Learning new skills – coaching vs training

A good leader knows that part of his or her role is to help in the development of each individual within their team. Leaders who believe they have a responsibility to develop their employees in their career benefit from having engaged and motivated staff who feel valued and fulfilled in their jobs, which makes for a work environment where financial success can flourish.

A good leader knows the difference between coaching and training

Part of the continued development of staff involves ongoing coaching, which takes time, effort, planning and commitment. Sometimes leaders will mistake training with coaching. But there is a big difference. Coaching is much more involved. Training programs are part of the ongoing development of people, but it takes a lot more time and energy to successfully coach staff. An ineffective manager might simply send their team members on a training course, pat themselves on the back and do nothing else to improve competence. Likewise, an ineffective manager might view ‘coaching’ their staff as simply meeting with them or emailing them, telling them how and what to do while the staff listen/ read the email. Often this ‘coaching session’ ends with the obligatory “any questions?”. If there are none, or a few that are answered, the manager then pats him/ herself on the back and ticks that off their to do list, expecting their staff to go away and do as was discussed to an expected level of competence. But this level of coaching is about as effective as telling someone how to swim and then expecting them to dive in the deep end and be a competent swimmer. People need a much deeper level of coaching and development for them to successfully learn a new skill. 

A better manager develops a more interactive coaching program which might include a training component.To outline an example of a detailed coaching program to help a staff member increase their product knowledge, it might resemble something like sequence of events;

  1. Have the employee sit a product knowledge test designed to identify current knowledge and areas lacking. 
  2. Meet with employee and review their product knowledge and identify specific areas of need 
  3. Design coaching session to provide the employee with missing knowledge 
  4. Employee attend training program 
  5. Meet and de-brief with the employee following the training 
  6. Employee to re-do product knowledge test 
  7. Have employee test the newly acquired product knowledge by managing a client relationship (for example).
  8. Manager and employee to meet regularly to monitor employee’s experience and continue identifying areas for further improvement.

When it comes to learning a new skill, it has been identified that we all learn differently. Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT cycle identifies four core learning styles based upon how we perceive and process information and experiences. The four preferences for learning are dynamic, imaginative, analytical and common sense. And we all have a natural preference for one of these. The good news is you don’t have to invest the time trying toidentify the learning preference of each person you are trying to coach and then design something specifically for them. Most people are capable of learning through all four methods, despite their preference. Since all four learning styles are equally valid and useful, all people will excel part of the time. When it comes to teaching a new skill, it’s best to teach it in all four ways to allow everyone to be comfortable and successful part of the time while being stretched to develop their other abilities. In other words, an effective manager needs to honour all four styles, even though they themselves may have a preference for one or another.

Make the feedback constructive

Part of the ongoing development of staff involves meeting with them regularly to provide feedback on their performance. We are all different and generally speaking fall into one of two categories when it comes providing feedback on others’ performance. Some of us have a preference to provide ‘glass half full’ observations (“Great, you remembered to get everyone’s sign off”, “your report is really well written” etc.). Others have a tendency to provide ‘glass half empty’ observations (“You didn’t get sign off”, “you didn’t complete this section in the report” etc.). When giving feedback it can be useful to use the ‘EDI’ (affectionately known as ‘Eddy’) system to help keep feedback constructive, supportive and balanced. Using this technique makes sure you don’t; simply fall into your standard preference of feedback of glass half full or glass half empty. So what does EDI stand for?

E: Effective
What did the person do that was really effective. Please be as specific as possible – people love to know exactly what they did well.

D: Do more of
What did the person do, that if they did it even more or even bigger or just more often, would really make an impact. Again, be specific.

I: Improve
What would be your positivesuggestions for improvement? How could they do it even better next time. State your suggestions positively ie; what they should be doing, not what they should stop doing.

Upon going through the feedback, end the conversation with some overall, global statements of appreciation, linking back to what they did well. Here you don’t need to be specific, just provide positive reinforcement and encouragement.

A manager who is willing to prioritise the development of their employees by investing the necessary time, effort and commitment to do it properly, has a much better chance of actually progressing and developing their staff, than a manager only willing to explain how something is done once and leave them to muddle through. And naturally, those who are properly coached will feel more valued and more connected and more committed to their work, which benefit the manager. It’s a win, win.

Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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