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peter vajda

Hi, Steve,

I think it's effective to articulate these three types of coaching. And I would take this a step further. I think it's important to be able to differentiate, discriminate and discern when one should take one or another approach.

And, for me, this is where the "knowledge" of coaching is supplanted by the "wisdom" of coaching, where one is able to hear, sense and feel where a symptom is a symptom and a "deeper challenge" is what's "up" for an individual - where a doctor probes to see low energy not as a need for more protein or a booster drug but as depression, where a mechanic sees the "check engine" light not as a gas line issue but as a gas cap issue, where a baseball coach sees a hitter's declining batting average not a need for a change in his batting stance but as an "eyesight" issue. It's the difference between an intern and a skilled, experienced doctor, a new minor league coach and a veteran major league coach, a P-T gas station attendant and a well-honed, experienced one.

For example, in my experience, sometimes those seen as needing "skills coaching," for example, are facing deeper, more serious issues that point to developmental coaching. The person needing selling, presenting or dealing with customer "skills" work is often conflicted by self-image, self-worth, self-value issues that are obstacles that stand in the way of successfully dealing with relationships. These are folks who are dealing with "competing commitments."

When a "wise" coach relates on a deeper level, she might support the coachee to disclose: "I know I need the skills…" but "I'm afraid that when I acquire these skills I'll still be a failure on some level." Many "knowledgeable" but "unwise" coaches never pick this up and cannot understand why someone just can "get it," take the training and be done with it.

Many coaches who are "technicians" never get to this level of discernment. Often because they have never done any type of personal work and are reluctant or fearful of going down this road with their clients. So, not knowing what they don't know, cannot "pick up" on this in those they coach. So, it's about operating on the safe, secure, "skills" level - even in their own lives.

I think this is one reason many coaching efforts and relationships fail, and why many coaching efforts are out of integrity, even fraudulent. Many coaches are ill-equipped, unable or unwilling to deal with human issues, emotional issues, and the deeper dynamics of folks. They operate on the "coaching 101" level in their own lives and thus in the lives of those they coach when a deeper dynamic is warranted.

While, yes, it's a good idea to have a "quick" way to determine the level and kind of coaching that's warranted, the "wise" coach will be responsive, truly probing and discerning, while the "knowledgeable" coach will often be reactive, quick to judge, differentiating and often off the mark.

Wally Bock

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Wally Bock

Bob Hall

Excellent article.

The only thing that's hanging me up is the explanation of skills coaching. You seem to mention that training may be a part of skills coaching.

I guess I see it the other way around: as skills coaching being a part of training.

When I think about the difference between training and coaching, I'm reminded of something I read a while back: The article asked the question, "could this employee do the job if his or her life depended on it?" If the answer is "no", then you need to train your employee. If the answer is "yes", then it's an attitude problem that coaching may be able to help.

Thanks for your insight.

Steve Roesler

Yep, Bob, as a long-time trainer I'm with you on this one.

Since the last week or so of comments has led to more discussion on "coaching", the purpose of this piece is to help people think in terms of differentiation and diagnosis as a starting point for doing the right thing.

The "If your life depended on it" question has always been a favorite because it works. Here's where the issue gets mushier than people would like it to be:

a. "If my life depended on it I still can't do it." Well then, you need some training. At the same time. . .

b. The training will involve, in the best sense of the word, coaching to ensure that standards are met. It's one thing to "do it"; it's another to "do it the right way."

Example: I started off my working career as a Drill Instructor (not much call for those here in the neighborhood, so I got some career coaching:-) Task #1: Train people to hit a target 60% of the time at 50 meters out. So you train them to hold the rifle, look in the right direction (really), and pull the trigger. Then, you watch each person's breath control, trigger squeeze, ability to adjust windage on the sights, and posture. Once they can aim and shoot, the rest would fall under the coaching category.

I believe that too many people spend way too much time arguing whether something is coaching/training, management/leadership, blah blah blah. To use your example:

Could you do it if your life depended on it? No. Then we'll train you.

Now that you know the fundamentals, could you do it more effectively? Yes. Then we'll coach you.

Of course, at any given moment technology and/or performance standards can change so it's a good idea to return to your question.

The moral to the story: If you need someone to perform in some way, but they can't: Do something! If the first thing isn't working, then do the other one.

Sudhir Mathew

Nice article. I did not ever think about categories within coaching. But I can now see the relevance of skills coaching, performance coaching and developmental coaching. Also, Wally makes a good point above on the difference between coaching and training. I have never really thought about distinguishing between the two in the same vein. Is there a good way to measure the effectiveness of the training/coaching. I get asked about this during ISO audits, and I have a hard time with it. I try come up with some kind of plausible explanation, but i'm never really convinced about it myself. Your response would be very much appreciated.

Steve Roesler

Hello, Sudhir,

The most effective way that I know of to measure it is to have behavioral/performance criteria that will be observable after the coaching or training. Think of it in terms of quantity or quality of performance.

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