferences and turn them into working conferences where people actually worked together in small groups – unheard of in 1950.

When I joined his firm in 1958, it was still Conference Counselors. While I was with him, we changed it over to Richard Beckhard Associates because he decided that he was no longer just going to do conferences. He was also going to do systemic change inside systems and see how the conferences would work into that.

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