Training vs. Coaching: Unleashing True Leadership Potential

Dear Coach,

What is the difference between training and coaching?



Dear Jayne,

Thank you for this great question. When it comes to the so-called “soft skills” – leadership, communication, conflict resolution, motivation, persuasion, etc., the distinction is crucial.

To be a great leader requires training. However, for a leader to truly improve, training is a necessary but not sufficient condition. In my experience, it’s only when coaching is combined with training that true, positive, sustained results ensue.

I’ve been providing various workplace leadership and communication training for decades. For a long time, I thought it was enough for me to impart the knowledge, concepts, and tools, and the recipients would take it from there. We’d all live happily ever after!

Since becoming an apprentice, and now Master Coach in the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching system, I’ve learned just how naïve my thinking was.

How come?

All of us have blind spots. We’re not aware that there are three realities: The reality of what we perceive we say or do, the reality of what we actually say or do, and the reality of what others perceive we say or do.

In my experience, training alone won’t close the gaps in the three realities. Cognition isn’t enough. Without the breakthrough “aha!” moments coaching generates, leaders will perceive they’re properly applying the tools, skills, techniques, etc., while in actuality, there’s a gap, and there’s still another gap in how the leader’s actions are perceived by others.

Only coaching can truly close the three realities gap – where what we perceive we do is in fact what we do and is in fact how we’re perceived.

Another major reason training alone won’t get the job done: Resistance to habit change. Can you relate?

Leaders come into organizations with established habits, some beneficial and others not so much. But hey, even if I’ve been thinking, acting, and responding the same way for years, don’t assume I can do a complete 180 on a whim. It’s like trying to teach an old dog new tricks, you know? Change takes time and effort. So let’s approach habit change with humility, muster the courage to step outside our comfort zones, and embrace the discipline needed to make lasting change. It’s a really long journey — but worth the wait.

I’ve received requests from prospective clients, “Jathan, we have a senior leader who needs help in soft skills. Can you fix him in a single session?” Here’s my standard response, “Do you believe in miracles?”

Habits can be changed. Changing habits requires three essential elements according to Marshall Goldsmith: humility, courage, and discipline. Humility involves accepting that we have room to grow and are not perfect. Courage is needed to step outside our comfort zones and try new approaches. Discipline ensures follow-up and follow-through, solidifying the change into a habit. By embracing these qualities, we can successfully transform our habits and create positive change in our lives.

I wish I had Marshall’s insight many years ago but as the saying goes, “Better late than never.” And the still good news is that properly combining training with coaching continues to produce wonderful positive results!



Jathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at



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