Skillsoft Blog

Untangling the Training, Mentoring, Coaching Confusion

Like “vision,” “service,” or “leadership,” “coaching” has become a word that means different things to different people.

Many people think of the typical sports coach who’s a veteran of the game (often a retired player). Sports coaches typically develop skills, guide improvements with feedback and actively direct game plans. Other people talk about coaching and mentoring in one phrase as if they were two sides of the same coin. And we know of a few organizations where “coaching” means giving corrective feedback. So having your boss say, “I’d like to give you some coaching” sends shivers up your spine.

This wide range of meanings is one reason that an organizational survey in a large telecom company showed managers scoring themselves high on providing coaching while their employees scored them low.

This chart shows the improvement distinctions we’ve found between three key development activities:

Developing Distinctions
Training Mentoring Coaching
possesses skills or information student lacks.
Senior person
conveys wisdom and corporate culture.
Coach could be
superior, subordinate or peer.
activity is transmission of information.
Mentor has
traveled the path mentee is seeking.
Coach does not
need same background or experiences.
relationship is typically temporary and narrow in focus.
connections, references and advice.
Enables others
to work through and solve their own problems.

We need all three to lead our teams and organizations to peak performance. But if we’re going to close the big coaching gap we need a clearer and shared understanding of what exactly good coaching is.

Unlike sports coaches, highly effective performance, career, or life coaches enable “coachees” to work through and solve their own problems. Jack Zenger succinctly outlines this critical approach in his blog Develop Subordinates by NOT Answering Their Questions. He notes this approach is adult to adult rather than the “teacher-student” or “parent-child” approach found in many of the relationships that leaders have with their team members.

This definition of coaching and the culture it builds is central to my webcast on Building Extraordinary Coaching Skills. We’re also providing Extraordinary Leader and Extraordinary Coach
public workshops
in May in Calgary and Toronto.

By Jim Clemmer

For over three decades Jim Clemmer’s keynote presentations, workshops, management team retreats, seven bestselling books, articles, blog and newsletters have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.The CLEMMER Group is Zenger/Folkman’s Canadian Strategic Partner, an award-winning firm best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations.

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