As a coach who trains in the areas of Coaching, Mentoring and Training it is common that individuals don't really understand the difference.  It is vital to fully understand before we know how to develop people and the four areas associated with developing individuals in the workplace are known as the ‘Big 4’. Everyone involved in development needs to be aware of the differences between the four skill sets and what is required to use effectively.

It is of course understandable why there is so much confusion out there, the English language doesn't help.  For example how is it we have a Tennis Coach and a Ski Instructor, you could argue they are doing the same job.  In the fields of Learning & Development there specific boundaries though:

Mentoring is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person, helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.

Workplace examples: - In the workplace mentoring is often conducted when people first start a new job or particular role. For example, you arrive as a project manager and another project manager with lots of experience in the area will look after you. They have occupational competence in the area they are mentoring.

Training is teaching or developing in oneself or others, skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. Training has specific goals of improving one's capability, capacity, productivity and performance and to maintain, upgrade and update skills throughout working life.

Workplace examples: - In the workplace, training is used widely to pass on skills and knowledge. All managers should also know how to train people; this requires an understanding of the structure of a training session and how to use effective questioning skills.

Counseling is the provision of professional assistance and guidance in resolving personal or psychological problems.

Workplace examples: - Unless you are appropriately qualified you shouldn’t be counseling members of staff. Without the correct training, managers who get drawn in can make things worse. There is a thin line sometimes between counseling and management and managers need to be aware of this.

Coaching - This is a conversation between the coach and the coachee, where the coachee achieves a higher level and understanding of awareness and self-awareness. The coach provides a safe environment and structure for that outcome to occur.

Workplace examples: - An essential skill for all managers. Coaching skill sets are required to understand human behavior. It is all about understanding the person, your response to them and how they respond to you. It is about building a relationship that is safe and creating a confidential environment. It is about really listening to understand and not to respond. Managers who coach don’t past judgment or tell, they guide.

Claire Moody is our head coach at Target Training, and you can read more about her here.  She delivers training on all coaching and numerous training the trainer courses.