Coaching as a term is used parallel to training, and some times it can be a bit confusing to know is there a difference, and should there be a difference. And what exactly coaching is doing. There are various definitions, but I personally would define training to be considered as one-way communication to provide existing solutions to the subject in case – whilst coaching is always two-way communication and promotes the trainee to find solutions. This is naturally very narrow definition, but workable in many situations. In training situations, the trainer is telling what to do, describing the theory and explaining the reasoning behind. In coaching situations, the coach is asking what the trainee would do, how to combine the theory in practical situations and challenging the reasoning behind. And both training and coaching are very much needed in real life situations such as change initiatives and projects.

We can see the distinction when looking at IT system change –projects, in which there are both system and business process changes to be implemented. Both training and coaching can be utilised parallel when boosting change among people. Training is a good tool when dealing with functionality of the new system. But a system change involves usually business process changes, and coaching is an efficient tool to boost up people’s acceptance to new ways of doing things. Coaching can challenge the people’s thinking even beyond the standard level. And what is most important to realize, at the same time it is actually one, very efficient, ingredient of a change management plan. In order for people to change, they need to accept the change and that is exactly what happens when people to be coached will realize the new possibilities by themselves. You will get a buy-in reaction.

Communication is a pre-requisite for coaching and change

The difference lies in communication. Coaching does not exist without a good trustworthy two-way interaction. A pre-requisite for successful coaching is feedback to and from both parties involved, the coach and the person to be coached. In work life, the need for coaching increases, as changes have become a part of our normal daily work and during changes relationship challenges with communication issues are common. The difference with the views might be resulting from various issues, also from different communication styles and behaviour. It is very common, that we tend to behave differently when we are stressed; it usually reveals the worst out of us and brings in resistance and feelings.

It is natural that some people are more resistant to change than others. And regardless of the level of resistance, communication and coaching are always needed in order to run a successful change effort, which means dealing with people’s emotions and feelings. Still it is unfortunately too common to put emphasis on the project management plans and minimize the actions towards people. Virtual phone conferences or emails are not enough in that journey. The managers’ interaction with subordinates is the key to success. Especially when considering the difficulty of relationships, business coaching along with training and communication is a powerful tool for evolving change.

Mervi Lamberg
Consultant & Business Coach
noname Consulting, Finland
@MerviLamberg