Coaching & Teaching-What’s the Difference?

Coaching & Teaching. What is the difference?

Coaching and Teaching are very closely related! In fact some instructors will often coach during teaching and vice versa. So if they are so similar how do you know which one you’re doing and when to do so? Between Coaching & Teaching-What’s the difference?

Coaching and Teaching are very closely related! In fact some instructors will often coach during teaching and vice versa. So if they’re so similar how do you know which one you’re doing and when to do so? What’s the difference?

Before we go into the differences let’s take a look at what each are.

Coaching firstly is many things, but there are also a number of things that coaching is not. Namely it is not therapy where issues from the past are dealt with. It’s not consultation where work is done for someone else, and above all it is not teaching.

In a nutshell, coaching looks at the present with a focus on the future. But more importantly is, its method, where it is primarily driven by the coachee themselves. Whether they know it or not, the person being coached (more often than not) actually has the solution already. The coach, and the coaching process is all about revealing that or other options for the person being coached to explore and evaluate, before deciding on a course of action.

Teaching on the other hand can be done in a number of different ways. At its core teaching is the act of communicating information and skills to others in an effort to improve knowledge & skill and also to allow those being taught to be able to gain experience and independence.

So what separates the two?

Coaching and its method can be used for the purposes of reinforcing learning but it does not teach. The real difference between the two is ‘When’ each is used. Neither is better or worse than another, and neither can replace the other. Both methods, teaching and coaching are used at different times.

Let’s imagine you have someone who wants to do a certain task, but they do not know how to do it or they don’t know what is required to make it happen. Coaching this person towards a solution is going to be extremely difficult and will likely fail to achieve a course of action.

It’s down to what the person knows.

In the case above, the person will need to be taught first. Concepts, ideas & hard information will need to be introduced, explained & practiced first in order to increase the person’s awareness of what they are trying to achieve.

If the teaching is successful and the person achieves learning, they may have the ability to ‘self-execute’ and achieve the task they wish to carry out and subsequently reach their immediate goal, without the instructor which is the ideal case.

So where does coaching fit in?

In the above situation which is one of many—coaching works when the person becomes stuck. If the person already has an awareness of the subject or situation they are involved in, then coaching is ideal to re-enforce learnt content, explore options, evaluate these options and work toward a resolution. It also has to be said that in this manner coaching also perfectly complements teaching because if a taught person does become stuck, teaching tends to ‘re-teach’ content rather focus around what the person already has an awareness of and risks creating dependence rather than independence.

In short, teaching and coaching are two different practices—both of which work toward achieving the same thing, where the client develops, improves and excels. Despite having the same end goal both practices work in different ways but most importantly they work at different times.

If a person needs to learn something new—teaching is what we need to do. When the client is looking at ways to progress, advance & improve—coaching is the tool of choice.

Training for Emergency and Unlikely Situations

The 404 error
Expect the unexpected

It seems like a dire subject when we think about training for emergency or abnormal situations, but not all training can ever be planned & delivered for completely predictable or ‘safe’ environments or scenarios.

So before we dive into this topic further how can we define ‘safe’?

Safe can have many definitions depending on the industry or the subject that is being instructed upon, but let’s for the sake of the article settle on ‘safe’ being;

“A secure environment where activities can be conducted without risk of disruption & where people have no exposure to any threatening hazards of any sort.”

Let’s just work with it for now!

So . . . When we use a definition such as this, abnormal can technically be anything that falls outside of the above definition and emergencies can not only be disruptive to operations, but also hazardous to the people and material conducting activities.

Training can be Disruptive
Training can be a costly and disruptive process

One thing to think about at this point is that abnormal or emergency situations can typically be regarded as rare. And when we think about rare circumstances our natural tendency is to want to ignore them.

As an example, motorcyclists are encouraged to practice emergency braking techniques often in controlled environments, but how many actually practice? Emergencies likely won’t happen to us, so why bother to keep the skill up to date?

