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Component for Module 330

Directing, Leading, and Coaching

Content Outline | Resources | Suggested Developmental Activities

Many full performance level interpreters will be involved in providing day-to-day direction and coaching for seasonal/temporary workers and/or other park employees (seasonal rangers, entry and developmental level interpreters, volunteers, SCA's, interns, cooperating association employees, etc.). The interpreter needs to develop skills and abilities in directing, leading, and interpretive coaching to encourage the interpretive development of others, and enhance their ability to provide interpretive opportunities for park visitors.

Upon completion of this component, the learner will be able to:

  • Provide direction for others through basic task instruction, on-the-job training (OJT), and delegation;

  • Contribute to motivating others; - demonstrate the principles of "leading by example;"

  • Use two-way communication techniques in directing and coaching situations;

  • Provide effective input and feedback in informal verbal and written interpretive coaching situations;

  • Incorporate the concepts and principles of the Interpretive Curriculum in coaching situations.


Application of the skills learned in this component will provide front-line leadership ability which contributes to the overall effectiveness of park interpretive and visitor operations. The full performance interpreter is able to provide clear direction, positive and useful interpretive feedback, and skill development opportunities for others, while learning/developing in themselves the skills they will need in supervisory roles beyond the full performance level.

A variety of coaching and leadership situations exist in the field for full performance interpreters and other workers. In all of these relationships, the full performance interpreter's ability to coach and direct is essential to accomplishing interpretive and/or park operational goals, which directly link to the quality of visitor experiences. The full performance interpreter's ability to effectively communicate, and to serve as a role model and resource person, is critical to the development of the workers he/she leads and the projects she/he directs. The development of these essential skills cannot be left to chance.

The full performance interpreter's leadership skill development must also be well grounded in an understanding and application of the philosophy and principles of the Interpretive Development Program Curriculum and the NPS Essential Interpretive Competencies program. Interpretive success in personal and non-personal services is enhanced when coordinated with principles learned throughout the professional development program.

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Content Outline

I. Directing the work of others

A. Effectively directing people in their day-to-day park interpretive/visitor services

1. knowledge of park/division operations and goals
2. knowledge of park resources
3. knowledge of visitor needs and expectations
4. communication skills
5. knowledge of the tasks/work to be done
6. ability to establish short- and long-term goals, prioritization, and time management
7. knowledge of and skill in leadership

a. OJT, task instruction/direction, and delegation
b. motivation, praise, and incentives
c. ability to lead by example

B. On-the-job training (OJT) and task direction**

1. preparing the learner

a. put the learner at ease
b. explain the "why" of the whole job
c. find out what the learner already knows
d. define all jargon/vocabulary

2. defining the operation or task

a. review the steps of the operation
b. demonstrate
c. sample references

3. performance practice and experimentation time
4. follow-up

a. allow questions and provide help
b. gradually decrease supervision, with periodic checking
c. compliment after every successfully completed step
(see also, section III-D, "Two-way communication")

C. Delegating

1. elements of effective delegation
a. recognize skill levels and abilities of each worker or team member
b. assign work to the appropriate team member
c. gain agreement and commitment of the worker to perform the duties satisfactorily
d. grant appropriate authority to the worker to take the actions necessary to get the job done

D. Motivation, praise, and incentives**

1. individual differences

a. personal achievement
b. salary
c. advancement
d. responsibility
e. mission

2. communicate the "vision"
3. encourage input and "buy in" to vision
4. internal rewards

a. doing the job itself
b. using skills they enjoy
c. sense of satisfaction upon completion of a task or assignment
d. workers have contributed to vision
e. workers learn new things/skills as they work

5. external rewards

a. On-the-Spot and other types of immediate and official NPS awards
b. park-developed certificates, plaques, etc.
c. monetary or gift awards sponsored by cooperating associations or "Friends" groups
d. formal recognition before a group of peers or the park staff

6. effective praising - good leaders make a consistent effort to "catch people doing something right"

a. offer praise with sincerity, and only when deserved
b. offer praise as soon as possible after the good work is done or observed
c. be specific about what actions pleased you
d. connect the actions which are being praised to the successful outcomes and goals of the division/park

** Information adapted from National Seminars Leadership Series, The Supervisor's Handbook: Techniques for Getting Results Through Others by Mark R. Truitt, National Press Publications, 1990.

