When does an employee graduate from "training" and move into a place of being "coached" over the long term?

This is a topic I see managers and senior leaders confuse often, and one I discuss in my book, All In. They fail to understand the difference between the two, and furthermore, tend to be great at one but unsatisfactory at another.

For example, some managers are terrific at showing new employees the ropes. They have plenty of materials to use and give them, ensuring they get up to speed quickly and effectively. But as soon as the employee knows the basics of the business, has a firm grasp on their day-to-day responsibilities, then what? That manager's "training" guidance isn't what's needed anymore.

What the employee needs is to be coached--to ensure they continue to improve over time.

Similarly, a really great senior leader who has a knack for coaching might be the worst person to have leading a room full of brand new employees. Why? Because coaches tend to be great at spotting areas of improvement--not walking people through an onboarding document and explaining the basics. In short: they'll spend all afternoon talking about strategies for landing clients, when in reality, these new employees don't even know how to log into their company email accounts yet.

So, what's the difference between these two skill sets?

Training is the act of imparting knowledge to another where that person lacks the necessary skills in order to succeed.

Coaching is the act of improving and enhancing knowledge that is already intact.

When you're training a new employee, you're looking to cover a lot of ground very quickly. You want to give them a sense of how everything works. It's more general knowledge than specialized knowledge.

A coach, on the other hand, is closer to that of a mentor.

Their job is to see things in an employee's approach to the work that the employee might not be able to spot themselves. I see this all the time within sales teams, where a salesperson might have all the necessary skills intact but remain unaware of a few bad habits that continue to cost them deals. The salesperson might be "saying" everything correctly on a cold call, but it's not until the coach points out their tone or their lackluster rapport that the salesperson improves. 

The reason this is so important to differentiate is because companies often put managers in coaching positions, or coaches in manager positions, not realizing the mistake that's being made. In fact, they're setting their employees up to fail, because the person that's teaching them doesn't have the relevant experience to help them in the ways they need. Imagine an employee that has been with the company for two years still receiving instructions from a hiring manager. 

That employee doesn't need to be re-educated on the basics anymore. What they need is someone who has been in their role for three, four, five years, and can give them guidance on how to get to the next level.

Published on: Dec 11, 2018
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