Coaching/Training/Counseling/Mentoring - Clearing out the confusion
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Coaching is strategically guiding someone into improved performance through reflection on how they apply a specific skill and/or knowledge. Coaching is about developing individuals beyond where they currently are.

Coaching helps people to reflect on their performance in a specific area with an informed,objective helper. It is about helping individuals to implement their learning within the workplace and therefore improve their performance. It is not about teaching something new. The prime focus of coaching should be on using existing knowledge and skills, perhaps reviewing attitude and approach, to maximize performance.


Training is simply defined as teaching employees what to do and how to do it.  It's  the process by which someone learns a new skill or piece of knowledge. It is giving someone the tools to do a job, thereby moving that person from conscious incompetence to conscious competence. See also: Levels of learning. At the end of a training session the learner may be able to do the job, but not necessarily achieve the required standard all of the time. Training can be formal (eg training courses) or informal (such as on-the-job instruction).
True learning does not take place until the learner has transferred it from the training environment into the ‘real world’, and made a persistent change in behaviour.

Training and coaching will often overlap. Sometimes when coaching someone, it may become apparent that he or she does not have the necessary skills or background knowledge; at this point, the coaching stops and training begins. Training and coaching are part of the continuum of development.

It is possible, therefore, that within a person’s role there will be many coaching experiences –potentially for as many skills as are required for that position. An effective personal development plan (PDP) will prioritize the skills that need working on at any particular time in order to ensure that the individual is fulfilling his or her potential and achieving business objectives.


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Counseling is simply defined as helping explore and possibly resolve problems that could be impacting performance,  it uses similar skills to coaching. A counsellor will generally be used by individuals to help them deal with a specific problem; counseling focuses on emotions and feelings rather than performance. Counseling tends to look at the causes for today’s issues; it looks at the past and the route taken to arrive at the point where the individual currently is. Coaching turns the attention to the future, with the starting point being where the individual is today; its focus is on planning a route to arrive at a pre-agreed point.

Within the workplace, individuals would generally only seek the advice of a counsellor if they had a problem, whereas coaching can involve the development of good performance as well as under-performance. There is also a fine line between coaching and counseling. The line here is between functionality and motivation.

If a person has no knowledge or only partial knowledge of a particular job function, then that person needs to be coached toward competency. On the other hand, if that same person knows how to perform a particular job function and is just not doing so, there is another issue. This issue could range from a simple motivational one to a more complex one where counseling needs to take place.

Another way to look at it is that coaching has to do with the performance and the standards set, and counseling has to do with a problem that is affecting the employee and that could be affecting others as well.


Many organizations couple coaching and mentoring together as part of the same scheme or process. Again, we would agree that there is an element of overlapping;  We define mentoring as: General guidance or advice regarding life or career.

Mentoring, which covers a range of issues, is much more general than coaching, which looks at a specific skill or area. It usually helps people progress within a specific field or organization and helps individuals look at how they use their networking, profile and organizational politics. More often than not a mentor is someone who is senior to their mentee, either within the organization or within their specialist field. In seeking a mentor, individuals will look for a role model who they can relate to on a personal level as well as someone who is well-respected within their area. This differs from coaching in a number of ways:

The coach does not have to be senior to their coachee.

The relationship is not so personal – the coachee does not need to like his or her coach, but a mentee generally needs to like his or her mentor. Coaching is about one specific subject, where mentoring is about general issues of career and life development.

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