NextGen Professional

Should we Train our team or Coach them?

“Coaches are critical listeners.  We provide the space; the client provides the content.”  That quote was from one of the trainers that I studied under while pursuing my Life Coach certification.

If we surveyed 100 coaches, we’d likely receive a variety of answers.  I know several talented coaches that don’t have any formal training as a coach; instead, they leverage their professional experience to help others.  Then, there are those that have been formally trained and certified as a coach.  Same job title with completely different paths, hence the ambiguity that often exists when discussing the Coaching industry.

This article is intended to act as an awareness tool.  It includes some items for your consideration and a printable worksheet at the bottom that can be used for the following: (1) deciding if you want a coach or trainer to help you achieve your goals; (2), leading your team in an on-purpose manner. 

Presupposition of the client’s knowledge:

  • Training adopts the presupposition that the information being provided is novel to the client.
  • Coaching on the other hand adopts the presupposition that the client has all the information required, they just need some guidance and support to draw out inner resources and apply them in the right context.


  • When I think of training, I imagine a teacher standing in front of their students, or perhaps an equipment manufacturer explaining their product to a client.
  • When I think of coaching, I imagine an individual sitting with their client(s), fully present, listening intently, observing non-verbal cues, and asking direct questions.

Learning style:

  • Training utilizes Deductive Learning, a top-down approach in which the trainer provides the facts, rules, and models for the client, student, or employee to follow.
  • Coaching utilizes Inductive Learning, a bottom-up approach where the coach’s tools are listening, examples, stories, and questions.

Getting from Point A (current state) to B (desired outcome):

  • After the trainer and client determine what Point A is, the trainer will tell the client what Point B is and the path to get there.
  • After the coach and client determine what Point A is, the coach will ask the client what Point B is and they will work together to find a suitable path.

Conversation style:

  • With training, the expert does 80% of the talking and the questions come from the client.
  • With coaching, the expert does 20% of the talking and the questions go to the client.


  • With training, homework is assigned to the client or student.
  • With coaching, homework is co-created by coach and client.


  • With training, it is expected that the expert will offer their advice.
  • With coaching, offering advice is avoided. The coaching industry uses words like: explores; invites; challenges; shares; and, helps. 


  • With training, the focus is on the trainer and their offerings.
  • With coaching, the focus is on the client and their needs.

When working with my leadership coaching clients, the goal is for them to be able to occupy both roles; but also, to be aware of which role they are in.  We will explore their day-to-day, looking for instances they could assume either role.  The primary obstacle for coaching their team appears to be time.  They may see an opportunity to coach a team member; but, if a task needs to be done quickly it may be more efficient to simply say what needs to be done and how to do it (aka ‘training’).  That is certainly understandable; however, when hearing that I will ask them to brainstorm potential hybrid solutions.  Most often the outcome is to tell their staff what needs to be done (training) and then make time to circle back to ask them how it went and what they learned (coaching).   

Examples of a Hybrid Technique:

Point A (current state or existing level of knowledge)

Point B (desired outcome or goal)

Path (steps required to get from A-to-B)

Product Manufacturer presenting their equipment to a new client:

    1. The manufacturer and client will work together to determine Point A.
    2. The manufacturer will introduce their product and its uses.
    3. The manufacturer will ask the client about their day-to-day activities so they can explore uses of the product (locating Point B).
    4. The manufacturer will explain how their product can help the client in their day-to-day activities.
    5. Both parties will brainstorm the Path, including: further education; implementation strategies; follow-up meetings; etc.

A manager teaching their staff member a new concept:

    1. Manager will introduce the concept and determine Point A.
    2. Manager will introduce Point B.
    3. The manager and staff member will work together to fill in the Path.
      1. If training: the manager will tell the staff member the Path.
      2. If coaching: the manager will ask questions of the staff member, guiding them to Point B.
    4. The manager and staff member will co-create homework / next steps.

Dealing with a problem while under a time-crunch:

    1. Manager will explain situation and assume Point A.
    2. Manager will explain Point B.
    3. Manager will provide Path.
    4. Manager will circle back at a later time to explore outcome with their staff member, asking what was learned, what challenges came up and how they were dealt with, how the staff member felt while dealing with the problem.
    5. Manager will explain that telling them what to do is not ideal for learning, which is why they are circling back to discuss further. The idea here is that when given the chance, the staff member will treat their subordinates in the same manner.  “Great leaders create more leaders” – Roy T. Bennett.

I typically utilize a hybrid approach in my practice.  At some point in a session, I will take 5-10 minutes to introduce a concept (training), and then the client and I will explore how that concept may be useful in their life (coaching).  This hybrid approach provides a client with a starting point; but, ultimately it is up to them on how to apply it.  Not only does this approach give the client control, but it also allows me to learn about them further by listening to them work through applying the concept.   

Both Training and Coaching are valuable, both are necessary, and both have their place in our lives and our workplace.  We just want to know which direction best suits the situation so that we can proceed in a purposeful manner. 

Best wishes,