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Coaching and Training, Training And Coaching

by David Brock on November 14th, 2010

Training is a key part of any person’s development.  We need training to develop new skills, to acquire knowledge, and to build our capability.  Whether it’s on new products, new sales skills, new tools, training is a vital part of everyone’s development (sales professionals and managers alike).

But, training is not a substitute for coaching!  often I encounter managers who “don’t have the time to coach.”  Actually, I think it’s they don’t want to coach.  Instead of coaching, they are glad to invest in training, thinking a few hours or days of training will correct all bad behaviors and skills deficiencies.  Let’s take an easy example.  All of us make sales calls, improving our ability to execute the sales calls, improving the results we get from each call, and reducing the number of calls to close are critical to improving sales performance.  We can take people through training programs on how to plan and execute high impact sales calls.  Many of these training programs will have great role plays, tools and materials the sales person can use to improve their impact in each call.

But training isn’t a solution for talking to Bill about that last sales call we went on together.  Training can’t pose questions like:  “Did you accomplish everything you planned to achieve?”  “Could you have accomplished more?”  What would you have done differently that might have improved the impact of the call?”  ….and many other questions a manager might ask in coaching the call.

See coaching is about personal and professional development, but it deals with real situations, things that are actually happening, in real time.  And they are different circumstances for each person.  Training can never (and should never be expected to) achieve this.

Training and coaching, do have a very tight relationship.  Too many organizations don’t get the results they should get from the training programs they implement.  Little of this is the problem of the training supplier or vendor, but more of this is the way training has been implemented, and the role–or lack of it–that management has in reinforcing the training.  Training can have a great impact in developing the capabilities of the team—but management has to be engaged, not only in determining what is being taught, but participating in the classes, and doing ongoing coaching reinforcement afterwards.

Having done a lot of training, it’s amazing the numbers of classes I’ve been involved with where management doesn’t attend or participate.  Managers sitting in the back of the room, working on their Blackberry’s, not participating in any of the workshop (other than perhaps introducing the trainer) are not participating–they are attending.  Managers need to be involved in the training workshop.  Likewise, much is done through distance or eLearning.  If managers expect their people to take the courses, they need to take the course as well—setting a powerful leadership example.

Most important, however, is what happens after training is completed.  This is where managers need to coach and continually reinforce what’s been done in the workshop. Using our sales call skills example, managers need to coach and reinforce the planning process introduced in the class, they need to talk to sales people as they are planning calls, using what they’ve learned and reinforcing it in their coaching the sales call plan.  Of course that’s difficult if the manager didn’t participate in the class or workshop.

No training program should be implemented without a plan and a commitment on the part of management to coach and reinforce the training afterwards.  Otherwise, you are just wasting your people’s time and throwing money away.  Recently, I got invovled in with an organization that had invested a lot of time and money in training on major accounts.  They had used one of the “name” vendors to provide the training–they provide a great program.  But the management team asked me, “Why aren’t we making the progress in the major accounts that we should?”  (It was surprising to me they didn’t ask the vendor this or get the vendor involved in the solution–but that’s a different topic.). 

I asked, “What are you, as managers doing to coach the people in developing and executing the major account strategies?”  They kind of looked at me as if I had two heads, “Don’t you understand, we had training on this?”

I asked the question again, with more clarification. “What are you doing to coach your people in developing and executing the major account strategy?  Your vendor provides great tools for developing major account plans, do you regularly review those plans and use the tools when you talk to your people?”  They started looking at each other, no one wanted to answer, but none of them had incorporated anything that was done in the training into the way they reviewed the major account plans and progress in executing them.  They didn’t even know what the tools were and how to use them.  It’s no wonder they weren’t making any progress.  Their people weren’t using what they had learned, managers weren’t continually reinforcing it.

Training and coaching are important.  One does not replace the other, both are needed, both need to reinforce the other.

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  1. Hey Dave,
    It is horrible that most companies don’t understand the difference and importance of both training and coaching. The problem is that training is easy, coaching takes (a little) effort.

    Everyone isn’t prepared to put in that effort.

    The question is; If we are managers, hired to improve our employees production, how can we not be prepared to do what we are paid for?

  2. David,

    I, too, find it interesting how many organizations believe that a one/two/multiple days training event will fix their problems.

    I guess one of the inherent challenges and underlying problems is that many managers have never received coaching nor have they been taught how to effectively coach their team.

    Good post, as aways.


    • Kelley, you’ve hit on a great point, few managers have training on coaching, many don’t know that coaching is part of their job (their managers don’t define this). These are critical issues. We have to develop those capabilities in managers, to really drive sales performance.

      Stay tuned, we are about to announce some exciting news on that front!

  3. David, many managers believe training is solely for their sales team and/or beneath themselves. When managers do not participate and follow-up with reinforcement, they devalue the training. I also believe that there is a lack of understanding of the value of coaching, which leads to a search for another magic wand.

    I’m enjoying your series, and looking forward to hearing your exciting announcement.

    • Gary, thanks for the comment. Designing in the follow on coaching is critical to any kind of training. Without it, the half life of the training is measured in days.

  4. I see this was written while ago but still relevant.

    I train and coach speaking. After doing this for a while i now don’t recommend training but coaching to managers and above.

    It is very hard to learn and teach this without having a high-stakes speech one has to give.

    When I used to be in sales, I wanted one-on-one coaching more than group training but companies tend to opt for training over coaching. And managers should not coach since they have too much going on to spend the time needed to do it well.

    • Jay: Thanks for the comment. I have to admit I’m a little confused by it and am not clear with what you are saying. I’m not sure whether you are saying training is helpful and coaching is helpful, but you can’t do both.

      I guess I’ll focus on the very last sentence of your comment. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. What is the manager’s job if not to get their people to perform at the highest levels possible? The only way a manager achieves the goals of the team is through the people. Consequently, the highest leverage use of the manager’s time is developing people through training and coaching.

      There is too much research data supporting this to come to any other conclusion.

      What you may be suggesting is that managers may not be good at coaching. I tend to agree, but they need to be trained on how to coach and they need to be coached by their own managers, developing their capabilities to improve the performance of their people.

      While I think we disagree, quite substantially, I appreciate your comment. It forces me to rethink the ideas to make sure they make sense. Thanks very much.

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