Hello, ESPers worldwide!
In this TESOL Blog post, you will read the ESP project leader profile of Anne Lomperis, who has been an English for occupational purposes (EOP) leader in the English for Specific Purposes Interest Section (ESPIS) for many years. In my eyes, Anne has been a global consultant who works with powerful clients, especially in the Middle East. In TESOL conferences, I have heard her explain how she navigates various mazes to get her projects done without ever revealing specific information about her clients!
As I write this blog post, Anne is actively involved in the production of a video marketing interview on her small business. That video (which she was invited to produce) will be broadcast on IFE (in-flight entertainment) on American Airlines (and now U.S. Airways, too, due to the merger) on all U.S. business and first class flights in December 2015 and January 2016.
I should also mention that Anne is a coauthor of four TESOL International Association publications related to workplace training. (See the References section at the end of this blog post.) In her responses to the two questions below, Anne refers to the 11 best practices, which are displayed in slide 14 of the ESP PowerPoint listed in the References.
Anne E. Lomperis
Consultant, Occupational English for Economic Development
Language Training Designs
How would you define leadership?
In the context of EOP, leadership for me has meant developing a vision of where the field should be going and always holding that vision out ahead of me. It has also meant testing that vision; seeking to be aware of new trends or wider knowledge, particularly from related fields, for any refinements or changes necessary; then reframing that vision with more informed clarity, savvy, and sophistication. We also need to make the vision so well crafted and so well expressed that those both within ELT and within our client world can grasp it right away.
To be an effective leader, we must also identify or discern where our followers are coming from. What is their own current knowledge, experience, value system, vision, and openness? What incremental steps do we need to plan to move them to a higher, larger, greater capture of the “big picture”? What are their stakes in the journey that will engage them at these new levels? How do we address their resistance or outright tenacity for the way they have always done it?
I once invited an ELT colleague to hear me give an EOP presentation at a conference of ASTD (the American Society for Training and Development; now ATD, the Association for Talent Development). Among the other attendees were representatives from a major oil company that was associated with a massive spill. After the session was over, she asked, in challenging tones, “Haven’t you gone over to the enemy?” I thought carefully before responding, “I have found that one quiet word spoken on the inside in a built-up trust relationship with the right person at the right moment can have more impact than all the protests on the outside.” (Such is the integration—and leadership—we can strive to exercise in communication with our clients—and with our colleagues.)
Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?
I am uncomfortable speaking about an ESP project success story. I seem to be brought in because a project needs fixing. Overall “success” may be elusive or still in progress because of many seemingly intractable factors. But, along the way, I may help effect the tiniest of victories. And, through lessons learned, I may achieve even more clarity about what our field needs to be doing to be more effective.
My comments on such tiny victories or lessons learned will be collective from different projects and will refrain from any specific names of clients or other identifiers to honor actual nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) or the spirit of NDAs.
1. In one instance, a project with goals to improve English within a given industry sector had started down a general English path without knowing there was such a thing as EAP or EOP. (Lesson: We have to do a much better job of becoming more visible to our client world. See #5 below.) To the credit of the key decision maker, he was willing to “turn the ship around,” despite great prior investment in time and budget in general English. The communication that helped lead to this “more than little victory” was creating a PowerPoint presentation given to all local stakeholders that clearly showed the results EOP could produce, compared with those of a general English approach. I also showed my preferred list of 11 Best Practices and asked where most general English teachers “entered” the list. Most identified their experience as starting at #10. Deliver training. This was a graphic way of showing them—and even the industry/technical experts—that there were nine other dimensions of EOP that had to be addressed first.
2. Within the same project, I could not be given access to certain high-level decision makers because it was too late in the game after project-formation decisions had been made—and because of my gender. Thus, a lesson I learned was to create handouts (“cheat sheets”) for managers who did, in fact, have a seat at the table and who could communicate EOP principles on my behalf as surrogates.
One of these handouts that my surrogates found they could use effectively was entitled, “Why EOP?”. A clear presentation of the rationale for EOP was needed to respond to the ongoing claim that the program had to start with general English. There was “no way” EOP could be taught to beginners. The examples used in the handout did indeed show EOP being used at a beginning level. And it continued with a rationale for EOP…
- One size does not fit all.
- The more exact the customization, the better the results.
To illustrate each point, I used, respectively, examples of:
- Safety language that must be highly individualized by industry sector to be relevant and actionable, such as
- to prevent an oil derrick blow out (“Open 40 valves—not only 4—on the Christmas tree.”)
- to evacuate a cruise ship in an emergency (“Take Stairway 7 to Lifeboat 42.”)
