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Coaching is the act of giving specific guidance to help a person make better decisions that will result in the individual getting closer to reaching his or her goals or accomplishing a specific task better.

Generally speaking, coaching is very targeted, and usually comes as a result of a formally defined, hierarchical relationship. 

Continuous Improvement Audio Terms

Coaching is an important leadership task. Without the ability to train team members to do their jobs more effectively, the opportunities for the team to improve are limited. Teams don’t magically get better. It takes effort, often in the form of both individual and team coaching sessions.

Coaches must be able to:

  1. Clearly understand the requirements of the job.
  2. Assess the capabilities of the individual and determine the gap between ability and requirements.
  3. Decide on a course of action the person must take to improve.
  4. Manage the person’s progress and correct the course along the way.
  5. Clearly communicate what the goals of the coaching are, and how the person is doing at meeting those goals.
  6. Recognize defensiveness in individuals and manage the relationship.
  7. Decide when directive leadership is required (telling the person what to do and how to do it) vs. coaching a person to help him or her develop the skills to operate independently.

Coaching vs. Mentoring

Mentoring is usually more general in nature than coaching. While coaching relationships are often predetermined by corporate structure, mentoring relationships are the result of a choice by the individual. Because of this absence of direct oversight, mentoring relationships tend to be more open and trusting. Because coaches are often in a position of authority, individuals may be reluctant to discuss personal shortcomings in the same way they would with their chosen mentor.

Coaching further differs from mentoring in that coaching is related to a specific task; mentoring is more general and often focuses on overall personal development.





More open

More reserved



Hierarchically defined

Relationship Source

Personal motivation

Part of job



Individual or team


Long-term development

Achieve specific results


Lean Facilitators

Lean facilitators generally act as coaches. The instruction they give is geared towards helping the team accomplish the goals of the project they are working on. That said, up and comers in an organization may seek strong Lean facilitators out as mentors to help build better continuous improvement and leadership skills. Many junior members of an organization have limited contact with leaders outside of their direct chain of command.


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