To Train or to Coach, That is the Question!

Posted in : Coaching in the Moment on 7 February 2019
Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd
Issues covered:

A new starter has just joined the team. The manager in charge of the new employee is in a quandary, should I train the entrant or coach her to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job well?

This question can arise for a few reasons and one of them is that some busy line managers don’t know exactly what coaching is, or the difference between it and training? And yet coaching for lot of managers is now part of their job descriptions. Unless the managers have received proper training on how to effectively induct new employees; what and how to coach, confusion can result.

Coaching in the Moment

The Challenge

How should a manager decide when to coach and when to train a new entrant?

The Solution

Train to address skills gaps.

Coach to enhance performance.

Takeaway Actions

Identify core skills and basic competencies required to do the job.

Train using ‘Tell, Show, Do’ approach

Coach only when new recruits have achieved the basic level of competence.

Train up to the line – coach above the line

Coaching v Training

Source: Coaching Champions, Salisbury, Neary, O’Connor*

Identify Core Skills

 Identifying Core Skills

Consider the basic competencies required to do core tasks, e.g. taking a purchase order by phone.  Up to the line is where you set your benchmark – the basic minimum requirement. Above the line is where you seek to help people excel in their jobs. You can’t expect people to excel in their jobs until they reach the line of basic competence.

Train your new recruit to your (Non-Negotiable) Standard

A simple but effective way to train is to follow the three stages of ‘Tell, Show and Do’.

  1. Telling is where the manager communicates what the role is (and is not) and outlines the skill involved in the role.
  2. The manager follows this factual first part of the training by then showing them how to do it. Sometimes the manager will show them what the good skills look like by demonstrating and role-modelling the skill required in the role, and other options include having an expert colleague showcase these skills or show them a learning video clip, or use an e-learning tool.
  3. The ‘doing’ part where the manager does it first and then asks the employee to try it is ‘where the rubber hits the road’. Now a manager has an opportunity to observe what the person is doing well, and what needs to be improved.  As the late Sir John Whitmore cited in his bestselling ‘Coaching for Performance’ book, the recall of the new skill after three weeks increases significantly to 85% when the individual has been told, shown and has then experienced it (rather than simply being told, or even being told and shown the skill).


Coaching is the release of latent talent and skills, previously untapped by training, through a process of self-awareness initiated by the coach (Coaching Champions). Now that our new recruit has learned the basics, in our next blog, we will explore how we as line managers can ‘coach in the moment’ working with the 70:20:10 Learning Model.

Any queries or manager coaching challenges, please contact Karl O’Connor at or Cariona Neary at


This article is correct at 07/02/2019

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd

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