- Prepositions of location to find storage of supplies, materials, tools, parts, and equipment (SMTPE),
- as opposed to those same prepositions of location being used in general English to find retail and civic buildings on a city street map.
3. In a different consultancy, I “communicated” with management that I did not have direct access to by developing an extensive questionnaire for ONA (Organizational Needs Assessment) for managers to fill out. At the end, I created a summary table where they could fill in all their answers/values from the questionnaire. This included program design factors such as goals and desired outcomes, number of departments involved, number of trainees, number of teachers, their qualifications, number of hours per week and when in the day/night, number of weeks per cycle, modes of delivering the training, materials (how much customization), and more. The managers found that by seeing all their “decisions” laid out on one page, they could recognize which ones might be problematic. For example, goals might be too ambitious or disparate for the number of hours and weeks of the program. Or the number of trainees might be too many for the number of teachers.
4. Back to the project with gender restrictions, another tiny victory was that, after 3 years, those same managers who had been absolutely prohibitive about a woman ever coming to the country on behalf of the project—despite one of my roles as the English program evaluator— did invite me to come out. And they even granted a 3-hour meeting I requested with top management—and expressed respect and acknowledged my expertise after it was over. I worked intentionally to make my communication in this meeting provide clarity and education about issues that had confused and blocked openness between opposing sides, present pertinent linguistic concepts in laymen’s terms, and target only carefully prioritized topics to keep my formal presentation short. Yes, a seemingly small (but huge) victory to “gain a seat at the table.”
5. A lesson I have drawn from many recent projects is that we in the field must lead by going beyond “just” EOP teacher training. We must also develop EOP consultant training for those who must impact stakeholders before and beyond trainees in the classroom. (This is also called succession planning…!!) And we must further develop client training/orientation so high-level decision makers start with sound program designs from the “get-go.” One familiar mechanism we might apply in an innovative way to educate clients about such best practices would be to develop an EOP Request for Proposal (RFP) or tender. We could assign typical point values per feature or section of the proposal or tender. For example, if an applicant did not score the top 40 points out of 100 on the Needs Assessment section, we could explain why in the accompanying rating system we would design. Kevin Knight has suggested starting a conference series. I am also working on a more systematic and comprehensive business model.
6. Finally, we must be attuned to national economic development policy and the role EOP may play in its support. In the case of one project, this policy included:
- Diversification of a base raw material into downstream derivatives
- Nationalization of the labor force
- Employment of youth, particularly young males (to offer an alternative to “Tahrir Square”)
As national leaders set goals, we must likewise exercise our own leadership by discerning:
- where providing EOP is realistic and balanced,
- how it can serve positively and effectively,
- how it can be more inclusive (by reaching out to underserved populations, such as women, those of limited resources, or those to whom we have simply not yet raised our visibility), and
- where it is truly needed, but circumstances may be very challenging (such as in postconflict contexts).
I believe we must always wisely and ethically develop our vision for where the field of EOP should be going, test it, refine it, reframe it, express it clearly to internal colleagues and external clients alike, and advance it with conviction.
In connection with Anne’s reference to my suggestion for a conference series above, I was thinking of the work of Christopher Candlin. Chris was active in creating conferences that brought together researchers, trainers, and practitioners; for example, the LSP and Professional Communication Association for the Asia-Pacific Rim whose founding president is Vijay Bhatia. Following the lead of Chris here, it would be wonderful to find innovative ways to bring together decision makers (in need of professional communication programs) with researchers, program developers, and trainers.
Finally, Anne’s responses reflect the conceptualization of leadership at the University of Sydney that I mentioned in my previous blog post: “Leadership for good starts here.” It would be wonderful if ESP project leadership for good could start here at the TESOL ESP Interest Section through leadership development efforts such as these ESP project leader profiles!
Do you have any questions or comments for Anne? Please post those below!
All the best,
Friedendberg, J., Kennedy, D., Lomperis, A. E., Martin, W., & Westerfield, K. with contributions from van Naerssen, M. (2003, 2014). Effective practices in workplace language training. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.
Knight, K., Lomperis, A. E., van Naerssen, M., & Westerfield, K. (2010). English for specific purposes: An overview for practitioners and clients (academic and corporate). PowerPoint presentation submitted to Alexandria, VA: TESOL Resource Center.
Lomperis, A. E. (2014, February). Beyond best practices: Strategic engagement at high levels of decision making, or, an expanded imperative for EOP teacher training. ESP News.
Martin, W. M., & Lomperis, A. E. (2002). Determining the cost benefit, the return on investment, and the intangible impacts of language programs for development. TESOL Quarterly, 36, 399–429.