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II. Leading by example

A. Developing and communicating an interpretive "vision"

1. defining the contribution interpretation makes to park effort
2. supporting and encouraging the efforts of others
3. exhibiting ethical and responsible behavior
4. using the language and demonstrating the principles and concepts of the Interpretive Development Program in your everyday work
5. demonstrating the willingness to seek constructive feedback, and the ability to continue to improve the quality of interpretive programs/ products you produce
6. trying always "practice what you preach"
7. treating others with the level of respect and courtesy you would like to receive yourself
8. demonstrating effective, patient, and helpful methods of communication with the public
9. showing respect for points of view which differ from your own and/or the park's

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III. Coaching other interpreters

A. Coaching attributes

1. sharing
2. providing feedback
3. providing information
4. providing suggestions
5. collaboration

B. Coaching relationship can be

1. voluntary
2. assigned
3. short-term
4. long-term

C. Coaching is not

1. supervision
2. confrontational, competitive, or adversarial
3. a formal mentoring program (although it may include peer-mentoring elements)
4. a way to promote/reinforce bad habits
5. a way to perpetuate inaccurate information

D. Two-way communication techniques for coaching

1. sender techniques

a. clear and concise
b. allow for the listener to seek clarification
c. reinforce difficult or complex ideas either by example or by additional phrasing
d. eliminate and overcome distractions in the environment (i.e., noise, visual distractions, personal habits)
e. use non-verbal and para-language effectively
f. know the topic

2. listening techniques

a. attention
b. avoid thinking about response before sender completes message
c. ask for clarification as needed
d. be non-judgmental until communication is complete
e. hold response (reply) until sender completes statement and indicates pause

E. Providing interpretive feedback

1. feedback based on solid interpretive foundation

a. concepts and principles of the Interpretive Development Program
b. the coach's own interpretive experience

2. verbal (informal) feedback in voluntary peer relationships

a. informally acknowledge/reinforce good/successful use of interpretive concepts and techniques when witnessed
b. volunteer informal suggestions for improvement of less than effective interpretive concepts/techniques when witnessed, the feedback is requested, and the situation is appropriate for you to comment; be confidential, specific and encouraging

3. written feedback in assigned coaching relationships

a. program audits/critiques
b. media product reviews
c. seasonal/SCA evaluations

F. Tools for reviewing products or programs

1. assessment checklist

a. knowledge of resource
b. knowledge of audience
c. themes, goals, objectives
d. appropriate media/materials used
e. desired outcome(s) evident
f. appropriate techniques used
g. connection to resource provided
h. relationship with audience established
i. clear, logical organization
j. audience reaction to product
k. tangible/intangible linkages established

G. Outlines and graphs of tangible/intangible links

1. study prior to observing
2. discuss afterward

H. Review of the program/product

1. maintain an open mind
2. use checklist
3. when attending a presentation, demonstrate appropriate behavior

a. be inconspicuous
b. take notes discreetly
c. stay for the whole program
d. listen to audience response
e. acknowledge interpreter at conclusion of presentation

I. The coaching session

1. meeting to talk about program/project

a. timeliness/immediacy is essential
b. create a relaxed, supportive atmosphere
c. select appropriate location
d. establish rapport
e. use appropriate non-verbal cues
f. sensitive to difficulty of receiving feedback
g. maintain eye contact
h. begin each session differently
i. cite concise, specific examples
j. use "positive assessment" strategy
k. make specific suggestions for improvement and/or integrating new techniques
l. give praise to those who show improvement
m. help individual move to higher level of excellence

-tangible/intangible connections
-multiple points of view

n. listen carefully and respond to comments
o. use questions effectively
p. encourage interpreter to make suggestions for his/her own improvement
q. share overheard visitor comments

2. working to minimize conflict during session

a. adapt the session to the interpreter's learning and communication styles
b. use "positive assessment"
c. direct comments toward future improvement
d. allow room for creativity
e. maintain sight of purpose
f. end the session if positive energy/comments are lost

3. conclude session

a. summarize main points
b. allow interpreter to make final comments
c. provide written comments which don't introduce any new ideas

J. Serving as a "resource person"

1. suggest/provide learning and training resources
2. suggest/provide developmental assignments
3. provide tools, audit forms, and information for others to develop self-assessment skills
4. share your learning experiences with others

K. Interpretive results from effective coaching

1. contribute to interpreter's skill development
2. improve quality of coach's feedback
3. enhance park/site's program/product quality
4. increase number/quality of potential interpretive opportunities for visitors
5. enhance resource stewardship opportunities

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The Art of Interpretive Critiquing, Bill Lewis, book/video tape.

Communications, John Tyler, Andy Kardos, Linda Olson, Kent Taylor, Bill Fuchs, NPS Interpretive Skills I lesson plan, 1992.

