Training, Coaching, Mentoring – What is it?

Training, Coaching, Mentoring, Performance Improvement

Training, Coaching, and Mentoring are terms that come up for discussion all the time.  Often, they are used interchangeably.  Rather than give a definition of each term, I’ve made a matrix that shows examples and descriptions of normal work situations with the type of instruction that should be used.

Throughout the day different situations come up that need a certain type of instruction.

When you need to deliver a straight forward message with little or no feedback standard training is the best method.  This is the classic method with one-way delivery and little or no feedback or Q&A.  Not to waste time often a digital announce would suffice – how many of you have sat through a PowerPoint “training” session where the instructor just read the slides (you will never get that time back).  In these straight forward situations just send out the information with the ability to log FAQs.

In person training is often the best method of delivery.  A new process that is simple but may require some immediate Q&A, or an organizational announcement that is best delivered in person when it affects those in attendance.

Sometimes training ventures into the group discussion realm.  Many HR programs (especially for new hires) can fall into this type of instruction.  Instructor led, but with lots of questions from the audience.  The announcement of a new commission plan for salespeople will normally fall into this category.  General sales training can also be included within this type of instruction – a separate distinction from coaching.

Coaching is one of the most overused terms in business today – although those who play conference call Bingo might disagree.  I define business coaching as instruction for improvement of specific skills, tactics, or strategies.  Whether the coaching is one-on-one or one-to-many there is a knowledgeable leader providing the instruction.

In sales, this can be as simple as windshield-time after an appointment.  Reviewing what occurred during a sales call is very beneficial since the meeting is still current.  Since everyone has their own filters on how they hear and remember there is now a chance to compare notes and provide coaching as to what went well and what could be improved upon next time.

Coaching is for the benefit of the person being coached and is usually given by someone who is also affected by the outcome.  This is often the sales manager or a knowledgeable sales consultant who also gains benefit from the improved results of the coaching.  The instruction will normally be on specific topics that will enhance the performance those being coached.  Coaching is participation with feedback on development – otherwise it would resemble a group discussion.

Mentoring is close to coaching, but tends to be more strategic rather than tactical.  It can also be given by someone who is unaffected by the outcome (other than altruistic reasons).  Whether it is a responsible adult who volunteers to mentor a teenager, or a senior leader who is mentoring the next rising star the formula is the same – a “been there done that” professional mentoring someone who will gain benefit from the knowledge.

A mentor can also be a sounding board – someone who will carefully listen to ideas and offer constructive comments.  Essentially a two-way conversation with the mentor as the leader.

Another area that needs discussion in the workplace is performance improvement/career counseling.  Performance improvement is most often know as a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan).  This is when an individual’s performance level has reached such a low point that there is a need for micromanagement of performance metrics and activities for results to improve.

This is no longer coaching or mentoring – PIP instruction is based on performance metrics, not on subjective observation.  During a PIP the only discussion points and measurements are the necessary activities that will result in improvement.  The time for subjective observation has long since been passed and ignored.  This is should also be a discussion concerning desire – does this person want to be in the job they are failing at.

Some companies and managers are equipped to have career discussions and in some fortunate situations the person can be reassigned to a new position that better suits their ambition and skills.  Not all people who fail are damaged goods – too often companies have the attitude that if you fail at what you were hired to do then you shouldn’t be given the chance to do anything else.  This is the time to decide if the person who is failing at one position would be worth the effort of reassignment.  You hired them, so decide if they were a bad hire or a good hire, just not for the position they were hired for.

There are more terms and situations than what can effectively be mentioned in this article.  The message is that there are many workplace situations that arise daily and that you shouldn’t use the same instruction method for everything.

To find out more, or to continue this discussion contact Hastings Growth Team.  Hastings Growth Team provides outsourced sales leadership, sales coaching, and sales process improvement.  Reach out and contact us to see if there is anything we can do to help your organization.



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