You can see where this is heading, but one point to remember and really take note of is that training is expensive, both as a client, and also as an instructor. So knowing that an abnormal or emergency situation is not just possible but potentially probable and that preparation can be expensive, we are left with two options that we can examine.

  1. Training can be expensive so if a situation is not likely to happen then is it worth covering?
  2. The possibility is known, but we choose not to prepare for it.

One point to make clear now is that abnormal situations vary on an absolute scale between industries and sectors down to certain individuals, but the local scales of the impacts can be large regardless, whether it be a disruption to service or operations leading to some down time through to a situation that can impact on thousands for an extended period.

New York City Blackout, 1977
Some failures will have bigger impacts than others


So what is the cost of training & what is the cost of failure?

This is now venturing into risk management, but training carries two costs. Firstly as a client it is going to cost the upfront value of the training, and also the time that it is going to take to become competent in a skill.

Let’s set time at $100 per hour (Cheap in some circles) and say that a course is going to take 40 hours to complete. As a client you would expect the course to be set at No Less than $4,000 excluding other consumables, and that it will take a week to complete.

If you’re an employer, not only are you going to be staring at $4,000 per trainee, but you’re also going to face 40 hours of disruption while the trainee goes through training and those roles and responsibilities need to be distributed elsewhere.

Naturally if something is unlikely and this can save 10 hours of training then this becomes a corner everyone wants to cut. It gets trainees back into work, clients trained sooner, and costs are reduced.

So this corner cutting can save 10 hours & $1,000 dollars per trainee, but what happens when the training required to handle failure is not delivered?

If an organisation has 20 employees and a manageable failure occurs which disrupts everyone for 2 hours, then the cost of this failure is $4,000 (personnel costs only).

If training could have reduced the impact from 2 hours of downtime to 1 hour, then the extra disruptive training pays for itself after the first failure, and our costs (Theoretically) balance. Each failure in future which becomes better handled actually saves an organisation money. But . . . This is actually not the complete point here. Read on!

So is it about prevention & Risk Management?

Rarely used skills need to be kept up to date for when they may be needed.
Emergency Braking is a skill that must be kept up to date.

Training for abnormal or emergency situations is much less to do with risk management but most importantly more to do with being able to respond and react to the abnormal situation itself—and preventing additional failure once an event has occurred. 

Unlikely situations can be taught, but are seldom remembered when required. How can proper preparation be achieved?

We make the emergency more likely!

The use of exercise or simulator based scenario training is exactly how we prepare for unlikely and emergency situations. Setting up specific training scenarios (where required) is how we create proficiency and skill in people who have to deal with unlikely and emergency scenarios.

Rehearsing specific scenarios is exactly what makes regular people extraordinary in emergency or crisis situations, and this can only be achieved through scenario specific training with repetition.

Soldiers are regular people who have been trained to do extraordinary things.
Training makes regular people extraordinary.

Carefully setting the outcome, creating the situation, and then let the scenario play out. As an instructor in these training situations it can be important not to get involved and simply take notes on what takes place for feedback later. The timely & accurate feedback is what will make your clients and an organisation better where required.

As mentioned training is expensive—particularly on organisations. Staff are out of place, roles & responsibilities need to be distributed to maintain output, and there is also the financial cost. Clients will pay both in dollars and hours, but this final question is not only directed towards employers;

What is the cost of failure?

And to educators running lessons and courses, if you know there is an abnormal situation; What is the cost of ignoring these lessons?

When are you no longer the Apprentice?

This is a question that came up just recently & also something that I’d come across years ago when someone asked “When are they no longer the noob?”

At the time the answer someone gave was “When you don’t have to ask that question!” Being relatively new to the field at the time, it wasn’t me that gave the answer and being fair I didn’t have one, even if I was the one who was asked.

When are you no longer the apprentice?

But at some point we look back on our journeys whether they’re personal or professional and only when we reflect do we realize how far we’ve come. These journeys are slow & arduous and the progress can be so incremental that we don’t realize that we actually make progress.

