Teaching vs. Coaching

Teaching is about sharing your experience, coaching is about getting them to live / feel / have their own experience.

Let me explain myself.
A few days ago, I was doing a handover session to one of our clients as I was about to leave.
There was one person, although very smart, full of energy and good intentions, that I kept bringing back as he was giving the room too much details on what I was trying to pass down.

That’s when I discovered my leading style.

Teaching is telling your kid to not put his/her hand in the fire. Coaching is calling on their imagination to think about what might happen if he/she did put his/her hand in the fire.

But let me take you through what I think is the difference between teaching and coaching. What’s coming ahead is a very opinionated list of statements, and I’m only quoting myself.

Sharing knowledge is about giving people all your secrets

I think this is a big fallacy.

In the agile Scrum world, in a cross-functional team, I often hear people say: “everybody should be able to do everything”
I think this is wrong.

Although I believe that you could do anything if you put enough efforts into it, not everybody would be a plumber!
We’re all shaped differently, we all have different experiences, we all have different motivations.

I think what makes more sense is: “as a team, we need to know enough that if one person leaves, we can keep the lights on and keep going forward” - or even - “we all need to know enough about each topic to be able to call bullshit, without having to be experts”.

Each person on the team should be a coach in their area, but shouldn’t try to teach every single thing they know to everyone.

A coach should be asking questions

Yes and no. There’s a limit to the questions you should be asking.

There’s no point asking questions to somebody who doesn’t have any foundations on what you’re trying to get them to.
Sometimes, to avoid audience frustration, it might be a good strategy to give a hint then ask questions that would push the scenario further and open their imagination.

In a teaching scenario, you would just be passing down information and hope for the best.
Students will ask you questions, but only on things they connected to.

In a coaching scenario, you should be the one asking most questions.
By asking questions, you’re inviting the other person to simulate the situation for themselves and effectively live the experience.

I’m a coach, not a teacher

Again … to me, teaching and coaching are two sides of the same coin.

A good amount of teaching, with the right amount of coaching will make your audience connect with you, as you will make them feel the situation.
Brain simulation gets you almost there. Most, if not all experience we have is brain simulation, as your brain only interprets the world.

Conclusion

Share too much details, and you will lose people’s attention, share not enough you will lose people’s attention.
The best way to know where the audience is at, is by asking strategic questions to gauge it.

I cannot teach you what’s the right amount of teaching / coaching, I can only prompt you to make your own experience.

The best way for people to learn, is by experience.
Experience is based on skills you have. Trying to give too much information might get you to build too big of a gap for the people, that they will disconnect.

People don’t build new skills, they only expand the skills they already have.

My secret sauce is: if you and your audience are having fun, you’ve cracked the code.