Public Speaking: Teaching Vs Coaching

When I started my coaching practice, I realized that I had to make the distinction between coaching and teaching to establish common understanding between my clients and I. Most people only think about coaching in professional sports. But coaching as a success accelerator is increasingly being adopted in the business world.

In public speaking and leadership development, teaching/training was prevalent as the main way to build leadership and communication skills. But today, more and more people are opting for coaching because of its transformative power.

This is why I do not just teach public speaking. I empower individuals to become great communicators through highly personalized, and targeted coaching aligned to unique needs and goals. The difference between just teaching the skill hoping the learner gets them Vs coaching and helping them harness the superpower of communication are worlds apart.

Let’s look at some key differences!

Teaching/training impart knowledge and skills. Coaching fosters individual transformation.

Teaching is knowledge centric and obsesses about knowing stuff mentally. Teachers are generally obsessed with their material / content. They want you to understand and remember what they have to teach.

Coaching on the other hand is not about knowing things mentally. Coaching is about an you being able to do what you deeply want to do at an elite level. The person being coached is center stage and the object/focus of coaching; not the material/content that the coach knows. Coaches obsess about the person and their goals and are picky about who they coach.

Teachers are obsessed with their knowledge and content. Coaches are obsessed with the transformation of the person they coach towards higher confident performance.

Teaching assumes that the same content is important to every learner. The starting point of teaching is the material. Hence, very often, learners are taught what they already know that they don’t need, and that will not help them perform at a higher level. Sometimes the content is irrelevant and might actually hold them back.

On the other hand, a coach focuses on who you are, what abilities you have that you should make shine more and better, what you know or think that is holding you back and should be tuned down, what you should add to what you already have. And all the while, the coach worries if you are becoming the person you want to be.

A coach helps you to identify and uproot your weeds, prune and nurture your good crop with the proper nutrients. A teacher waters and adds generic nutrients to every plant, the wanted and the unwanted.

In a teaching session the teacher does most (or all) of the talking most (or all) of the time. In a coaching session, the person being coached does most of whatever work is necessary most of the times while the coach observes and provides immediate actionable feedback for instant integration. There is always constant dialogue in verbal and nonverbal terms.

Unlike teaching, coaching does not celebrate the understanding of concepts; it celebrates the success of the person being coached in doing what they set out to do at the higher plane they were seeking and beyond.

In teaching you understand first and might do (apply) later. In coaching you do (apply) first and understand later. The coaching quest is to find what works for you. That takes exploring such that understanding is often not the first step. The first step is “Try it”.

Teaching Vs Coaching Methods

Coaching is multi-dimensional, exploratory, repetitive and aims to bring out a particular performance from the subject who is being coached. While teaching is more of a straight line, step-by-step approach comprised mostly of one-way communication, presenting structured content and moving on immediately it is “covered”.

Teachers hate to go over what they have already taught while coaches understand that repetition is the mother of mastery and will go over a skill as many times as needed. They are not the ones going over it really. The person being coached does while they watch and provide feedback.

Coaches love to say “Well done. Let’s do that again!”. Even with the best, good coaches know that one can always get better. At the highest levels of performance, it is always the marginal improvements that make the difference and these always come through deliberate repetition.

A coach doesn’t care if you already know it or remember it, he cares if you can do it off the bat. The goal is always to internalize the ability so that it comes to you almost naturally or automatically.

Public Speaking coaching Vs Teaching/Training

CoachingTeaching / Training
A coach directly empowers transformation.A teacher or trainer passes on knowledge so that you “have it”.
The atmosphere is less formal, wide-ranging, multi-dimensional, bi-directional communication, reactionary, spontaneous, equal mutual respect.The atmosphere is very formal and structured: classroom, fixed schedules, one-way communication, leader and followers, talker and listeners, facilitator/instructor-learners, imbalanced respect.
The client usually has good knowledge and perhaps some skills on the focus or coaching.The learners often have little or no prior knowledge the subject being taught. Even if they do, it’s the material that’s first & center.
The primary activities: Discussion, discovery, real-time practice, feedback & instant action. Practice, practice, practice, …The primary activity is disseminating information. Testing intellectual understanding.
Style: Hands-on; personalized, dynamic and flexible.Style: Structured, by the book, less hands-on, less adaptable, little or no flexibility.
Progress is based on proficiency and mastery in real-world performance.Progress is based on fixed benchmarks like completion of the curriculum, duration of program.
Assessment is based on set and agreed upon goals about desired results in the real-world.Assessment of progress is based on tests, recall of facts, or in advanced testing, completion of some tasks.

The teaching method often provides the same answers and solutions to problems to all who face that problem. The coaching method asks more questions to provide tailored solutions personalized to each individual according to their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and circumstances. It tries to help the person being coached to come to important realizations and solutions that work for them.

In a teaching session, teachers have to put in the hard work in teaching, while in a coaching session, both the coach and the coached have to work together but it is the person being coached that does most of the heavy lifting. The coach identifies the areas that need work, recommends the practice to improve those areas, have the person being coached do them on the fly while the coach provides genuine feedback, encouragement, motivation and the guides the establishment of new mental maps. This is exemplified in professional sports like football, basketball, tennis, swimming etc. The person being coached is the only person responsible for achieving the transformation.

Teaching relies heavily and is centered on the teacher and the subject taught, whereas coaching is all centered on the person being coached, their needs, struggles, goals and dreams.

A teacher can serve as a coach, but he can only do so operating from a completely different mindset and approach.