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Global Flipchart #9



September 2017
| Issue #9

Coaching, facilitation, and training - the differences

By Héctor Villarreal Lozoya

“Aren’t facilitation, coaching and training the same?” When interacting with clients, this is one of the most common questions I’ve received. And I love it, because it allows me to dig deeper and describe the distinct values each of those professions brings to an individual and an organisation.

Here’s how to answer this age-old question, and how I demonstrate to clients the differences.

The difference between facilitation and training

First of all, and taking a line from the IAF website describing the Certified Professional Facilitator, there is a clear separation between content and process:

  • Facilitators: focus on the process, while the participants provide the content. The facilitator's role is to aid the group in managing the knowledge they have to achieve the intended results (decision, action plan, solve a conflict, etc.)
  • Trainers: manage the process and the content. Normally they bring content expertise or have specific content they cover and have to ensure participants depart with compliance to a series of learning objectives.

An article by Barbara MacKay lists a set of important differences between training and facilitation - can you guess which applies to facilitation and which to training?

  • Learning versus thinking
  • Hierarchical versus collaborative
  • Applying versus communicating
  • Linear versus flexible
  • Longer term versus immediate

The first set of characteristics is part of the training profession. Did you get it right?

In the end, training aims to generate skills in the participants that are predefined by a person of authority who has knowledge and has been approved for delivery.

For further distinction between the three - Rosanna von Sacken lists the similarities and differences in her article Coach, Facilitator and Mentor – Who is doing What?

Where the lines blur

The main issue, as Guila Muir points out, is that really good trainers seem to make group learning an easy process - like a facilitator. And facilitators, coaches and trainers all share some competences and skills, like public speaking, managing groups and asking questions to mention a few. So that’s where the lines can blur.

But this is not a new discussion. Almost 20 years ago, Wild, Shambaugh, Isberg and Kaul did a splendid presentation on this very same topic in the 1999 IAF Annual Meeting in Williamsburg. And they did a very good job of defining the differences between the three disciplines.

What I’d like to share with you is not so much how to describe the differences but how to show a client (or group) when to use the different approaches to solve an issue.

How to actually show the differences

First of all, I ask the client to do a quick brainstorm of challenges they face. Once we have that, I explain the following chart:

In the X axis, we have knowledge divided into internal and external. In the Y axis we have whether it is an individual or group challenge.

Once I have explained the four different elements of this matrix to the client, we then allow them to locate the challenges in it. Some issues may require a strict facilitation approach so we could locate it to the far top-left corner of the matrix, while others may need mentoring or coaching.

I’ve found that many executives tend to think that training will solve all their problems - from lack of motivation from individuals to the company sales performance. When the client locates a challenge in a place that I think is not appropriate, I ask questions on how they came to their conclusions. For the most part they accept and allow me to re-locate challenges in the appropriate quadrant of the matrix.

I have to add that a matrix can be deceiving as it may oversimplify an issue. Most complex situations require a multi-strategy approach, using the different professions at different times. For example, a facilitator may have to “change hats” in order to train the group so it can be much more effective in a collaborative setting.

I hope this tool will help you in answering that question.