by Kelly Graves

I was talking with a friend who belongs to a CEO leadership group, and he mentioned they had a discussion the prior week about the differences between training and coaching.

There were many answers with some executives not caring between the two. There is a huge difference between the two, though, and I’d say there are actually four steps to developing employees.

These are:

  • Training

  • Coaching

  • Counseling

  • Termination

Knowing the differences among the four will help any manager navigate this field and become a much more effective leader of people.


We are most familiar with training . We use it to teach new skills, convey information relevant to the organization, meet federal regulations and enhance technical proficiency. Training is also the first thing we think of when there is a problem to be addressed or an organizational change to be presented.

In my experience, training programs are either not done, done poorly or done haphazardly when time allows. We know there is rarely enough time in the day to achieve what’s already on the to-do list, so if you are looking for “free time” it will never materialize on its own. One must make time for training and development and schedule it in.


Coaching is both proactive and reactive support provided to employees to improve their performance and help them when having difficulties. It is mainly focused on maintaining existing, strong performance and improving it still further.

All employees should be coached on an ongoing basis. It is a form of mentoring or advising that enables ongoing dialogue between the manager and the employee so that feedback on performance does not occur only when there is a problem. Moreover, it allows for excellent work to be recognized, supported, exploited and conveyed to others.


Counseling is the reactive, structured approach implemented when an employee is performing below expectations, due to either a skill deficiency or an attitude deficiency. It is mainly focused on restoring performance to a minimally acceptable level or, failing that, removing the employee from that job.


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