Train Versus Coach

Train vs. Coach

Written by Leslie Knowlton

Leslie Knowlton's Coaching Tip

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

What are the benefits from training vs. the benefits from coaching for professionals looking to make behavioral changes?

I feel that this question is of particular interest to us at this time for the following reasons:

  • Quick and authentic adaptation to a changing environment is essential for the survival of organizations (or our economy for that matter).  We are all engaged in learning new things daily.
  • We are living in chaos.  We do not know what our systems are going to look like a year from now. Generally, our concepts of training are archaic and based in their design in the days of Henry Ford when people were in very narrow jobs and training could teach hundreds of people to do their jobs at once. (The Coaching Revolution: Logan, King, 2004)

Here are the assumptions I believe to be true as I formulate this comparison…

  • In most cases training and coaching services can be more effective if they are designed to support each other to reinforce learning.
  • Training and coaching are distinctly different from the experiences the learner appreciates with a higher education curriculum.
  • The level of the learner’s motivation at the onset of either coaching or training is directly related to the success of the outcomes.
  • The essential principle of understanding the return on investment (ROI) of workplace professional development programs is the stickiness factor – how effective is the retention of the new knowledge gained in the process?

Training is a group event lead by an expert with the intention of teaching a skill defined by the trainer.

Coaching is a conversation where one person is the only focus and the primary designer of the learning outcome.



Focused on developing specific skills Makes use of inquiry
The teacher sets the agenda The client sets the agenda
The content is pre-determined The content is adaptive
Content driven Process driven
Covers generic goals Focused towards personalized performance goals
Involves telling and instructing Helps learners find their own way forward
Best deployed when a performance gap to do with a lack of knowledge or skill has been identified Best deployed when helping a client apply and internalize learned knowledge
Trainer imparts knowledge Learner discovers answers
Trainer is assumed to be more knowledgeable Coach and client are seeking answers together
Trainer may correct the learner Coach helps the client to self-correct
Teacher may not be neutral Coach is neutral and non-judgmental
Relationship between a teacher and student is not necessarily collaborative Relationship between a coach and client is collaborative

About the Author

Leslie Knowlton

Leslie Knowlton Suddenly Heard, LLC Find Your Voice. Build Your Business. 602-206-3891

Leslie is a leadership coach and organization change agent in the Phoenix area. Her focus is on results by listening to client’s needs, leveraging their strengths, and defining their essential system-wide issues to develop strategies to move them to the next level.