Managers and leaders are tasked with, and responsible for, ensuring their employees are performing at the best of their ability in order to get the maximum output from them. Two primary ways of achieving this is through coaching and teaching and there are key differences in these two approaches to team management. Each approach will create different results and have a different impact, and one is more ideal than the other for a leader to use when managing a team.

Primary differences between coaching and teaching

Teaching is focused on the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Coaching is focused on refining and developing knowledge and skills.

  • For example, you may teach a new employee organisational systems and processes, but you may coach them through improving the processes or working on their efficiency.

Teaching places ownership and responsibility on the teacher or the person with the knowledge. Coaching gives responsibility to both parties and opens up the communication pathway.

  • For example, teaching may involve telling an employee the things they need to know in relation to their role and responsibilities, focusing on the basic concepts and key points, whereas coaching changes the conversation to being about developing the role further.

Coaching will often happen in “the real world”, where an employee has to deal with real issues and on-the-job problems; teaching will only cover the theoretical things they may encounter.

  • For example, you could teach an employee the steps they need to take if things go wrong or tell them the people they need to talk to, however in a VUCA world things may not be as easy or straightforward to follow, so coaching would be useful for employees to go through the problem-solving process themselves.

Teaching is often done with an end-goal and set timeline in place; coaching occurs over an unidentified or limitless time period.

  • For example, you will teach an employee how to use a system, share an operating process, or talk them through how you would like them to deliver a project. It is about solving a problem or getting a task done with a known outcome. Coaching will not necessarily have a set timeframe or task for completion, but will instead work through situations as they arise.

What separates the coaching and teaching methodologies apart?

Both methodologies have the end-goal of an employee learning a skill or acquiring knowledge, but there some differences between these two approaches to team management.

One is the level of knowledge of an employee at the point of training. Teaching implies that there is no prior knowledge, whereas coaching assumes some level of knowledge to build upon that the coach may take and further develop.

Another difference is the way in which a coach or teacher may communicate. Teaching is a generally a one-sided, directive and instructional conversation, however coaching is two-way, ongoing and non-directive, with the focus on the employee being the one who comes to their own conclusions.

Based upon those considerations, the methodologies will be used in different circumstances and for different purposes.

What is the ideal approach for a leader to utilise in their team management?

A leader’s role is to guide, direct, and influence employees and followers in the most productive and effective way possible. This means that a number of approaches and techniques may be used in order to achieve desired results.

Overall though, leadership is naturally more aligned with coaching.

It encourages and empowers employees to think through and overcome workplace challenges which not only helps them develop personally and professionally, but also frees up time for the leader and managers to do more important tasks. It can also increase employee engagement, energise employees, and improve overall organisational productivity due to the level of trust and empowerment they feel.

Coaching may not provide the solutions or outcomes the leader is expecting, but with the right support and structure it could mean stronger, faster, and even better solutions.
If you would like to discuss how to fill your team with candidates capable of both coaching and teaching skills, contact us today to hear how we can help.