So whatever your field is; When are you no longer the apprentice? When can you call yourself the master?

When thinking about this there is no single point where the change takes place, but your Google search history is a far better gauge of where you’re at. It might seem abstract but keep reading.

It’s what you’re looking for.

My conclusion is that there are four key factors that determine whether you’re an apprentice or a master.

1. When your questions change or when you ask different types of questions.

Let’s use the health and fitness industry as an example. There are literally millions of people who have asked; “How to lose weight.”

We have to accept that this is a very generic question for the fitness industry, and an easy question that everyone at some point has asked. Most likely this is the ‘first’ question that anyone asks when they want to ‘get into shape’ whereas someone with more experience may start to ask “How to lose fat?” or “How to build Muscle” or even better “How to boost your metabolism?” In the fitness industry, trainers and instructors typically want clients who ask these questions because they are already more mature than clients who just want to ‘Get into shape.’

2. When you start to research your own answers, and having the confidence to know your research is correct.

Let keep running the fitness industry for consistency. Whether you’re a client wanting to strip fat or boost your metabolic rate eventually you’ll start to do your own research rather than perhaps simply taking what your trainer gives you as gospel.

This is where you’re going to start having the ability to sift through all of the noise such as banana diets, lemon diets, soup diets, and start looking for higher quality information which will be more suited to your needs.

When you finally start to find consistent information from independent sources you’ll have the confidence to determine that what you have found is something that you can work with and learn from.

3. When you start helping others—you know where they’ve come from.

Give it enough time and research and you’re going to start getting results. Nothing is going to attract attention like progress, and once you start to make progress people around you will likely want to know how ‘you got into shape’

At this point in your experience, you’ll have the ability to help & educate others but also to know what question to ask when you start to provide guidance.

The biggest take away to know about here is that the advice and guidance you’re going to give is already going to be more advanced than what you would have searched for when you started ‘your‘ journey.

This means that you are more advanced and skilled than what people are typically looking for.

4. When the questions you ask, haven’t been asked. You can’t find your answers any longer, and you are doing new things.

The final step in knowing that you’re no longer the apprentice is when you begin to look for answers that are not readily available or when you start doing your own research & experiments.

Remember you started your journey with ‘How to lose weight’ and you may have found information about cutting calories.

As an advanced self-taught fitness expert you’re going to be looking for information in the fields of ‘Insulin Manipulation’ or ‘Cortisol reduction’ . . . the list of advanced key word searches is endless which will likely see you looking through research papers on page 2 of Google or beyond rather than Instagram posts.

So when are you no longer the apprentice?

From experience (regardless of the industry) I can say that it comes down to these four areas which all relate to the questions that you ask, and what you look for in your field, and not just about how long you have been doing something for.


After all you can cut calories for years but that doesn’t mean you’re an expert!

How can you prepare your Presentation? – Part 3 – Scripting

Now in the final installment of this article we’re going to look at the most polarizing method to prepare any presentation, particularly for teaching. Scripting a training presentation.

And yes it is exactly what it sounds like. Writing a script—each and every word that you will deliver in a presentation or in this case your lesson.

There is an opportunity to script some training presentations

By this definition this is an ‘extreme’ form of presentation preparation.  It’s a method that demands that you either fully commit to being in (and you say everything you have written) or that you don’t write a single phrase and you choose to follow an organic or queued approach. No in between!

Under normal circumstances scripting is just one of those things you just . . . Don’t . . . do. And when I say that I mean—ever!  In all of the time that I have ever been delivering training, I have never used a script . . . not once!

Being an awesome instructor means knowing your stuff; so your knowledge simply makes scripting redundant. You simply don’t need one!

Besides, imagine having an audience and rather than communicating with them completely—instead you spend your time reading from a script, or spitting out a bunch of words that you hope to remember from earlier.

Chances are it’s not a pretty mental picture. If you have an audience a script is the worst thing you can bring to the lesson.

But . . . What if there was a reason to have one?

