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Coaching vs. Training: Which Is Right For You?

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So you’ve recognized a development opportunity. You start where anyone does in 2021 - Google. You like the open-enrollment training programs that are available but also find yourself intrigued by one-to-one coaching. Both seem like good options that would meet your development needs, but you’re finding it hard to decide.

Not to worry, the debate between coaching vs. training is one that countless other professionals have grappled with before you. To make the debate between coaching vs. training that much easier, we’ve outlined a few factors that have historically swayed professionals like yourself either one way or the other.


Development Goals

When it comes to deciding between coaching vs. training, you first and foremost need to understand how each supports your development goals. In the case of open-enrollment training, you will be focused on developing a specific skill or gaining knowledge on a given topic. For example, a Leadership Fundamentals program is ideal to take in an open-enrollment setting as it covers a number of key leadership training topics and applies to leaders regardless of their job title, industry, or past training experience.

While in the case of one-to-one coaching, it is often used to help individuals apply the learnings from training on the job, amplify what they already do really well, tackle a confidential challenge, develop a personalized action plan, or support a major career transition. One-to-one coaching focuses less on developing brand new skills and more on developing those you already have and applying them in real-life situations. 


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Timeline and Commitment

Open-enrollment programs often begin registering a season before they start and can take place on a single day or over a number of months. This means you will have to work your schedule around the set dates and times to attend the training, which if you register early enough can be very manageable. You will also need to be forward-thinking about your training and development needs, as you will likely have to wait a few weeks, if not a few months, to get started.

On the other hand, one-to-one coaching engagements are completely flexible to your timeline. While coaching providers will typically offer pre-defined coaching packages for a set number of months, many like the Niagara Institute, understand that these coaching packages won’t always work and are willing to work with you to customize one accordingly. In which case, you would work with your coaching provider to design a custom coaching engagement that takes place over your ideal amount of time. 



At the Niagara Institute, open-enrollment training programs can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000. Whereas, our three-month coaching packages for emerging leaders start at $3,000 and can increase based on the length of the engagement. In other words, when considering coaching vs. training, the cost will be comparable if it is a short coaching engagement.



It is not uncommon for open-enrollment training programs to have a set number of “seats” available in order to ensure the learning experience can be delivered exactly as intended. For example, our Speaking as a Leader program is designed to give each participant a chance to practice speaking in front of their peers and receive group feedback. In this case, the number of seats available is limited to ensure every participant gets the full experience. What this means is that if you are interested in an open-enrollment training program, have approval, and have space in your calendar, register as soon as you can.

For one-to-one coaching, availability may become an issue if you are set on having a particular coach who has prior engagements that overlap with your ideal timeline. Your coaching provider can work to get you matched with another coach who is equally compatible in terms of experience, qualifications, and personality. Of course, if you are set on working with a particular coach, then you may need to wait until said coach’s other engagements wrap up and you can begin. 


Learning Environment

The obvious difference here is that with open-enrollment training programs, you often learn as much from your peers, as you do from your facilitator, while a coaching engagement is a one-on-one learning experience. For those who are social learners or want the added benefit of networking with peers, then open-enrollment training will be a perfectly suitable option. Though if you want to discuss confidential issues or learn by debriefing an experience on the job and receive specific feedback, then coaching will definitely be the better option. 



When it comes down to deciding between coaching vs. training, it’s ultimately entirely dependent on your development plan and personal preferences as what works for one person, may not work for another. Therefore, the best thing you can do is to look closely at your options, ask your provider questions, seek input from your leader and colleagues, and then finally, make a decision that you believe will get you closer to achieving your defined goals. 

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