Within the world of business, as well as across other types of organisations, the words ‘training’ and ‘coaching’ often get used interchangeably. This lack of distinction can represent a real loss of opportunity, because as valuable as both of these resources are, each holds a unique power for pursuing a desired outcome and unlocking professional potential. So, what exactly is the difference between coaching and training?
On a surface level, we can look at the more obvious differences, such as that a training session is usually delivered by an individual of greater skill who imparts knowledge to a group, while coaching takes place in a 1-1 setting. The latter is also far more about cultivating self-driven transformation than simple knowledge transfer. As we continue our journey of definition exploration, you will find that there is even more nuance to discover within the training vs coaching equation!
Without a doubt, both training and coaching are vital presences within the contemporary corporate toolkit. Regular training ensures that employees are effectively on task and fully equipped with the various skills that are required by their roles. Collaborating with an expert coach however – provides a unique opportunity to forge self-awareness, initiating a creative process that paves the way for greater success. With this in mind, let’s dig a little deeper and tease apart the difference between training, coaching, and mentoring too, as well as where these disciplines overlap.
When addressing a team, a trainer will typically deliver a pre-defined curriculum or agenda, covering topic areas such as technical skills, company policies and procedures, best practices, and presentation skills. Generally, training focuses on the goals of the organisation rather than the individual, and the trainer’s role is often predominantly one-directional in terms of the knowledge transfer. This is highly effective when onboarding new hires or teaching advanced skills to other employees and managers. In fact, training frequently is often key in terms of keeping a team well-oiled and cohesive in their operation.
In contrast, the goal of executive coaches is to help the individual in question to connect with their personal and professional potential through the thought-provoking expansion of their self-awareness and comfort zone. A big difference between coaching and training is that coaching requires full participation from both sides, because the kind of behavioural change that this discipline accomplishes must be self-driven. As such, coaching skills are much more focused on listening and questioning than taking the stance of the instructor, and this ensures that each coaching interaction is entirely unique.
This brings us neatly to another pervasive myth within the coaching vs training debate: that coaching is simply a subtype within the training sphere. While both coaching and training can set a course toward similar results, such as mastering new skills and making strides in personal development, the route and its scenery are strikingly different, with distinct potential values available to leverage.
If training is the passing on of knowledge, it’s key to recognise that the coached individual may know far more about their professional field than the coach who will support them. Perhaps surprisingly, this is not an obstacle to successful development, because within a coaching dynamic, learning potential is led by the individual goals of participants and a guided journey of self-discovery.
Where training is about teaching skills, coaching is a long-term tool that provides the environment to identify and hone existing skills as well as drawing those yet to be pursued into focus. The coachee discovers how to curate their attitude, choices, and behaviours, and in turn steer their professional and personal trajectory with clarity and confidence.
It is well documented that providing opportunity for personal and professional development is essential for any organisation that aims to propel their success, foster a thriving corporate culture, and retain the best possible talent. Therefore, training needs to be ongoing, rather than something relegated to the realm of new employees. Progressive and refresher training sessions are critical but adding coaching to that developmental arsenal is a great way to enhance desirable outcomes further still.
In essence, both training and coaching mean placing new skills into the hands of participants so that they can be used to full potential. But while training involves a transfer of information from the trainer to the group, coaching serves to encourage participants to find that information within or for themselves. With this process comes an increase in adaptability and soft skills that sets the stage for effective change management and transformational leadership.
Having explored the difference between coaching and training, it is important to set another term apart, too. Like coaching, mentoring also tends to be a 1-1 endeavour, but this doesn’t mean that it is the same thing. While a coach’s role is to guide a participant in asserting their own learning experience, a mentoring relationship is established between someone highly experienced and skilled within their field, and a mentee who wishes to adopt that wisdom specifically.
Mentoring can be quite coaching-like, in the sense that it is usually a fluid and individual process, however, the knowledge transfer at its core places this discipline more in parallel with training. As you can see, tracing the difference between training, coaching, and mentoring involves navigating some rather blurred edges, but each fulfils a distinct purpose and is without a doubt best harnessed when fully understood.
Once equipped to make an informed coaching vs training assessment, framed by an understanding of the difference between training, coaching, and mentoring, all that remains is to decide when each tool should be harnessed, and what value it can provide in the pursuit of personal and professional development.
Turning to those with greater specialist knowledge through training and mentoring is an important stepping stone to use not once, but many times over the course of a career. However, coaching cultivates the capacity to illuminate and activate one’s own potential, generating positive outcomes that reward not only the coached individual, but also the managers and employees in their charge, along with their broader team over time. In this sense, training can be seen as an essential foundation, and coaching the resource that allows participants to build towards and expand their ambitions autonomously.
This dynamism offers great appeal both to individual professional’s who are keen to move the needle forward toward their personal goals, and to organisations aiming to forge a calibre of leadership that will take their operations to the next level. Introducing this kind of self-propelled learning into the workplace is fantastic for enhancing team-wide collective intelligence, problem solving skills, curiosity, and creativity. The executive coach can trigger transformation that ripples outward, making their services a strong investment indeed.
Whether you hope to break through obstacles that have stalled your personal development or to liberate the professional potential within your team, coaching is an excellent resource and practice for bringing full potential into view.
To discover more about the spectrum of coaching services offered by Distinctions Executive & Business Coaching, reach out to our team today.
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