Scripting can create doubt with your audience.
Using a script in front of an audience can create doubt

It’s the 21st century, and teaching is not just something that happens face to face any longer. We are now in the digital age, and trainees, students and clients don’t . . . need to be in class at any specific time.

Teaching has changed – In fact a lesson can be delivered at one time, and received at another completely.

Scripts are useful—When it comes to recording your training. And they are useful for two key reasons. The first reason is all about this exact topic . . . preparation. Excessive preparation! The ‘scripting’ of each and every single word that you’re going to say, and there is benefit.

Particularly when recording, a script will provide the opportunity to seamlessly put together your lesson with everything you need to communicate without all of the nuances that we all have, that only come out when we speak naturally.

Secondly, scripting provides one massive final benefit when it comes to recording lessons. A script acts as version control when it comes time to update your lessons from one version to the next. The script is the written record, of what you have presented.

The script is easy to update and edit as required and when it comes to version control, a script is the most valuable method you can use to prepare any lesson you can deliver.

How can you prepare your Presentation? – Part 2 – Detours & Diversions

Previously we looked at presenting from experience, now we’re going to see how to make sure we can Control a training presentation from the planning stage.

But we can’t always just go from experience, or we can’t always have the audience drive the training during discovery. Sometimes when it comes to new teaching we need to bring something more than ourselves to the class.

Sometimes there are concepts that are too complex to simply ‘talk’ about, or explain through with the use of a metaphor.

These more complex ideas need more than words, and often require the use of pictures, or other graphics or some other form of training aid.

Now imagine that you have a detailed picture, simple graphics or some other appropriate representation of a concept. Is the representation enough to explain itself? More often that not, it won’t. If they did, an instructor wouldn’t be needed.

Enter . . . the Queue.

The incomplete prompting point which leads to further expansion.

These typically find the most use, when more than a few points need to be remembered  in careful sequential structure, or when lots of small points need to be raised. Each point is easy to discuss but queues are used to maintain structure and sequence during training rather than be useful in their own right. The major point to be careful off from experience is to make sure that each queue has a stop point.

Queue cards can keep you on track
Queue cards can help plan and keep you on track

What is a stop point? This is the final piece of information that ‘completes’ that queue, before you look to the next queue.

Why do we need the stop point? Sometimes a queue can not only remind of where you are, but can lead to a flowing avalanche of information. Without a stop point to remind yourself ‘where to stop’ you can accidentally achieve flow and derail your entire presentation by getting out of synchronisation with your training aids. I’ve had this happen and the results are spectacularly bad!

There are also times when your teaching subject is naturally going to raise a lot of questions from your audience.

Detours & Diversions; The forks in the road. 

Some subjects especially ‘conditional’ or ‘grey’ matter can cause your audience to spend more time thinking about asking branching questions or ‘detours’ rather than focus on the subject being taught.

These are exactly what they sound like; detours that naturally want to take training away from the pre-determined lesson plan.

Your lessons may run into upcoming detours

When you deliver ‘grey’ or ‘conditional’ matter organically with high audience engagement, then detours are relatively easy to handle. The audience can ask an expected question and you can answer it quickly or it can be postponed to another time when it will be covered in more depth.

Control a training presentation is what its all about.

However there are times when a question is so obvious that it has to be handled either before the audience has a chance to ask it and take up time with discussion or;

An answer needs to be on standby as you attempt to skirt around the question in the hope of saving your time for the training itself. Either way detours are questions that you will need to prepare for with some subject matter.

In the next and final installment we look at how to and when to use scripting for presentation preparation

How long should a lesson be?

It not usually something that you think about when you’re preparing lessons but an important factor regarding training outcomes, is How long should a lesson be? The other perspective is how long can a lesson take to deliver properly?

I said previously that training is expensive, and more often than not you may not have the time you need to do a subject justice. The chances are there will be external factors that dictate how much freedom, time and space you’re going to have when it comes to delivering training. When those external factors become too restrictive, as an instructor it’s our job to push back and demand more resources to get the job done right . . . otherwise you may as well not do it at all.

