Coaching vs training vs mentoring: What's the difference?

Corporate coaching, training and mentoring...

These terms are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they have very different techniques to help achieve very specific outcomes.

Let me explain it like this:

Have you heard of the 70/20/10 model of learning and development?

Well, it was developed by a team of researchers back in the 1980s and still holds true for modern-day workplace learning and development.

According to the 70/20/10 institute, this model is based on these three principles:

  • 70% of learning comes from experience, experiment and reflection.

  • 20% derives from working with others.

  • 10% comes from formal interventions and planned learning solutions.

This provides organisations with a view of a diversified set of opportunities to enhance learning in the modern workplace.

In this blog, I’m going to differentiate between coaching, training and mentoring as different methods of learning that can enhance the development and performance of your workforce.

These three approaches are great ways to enhance learning and development in all aspects of the 70/20/10 model.

Let’s get started:

What is coaching?

Coaching is used as a method of developing people’s awareness and skills in a way that enhances their ability to identify and overcome their challenges and to improve their ability to work in a team and to enhance their performance

A coach is a facilitator of learning.

Let’s take a look at Marshall Goldsmith, he’s ranked the world’s number one executive coach, his mission is this:

…”to help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behaviour; for themselves, their people, and their teams.”

A core skill of any great coach is to ask the right questions in a way that helps the individual to gain further insight and to assist in answering their own questions.

Successful coaching encourages individuals to overcome the initial barrier of ‘i don't know’ or ‘I can’t’ by tapping deeper into their creative and intelligent self.

Coaching in the workplace is often carried by external partners who are qualified to help facilitate a space of learning and can often result in:

What is training?

Training is effectively a transfer of new knowledge and information relating to specific scenarios or topics. It’s often up to the trainer to decide on the types of teaching techniques they will adopt in training sessions.

Whilst there are many techniques a trainer can adopt. I’ve found that these two are the most effective:

  • Experiential and visceral learning. This type of learning is known to yield retention rates of anywhere between 80 - 90% as opposed to traditional methods of learning that have retention rates as low as 5%. This technique creates learning experiences that are directly linked to tasks an employee performs within the workplace.

These techniques ensure that each individual leaves a training session with a different learnt experience as opposed to being overloaded with too much cognitive learning and information. This cognitive learning is then expected to be applied for the very first time in the workplace.

Experiential and visceral learning provides the learner with a greater sense of confidence and ability to apply the learning in the actual day-to-day environment.

What is mentoring?

A mentor is normally someone who shares their knowledge, wisdom and advice with another to help guide them towards achieving their full potential.

This can happen both formally or informally and often takes the form of a positive and supportive relationship between mentor and mentee.

The ideal scenario in this relationship is a deep caring for the personal and professional development of the mentee by the mentor.

How to know whether you need coaching, training or mentoring?

Consider this; in 2019 the USA spent over $370 billion on corporate training and development.

The problem, however, is that too often, a lot of money is being spent on training programs that have no purpose, other than ticking the box ✅ on professional learning.

What if we reprioritised that annual spend to reflect a mix of coaching, training and mentoring? I think you’d find the ROI would be a lot more appealing to many corporates across the world.

Therefore, it’s not about one mode of learning over the other, it is about taking a more systemic view of the situation and building an understanding of the learning needs of the individuals as well as taking into consideration the trajectory of your organisation. What are the needs during a growth phase, or when new services are being implemented? Needs might even change during ongoing business optimisation strategies.

The 70/20/10 model highlights the need for a culture of coaching and goes a long way to enable learning in everyday office activities.

You can adapt coaching techniques to allow leaders and teams to work better together, to learn and to grow with the obstacles and challenges they face every day. A culture of coaching also generates high levels of engagement, which is a good indicator of improved performance levels.

If your organisation is one that promotes a culture of learning and development, you will appreciate that these three approaches are mutually beneficial and go a long way toward enabling and sustaining excellence in your organisation.

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