Feedback... Or the Battle of the Coach, Nancy Hadlock-Ferrell, and Tom Ryan, 1991. NAI Workshop Proceedings pgs. 134-36.

How to Audit Interpretive Programs, Doug Thompson, Colonial National Historic Park handout, NPS.

The Interpreter's Guidebook: Techniques for Programs and Presentations, Kathleen Regnier, Michael Gross and Ron Zimmerman, UW-SP Foundation Press, Inc., Stevens Point, WI, 1992. pgs. 91-94.

The Interpretive Process Model (PDF, 98KB)

Interracial Communication, Andrea Rich, Harper and Row, 1974.

Leadership Dilemmas - Grid Solutions, Robert R. Blake, and Anne Adams McCanse, Gulf Publishing, Austin, TX, 1991. pgs. 260-65.

Listen and Be Listened To, George Bell, American Management Association, 1981 (workbook and audio tapes).

Naturalist Training: What the Beginning Naturalist Needs to Know, handout, Ron Zimmerman, 1988.

Preparing and Presenting the Talk, D. Murphy, Smitty Parratt, K. Cook, NPS Interpretive Skills lesson plan (Preparing, practicing, and doing your own). 1992.

Program and Performance Evaluation, M. Whatley and M. Gillett, NPS Interpretive Skills I lesson plan, 1992.

Reaching Out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-Actualization, David Johnson, Prentice-Hall, 1972.

The Supervisor's Handbook: Techniques for Getting Results Through Others, National Seminars Leadership Series, by Mark R. Truitt, National Press Publications, 1990.

Themes and Objectives, D. Whitman, S. Thede, D. Dahlen, NPS Interpretive Skills lesson plan, 1992.

Questioning Techniques, SWR, PNW, C. Cucurullo, NPS Interpretive Skills lesson plan, 1992.

Critique Form Examples - NPS handouts

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Suggested Developmental Assignments

1. Review your park's awards and incentives policy.

2. Take a locally offered seminar or correspondence course in introductory supervisory or leadership techniques and/or interpersonal communication skills.

3. Interview coworkers about their recollections of good and bad on-the-job-training situations they experienced in previous jobs.

4. Think of a work-related task or duty for which you have been required to give instruction to others (i.e., something relating to visitor center operations, sales outlet operations, reporting procedures, computer procedures, audio-visual equipment operations, resource/visitor protection procedures, etc.). Using the OJT and Task Direction model in the curriculum outline above, determine how you could give the instruction more clearly and effectively. Practice giving the new instruction to a coworker who has not done the task before, and get his/her feedback on the clarity and usefulness of your direction.

5. Watch a coworker's program, making a list of the techniques, skills, and ideas that you might use, modify, and/or adapt to your interpretive programs.

6. Sit in on the audit of a coworker being done by his/her supervisor (with permission). Discuss the coaching technique with the supervisor afterwards.

7. Watch the program of a coworker and graph it based on tangible/intangible connections. Create this graph with the coworker or discuss it after the program.

8. Watch a videotaped program with a coworker or supervisor. Prepare an oral and written review. Have the coworker or supervisor role-play the presenter and provide feedback about the program. Following the role-play, discuss the review.

9. Read the notebook and watch the Bill Lewis tape "The Art of Interpretive Critiquing." Create a form or process which incorporates the principles/techniques included in the video and in the outline for this component.

10. Following a feedback session, evaluate the benefits of the reviewing process for yourself. What resource knowledge did you gain? What ideas did you obtain about concepts or techniques? How could you expand the product to incorporate multiple points of view?

11. Role-play informal feedback situations with one or more of your coworkers using typical interpretive scenarios in your park. Practice sharing feedback ideas informally, and then critique each other's handling of the situation.

12. Review a written interpretive product. Provide the author with written suggestions and an oral review. When completed, assess the effectiveness of the interaction and the reactions of the author. Discuss this interaction with your supervisor.

13. Practice obtaining feedback from audiences. Listen to visitor comments during your review of a program. Ask visitors questions about the program theme/objectives following the program. Ask them about the strengths and weaknesses of the program. Provide this feedback to the presenter for discussion.

14. Coach a coworker in learning how to be a coach.

15. Coach a VIP, seasonal, concession employee, association employee, or other NPS employee who performs interpretive duties through the work season. Review different interpretive products over time to illustrate progress, and facilitate an ongoing process for increasing interpretive effectiveness.

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Editor: STMA Training Manager Interpretation

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