Training versus Coaching

Training and Coaching are two words often used interchangeably. Most companies have some form of training, and a consequence of the confusion between these two terms, is that they do not also add a form of coaching, thinking it is all already done.

Let’s start with definitions.

What is the difference?

Training is, in essence, a transfer of knowledge. A person does not know how to do something, so they train in order to learn to do it. This happens in a classroom or teaching environment, and usually includes instructional tools, be they trade tools or worksheets.

Looking at our Management and Italian Food example: if you train somebody on making Pasta Carbonara, it means that that person does not yet know how this recipe is done, and you are explaining the ingredients, the steps and the cooking times.

Once they know how the carbonara dish is made, you can continuously coach them on refining the recipe or adapting it to different situations. Coaching is about enhancing and furthering knowledge.

You might want to share variations in the recipe that highlight different flavors, or ways to adapt it to a larger or smaller audience, or different palates, and more. Coaching is taught by doing, it is much less structured than training and wants to prepare a skill set for different situations.

Why does it matter?

This can be summarized as the difference between knowing how to do something, and knowing why to do it.

Skills have to be taught. This is training and it is finite: once you know how to make carbonara, you have completed your training. Once you can trust somebody to perform the correct steps, you shift the focus to coaching.

Coaching is ongoing and is about growing those skills. In business you always have to be prepared for change and innovation, and coaching is what allows you to do that. It also means that you – as their manager, leader or supervisor – can focus your attention on their outcomes more than on their tasks.

I subscribe to the philosophy that a great leader creates new leaders: getting the training and coaching balance right means you will be creating your own new leaders.

To Do

  1. Know what skills you expect your team members to have, make a list of what and how they will be rated. 
  2. Ensure everyone is equally trained on those skills, so you can set performance standards across the team.
  3. Allow time for 1:1 coaching and feedback with each to learn their individual strengths and habits for further development.