But how much do we ask for? How much time do we need?

There is no magic formula to figure out how long a lesson is going to be, and its easy to get caught out during delivery. Some subjects can sometimes end up being delivered much quicker than anticipated, and other times some subjects can end up taking up far more time than you think. So why does this happen? There are 4 main factors that determine how long a lesson ‘ends’ up.

Skills have different Demands

There are skills that simply take more time to explain and then to practice. The list of multi-stage, multi-step and conditional procedures and practices are endless, but when it comes to teaching any one of these procedures, you have to explain each and every step.

Whereas there are other skills that don’t take much time at all to explain and practice. Especially when there is no follow up skill, training can be prepared and delivered on the spot.

How deep do you need to go?

I wrote about training for emergency and abnormal situations just recently and this was all about making sure that as an instructor your clients have been trained for abnormal and emergency situations that may arise as part of a skill or competency.

Tip of the Iceberg — Image by © Ralph A. Clevenger/CORBIS
Much of any skill is hidden during practice.

That evolved into exercise and scenario based training which prepares clients for those ‘out of the norm’ situations. But there is also another element to this.

In the day and age of ‘The App’ which more often than not will do everything for you, there are going to be times where you may need to dive deeper into subject matter than just which setting the client needs to make use of. You may need to explain and teach how and why things are as they are.

Skill Level of the student

This is a massive factor. . . Who are you teaching and where are they at when you start? Are they conversant in the subject you’re teaching or are they seeing it for the first time, when you start talking in industry specific language?

This is where new students will either allow a lesson to be delivered in under half the time you need, or they will take twice the time for each teaching point. Qualifying students prior to starting a program is an absolute must, not just because of how much time you may or may not have, but also for the sake of other students.

The limit of what you can achieve.

It is important to remember that as an instructor there is a limit to what you can achieve during instruction. You can only ever achieve competence in a client who is learning a skill before they inevitably must go out on their own and gain their own experience.

Otherwise you will fall into the trap of diminishing returns. You can spend a tremendous amount of time with your client teaching, but then fail to give your client experience which they so desperately need. There is also the issue of what that time use does for your business model.

So how long should a lesson be?

How long should your lesson be?

There isn’t a hard & fast answer to this one. Some lessons are shorter and delivered on an ad-hoc basis, while other lessons need far more time; hours are not out of the question.

However the answer is all about how long you can maintain the attention of your clients. The general rule of thumb is that your client is going to start losing the attention battle after about 20 minutes.

Shorter lessons can obviously be delivered well inside the 20 minute attention span limit with ease as long as you don’t invite your clients mind to wander. Within the 20 minute barrier you can spend the majority of your time working with theoretical content, not only because you can maintain attention for 20 minutes but also there usually won’t be time to conduct a complete set of practice stages. (Taught during Lesson Development & Delivery)

“… but my subject needs more than 20 minutes …” I hear you say in obvious disbelief.

This is where your instructional skills are needed. At about 20 minutes the chemistry in your clients brain is signaling them to ignore you, you’re going to need to alter your approach. Beyond 20 minutes, you’re going to have to look at introducing practice to your training—simply just to keep them involved as well as to correctly develop and assess skills.

But what if there was a way to bust through the 20 minute barrier? What if science is wrong here? There are two ways.

  1. Create Emotional Engagement with the use of story. When told properly a story presents real characters each with a goal and the conflict to push through to get there. the conflict and struggle is what we naturally gravitate towards and once we are emotionally engaged, our attention spans extend significantly. But once the emotional engagement drops, the clock starts ticking again.
  2. The second is to get the audience involved. This is where the time required to practice skills needs to be set aside or other ways of engaging the audience are needed. Workshops … work for this reason due to the high amount of audience engagement albeit at significantly reduced teaching/learning.

Long story short—there isn’t a golden time, but remember if you can’t teach your lesson within 20 minutes, you’re going to have to make sure that you have some way to engage your audience further to make sure that your training is effective.


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