The differences between coaching and training

Sometimes, when we're looking for development, it can be challenging to decide the most appropriate way to access that learning. Quite often in the learning environment, terms such as coaching, training and learning are used interchangeably to mean the same thing; people learning.

However, recent years have helped us distinguish between them in several useful ways. Understanding the differences can help us to use each of them effectively in the right place as each of them has value providing the context is right. 

On a continuum, each element can be seen as follows:

  • coaching
  • mentoring
  • training
  • teaching
  • instruction.

Along the continuum, the differences can be seen in the following ways: 

  • In coaching, the conversation is usually 1:1, instruction is more often 1:many.
  • In coaching the agenda is set by the coachee, it is usually the trainer who sets the agenda in instructing.
  • The main role of a coach is listening and reflecting; for an instructor, it is imparting expertise.
  • The main role of the learner in coaching is to explore their development; in being instructed, it is to listen and learn.
  • In a business context, coaching is quite often requested by the individual and is person centred, with training being required by the organisation and often job/task/skill related.
  • The thought process for the coach will be ‘how can I help’, for the instructor it will be ‘this is what I need to tell you’.
  • In coaching, the expert is the client, in instructing, the expert is the instructor.
  • The learner has less responsibility for learning, the further along the continuum towards instructing.

All the elements on the continuum of helping learners can be valuable in the right environment and a good coach/trainer can flex their delivery to suit.  

Even someone who calls themselves a coach will rarely be always purely coaching and may, for example, direct the learner to resources. Similarly, someone whose title is instructor will often use coaching techniques such as letting the learner try things out and give feedback. What’s important is to make sure that they’re used appropriately. 

What's your experience of the use of these descriptions?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Prudhoe, Northumberland, NE42
Written by Tracey Hutchinson, MSc, NLP MPrac, Happy Brain Coach/Trainer, Advanced Hypnosis
Prudhoe, Northumberland, NE42

Tracey is an experienced coach, trainer, and facilitator who is successfully helping people make positive and permanent change across all areas of life. When you're ready to find out how easily and quickly Tracey can help you find your best self, contact her @Tracey_Hutch or at or

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