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Tag Archives: difference between trainer and coach

Let’s say you are a company leader who is trying to help their team work together more cohesively and improve communication. Who would you call? Would you search for a trainer? A coach? Someone else entirely?

Though they may sound similar, a coach and a trainer usually perform very different functions. Confusion sometimes arises because people often use these terms interchangeably. However, they are distinct, and a trainer can not necessarily perform the same functions as a coach (and vice versa).

What, then, is the difference between a coach and a trainer?

In most cases, a trainer will work with a team on a specific skill, program, or technique. Training usually has a specific, prescribed program which doesn’t vary much from team to team. Training could only last a few hours (a “lunch and learn,” for instance) or could be performed over several days or weeks.

Coaching, on the other hand, is usually less focused on a specific skill or program, and more focused on outcomes. Want to improve motivation? Or create a more cohesive work team? Or help your people clarify their professional paths? A coach is probably the right choice.

Coaches may be subject matter experts in a certain area (interpersonal communication, self-discovery/awareness, women work teams, etc.), but they can usually adjust their material to fit the specific needs of the group. If they discover that the group really needs to build their confidence before focusing on interpersonal communication, they might focus on that area of improvement first.

When I’m working with work teams as a Licensed Practitioner of Insights® Discovery, I will consider the group member’s personal profiles to determine how best to work with the team. If I discover, for instance, that the group leads with a lot of “red energy,” that may mean I’m working with several strong personalities who may clash at times. If I’m working with a primarily “blue energy” group, that likely means they are data- and process-driven, and will respond well to a data-centric approach. (To learn more about what I’m talking about, please visit this blog post.)

Another example: When I’m giving a “Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge” workshop, I will run through an activity that helps identify which leadership attributes are strongest in the group, and which could use some work. I’ll then put most of my focus on the areas of improvement.

Both trainers and coaches have merit. Depending on the needs of your work team, you may need to hire one or the other. Keep in mind, individual trainers and coaches may toe the line between these two areas, taking a somewhat hybrid approach. It’s always best to do your research and, preferably, talk to past clients before making a decision about whether to hire a trainer or coach.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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