How do you train soft skills trainers remotely?

How do you train soft skills trainers remotely? by Kirilka Angelova

Answer by Kirilka Angelova:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Contracting may be used by a trainer (facilitator ,therapist, consultant, leader, and so on) to accomplish certain goals:

1. To clarify and define the relationship between the trainer and the client (the person or organization seeking the trainer’s services); and/or

2. To clarify with a client where the client is presently, where he or she would like to be (goals and objectives), and alternative ways (strategies) for getting there.

In the first case, contracting is used as a process to explore and define the relationship between the trainer and the client. The client’s wants and needs for services are detailed along with the range of services that the trainer is willing and able to provide. This period is a time of deciding (1) what the various parties involved want from each other, (2) whether they have the ability and resources to provide what is wanted from the relationship, and (3) whether they are willing to enter into the relationship.

In the second case, contracting is a specific tool that the trainer can use with a client to assist the client in evaluating the present situation (A), the desired position (B), and how to get to the desired position. Holloway and Holloway’s (1973) contracting model depicts the client’s present and desired positions and the decision that the client needs to make in order to move from one to the other. The “decision” can be seen as the choice of a strategy (strategies) that will accomplish the movement from A to B.

The trainer can understand contracting both as a process and as a framework that may be used (1) to establish a relationship with the client and to set mutual goals and objectives and (2) as a specific technique to involve the client actively in detailing A and B and the possible strategies for moving from A to B. This latter use encourages the client to take active responsibility for his or her present condition and future state.

Contracting as a Process

Contracting can be seen as a dynamic process along a time line, as opposed to a single event. The trainer and client begin with a “directional” contract, part of which may include the intent to recycle the contract: “In six weeks we will review the contract and update it.” Thompson (1974, p. 31) refers to “process contracting” and states that “the original ‘contract’ can be an agreement to work together to progressively define the relationship and to communicate desired ‘changes’ to one another as each party sees more clearly the development of its interests.” Part of contracting as a process is defining the relationship; one vital aspect of this is keeping the other parties involved in the contract explicitly informed of any changes.

Contracting as a Tool

Contracting is also a useful tool that can be used at various levels. At one level, the intrapersonal, an individual experiencing an inner conflict may use the model as an aid in deciding on strategies that will result in clarifying and eliminating the conflict.

A second level of contracting involves two or more people. For example, in a group setting, one person may feel that she dominates the discussion and may make a contract with other members of the group that (1) they will tell her when they experience her as dominating the discussion and that (2) she will check with them when she experiences herself as dominating the discussion. A third level of contracting may be between the facilitator and the client, group, or organization. In this case, contracting may involve specifying issues such as time commitments, finances involved, or group-maintenance issues.


Two general approaches to contracting can be useful as guidelines. The first approach concentrates on establishing the relationship between the client and the trainer. The second approach attends to defining the relationship between the client and the problem. In this approach, the trainer assists the client in moving from A to B. Although there is a great deal of overlap between these two approaches, they are presented separately. Depending on the setting, the facilitator may find one approach or the other more useful.

Negotiating the Relationship

A basic structure for using contracting in training can be used for negotiating roles, expectations, and mutual benefits in nontherapy settings as well. There are four requirements for this negotiation: (1) mutual consent, (2) valid consideration, (3) competency, and (4) lawful object.

Mutual consent means that both parties have an adequate understanding of the agreement. What both want and expect from the relationship should be clearly detailed. Thetrainer needs to provide the client with possible time involvements, financial costs, courses of action, methods that may be used, expectations, risks involved, and so on. The client provides the trainer with information concerning expectations, the nature of the problem, objectives, people to be involved, time commitments, and so on. It is important that both the client and the facilitator give each other sufficient information so that both will be able to make informed decisions. The three ingredients of valid information, commitment, and free choice are necessary considerations.

Valid consideration involves an explicit statement of the benefits that each party to the contract will confer on the other. Benefits for the trainer might include money, additional experience, enhanced reputation, or publishable material. For the client, they might mean new information, the alleviation of the problem, or training.

Competency concerns the ability of the parties to enter into the relationship. For the trainer, the question is whether he or she has the competencies and the background to do what the client is requesting. For the client, competency may relate to his or her authority to enter into an agreement. Does the client have the position and the sanction of the organization to enter into such an agreement?

Lawful object requires very simply that what both parties are agreeing to is legal.

With the framework of these requirements, a checklist of questions can be provided for the facilitator and the client in order to explore their relationship.

Mutal Consent

What are the time requirements?

What are the financial costs involved?

Are there any risks that the client/trainer should be aware of?

Who will be involved?

What are the expectations of the trainer?

Are there any ethical concerns involved?

What methods might the trainer use?

If there is research involved, how will the information be used?

Valid Considerations

What will the client pay the ftrainer?

Are there rewards other than financial ones? If so, what?

What rewards will the facilitator provide for the client?


Is the trainer competent to do what the client is asking? What kinds
of backup services are available?

Is the client in a position to enter into the contract?

Does he or she have the authority to do so?

Lawful Object

Is the agreement legal?

Clarifying Goals and Strategies

In the second approach, contracting focuses on the client and the “problem.” This approach asks four questions: (1) What are the client’s wants? (2) What is the client willing to do to meet these wants? (3) What are the client’s criteria for success? (4) What benefits does the client gain on completing the contract?

Determining the client’s wants involves a clarification of both the present situation and future goals and objectives. The more specific and behavioral the terms of the descriptions are, the easier it is to determine whether and to what extent they have been met. Sometimes the client may feel totally lacking in goals or objectives. In this case the first “want” in this first step may be to “determine goals.”

To find out what the client is willing to do to meet his or her wants involves strategies and action plans. There may be many ways of moving from A to B, and part of this step is weighing the various alternatives. Again, it is important that the answer to this question be expressed in the most specific, behavioral, and measurable terms possible.

Criteria for success are essential in order to evaluate results; and, in order to determine whether the criteria have been satisfied and to what extent, the criteria must be specific.

The question of benefits is linked to motivation. If the client completes the contract successfully, what will that mean to him or her? Will the client think differently? act differently? feel differently? have more income? Are these outcomes pleasing?

This approach, focusing on the client and the problem, can provide the facilitator with a frame of reference. Although the questions are presented sequentially, they are interrelated; and in practice the facilitator may experience a good deal of overlap. Both the facilitator and the client also need to be aware that the contract may be recycled at any time.


Contracting has advantages on many levels. First, within the contracting process, the client’s integrity and autonomy are respected. The first approach emphasizes how important it is for the facilitator and the client to “level” with each other. Both need to reveal hidden agendas, and both are held responsible for their actions.

Second, and closely related, contracting may clarify the “helpee-helper” syndrome, a relationship filled with pitfalls. The charismatic helper may leave the client floating on a magic cloud but with no understanding for self-help when the cloud disappears. The “helpless” client may seduce the facilitator into solving the problem and then discount the solution with “Yes, but…” . Contracting avoids some of these pitfalls by asking the parties to level with each other and to state expectations clearly.

A third advantage to contracting is that it can function to detect and/or eliminate latent conflict at an early stage. The emphasis on clear understanding helps here, as well as the recycling points built into the process. Contracting can also be used as a specific tool for controlling or managing conflict.

The Cat’s answer to Alice provides an excellent model for contracting: Which way you go depends on where you want to go. Contracting is a tool and a process that can help people find answers to where they are, where they want to go, and how to get there



How do you train soft skills trainers remotely?


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