Training vs. Coaching: both are needed in the workplace

Training vs. Coaching: both are needed in the workplace

Training and coaching in the workplace are two very different approaches for different situations. Both are crucial to professional development, yet I see many managers neglect the coaching piece.

Of course, there are nuances to every situation, but in a nutshell,

Training is appropriate for:

  • Teaching a new skill
  • Providing instructions
  • Measuring & up-leveling knowledge (IQ)
  • Developing hard skills

Coaching is appropriate for:

  • Perspective shifts
  • Moving through challenges & mindset blocks
  • Developing emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Dealing with interpersonal situations

Can training and coaching be blended in one situation? Absolutely!

Here’s a hypothetical example of when this might be necessary, and how this might play out:

A direct report is struggling with navigating a new CRM. They can’t figure out how to build a cohort analysis to check their retention rate for the quarter. They come to you to vent their frustration and indulge in a little self-beratement. They might say something along the lines of, “I can’t figure this out.” It’s clear they have a fear of being left behind.

As a manager who understands the difference between training vs. coaching, you see two areas of opportunity:

Area of Opportunity #1

This individual needs more CRM training. You ask them to show you where they’re getting stuck, you identify where they’re making an error, and you walk them through the proper steps. You then ask them to repeat the process under your observation. You work with them until they are able to complete the task on their own AND show clear understanding of the process.

Area of Opportunity #2

This individual could use some coaching around their belief that struggling to learn a new CRM means they will be left behind. You might ask them, “Why is it a problem that you needed to ask for help?” You let them answer, and you continue to ask questions and guide the conversation in a way that presents an alternative perspective: asking for help is actually an indicator that someone will be very successful. It is a desirable quality to have!

On top of that, nobody came out of the womb understanding how to use CRM software. Taking time to learn something new is normal. You might ask this employee to describe areas of competence they have that aren’t as obvious in other people. You’d continue this conversation until the individual acknowledged a perspective shift (which in this case would be that needing extra training is NOT a problem at all!).


Hopefully, this scenario shows how both the training AND the coaching elements were critical to this direct report’s professional development.

Your self-reflection question of the day: What might the impact have been if the coaching piece was excluded from the process? How might a lack of coaching hinder the direct report's professional development?

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