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What’s the Difference between Training and Coaching?

You can’t succeed at something if you’re doing something entirely different. Coaching often fails to deliver on its full potential because “coaches” aren’t actually coaching. Instead, what they call “coaching” is actually more akin to managing, mentoring or training. To avoid missed opportunities, you’ll want to know the difference between training and coaching.  

Graphic Showing Teaching and Pointing to BoardIn previous CONNECT2Lead Blog posts, we’ve examined how coaching and mentoring are different disciplines as well as the differences between coaching and managing. The next post in this series will explore coaching in greater depth, but we felt it was important to make these distinctions right at the start. 

What Do Training, Coaching, Managing and Mentoring All Have in Common?  

Broadly speaking, the aim of all four activities is the same. Trainers, coaches, managers, and mentors are all trying to help others improve, develop, and learn. 

The desired outcome may be the same, but the four different approaches are significantly different. Each requires different skills. Each requires a different mindset. Each has a purpose, and the strongest leaders are able to discern which will best meet the needs of each team member, situationally. 

What Is the Difference between Training and Coaching?    

In some organizations, the terms “coaching” and “training” are used interchangeably. The people conducting these interactions carry the title of Coach, Trainer or some blend of the two. Most often, they are doing one or the other but not both. That’s not to say they couldn’t do both! In fact, a blended learning approach necessitates both and is recommended. 

The reason so many default to one or the other is that they simply don’t understand the differences.  

Here are 10 important differences between training and coaching:  

  • Training focuses on organizational goals. Coaching focuses on individual goals.
  • Training is typically provided to groups. Coaching is 1-to-1.
  • Training, even if offered at different times, is the same experience for all who participate. Coaching experiences are unique for each participant.
  • Prior to delivery, training is designed or selected to improve certain competencies. Coaching helps identify which competencies need additional attention. 
  • Training pushes information from the instructor to the participants. Coaches extract information from the participants.
  • The goal of training is knowledge transfer. The goal of coaching is behavior change. 
  • Training for a group assumes that all participants are entering in with a common baseline. Coaching begins with determining an individual’s own baseline and building from there. 
  • Training is designed to increase knowledge and skills. Coaching is designed to increase self-awareness about attitude, behaviors, choices, and development needs. 
  • Trainers are educated in facilitation, instructional design, adult learning principles, and presentation skills. Coaches learn listening and questioning skills. 
  • Training can be one-directional (although that’s not ideal). Coaching, however, fully engages the person being coached and cannot be conducted unless the coachee is receptive. 

How to Tell When Coaching Is the Best Solution (and when training is better)

Though efficient (because it provides something to many people all at one time), training isn’t always the best solution. 

Though easily accessible online and in many variations, training doesn’t always deliver the desired and measurable outcomes.

Avoid the temptation to conduct a training session, check the box and move on. There’s a lot more involved in selecting the right training, getting training delivery that’s effective for your unique group and organizational needs, and reinforcing training over the long term. 

In this regard, coaching carries less risk. If the coach is receptive and the coach is truly coaching, you’re far more likely to see real behavioral change and growth. But coaching isn’t necessary or suitable for all situations.     

Choose coaching when:

  1. Individuals are planning their own development and setting goals for improvement. 
  2. Individuals experience real or perceived obstacles to their growth or success.
  3. You’re hoping to boost competence, confidence, and autonomy in employees. 
  4. Employees are open to the idea of making behavior changes that will help them achieve their goals. 
  5. Skills taught in training need reinforcement and individual action planning for adoption. 

Choose training when:  

  1. There is standard information to be shared with everyone in the group.
  2. An employee is new and needs foundational learning before setting his/her own goals for additional learning and development. 
  3. Group dynamics will help facilitate learning and adoption of new skills. 
  4. A secondary objective for team building or shared experiences is also important. Multiple people have the same skills gaps, and these gaps are clearly defined. 

The most effective learning and development strategies include both training and coaching. Offering both provides a well-rounded breadth of support to accelerate learning and employee development. 

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