If the developments of the past decade have proven one thing conclusively, it’s that practically anything can be done online through your computer, tablet, or mobile phone. With a few taps, you can pay all your bills, have a car waiting outside your door to take you where you need to go, order your groceries, and connect with friends and colleagues on the other side of the world.

You can expand your knowledge and skills from the comfort of your couch, as well. Online courses are available in topics ranging from coding and web development to art history and philosophy. Popular apps like Duolingo gamify the process of learning a foreign language, allowing you to squeeze in a few verb drills on your commute home.

For some skills, however, you can get even better results by augmenting self-directed learning methods with more traditional, person-to-person instruction. Studies have shown that while self-directed learning and online courses can be effective at helping people learn information and facts, teaching and training conducted by a real, live person is more effective at helping people learn skills and techniques.

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Simply put, if you want to learn what something is, self-directed online programs are a great option. But if you want to learn how to do something, including instruction from a real, live person in your learning plan is particularly helpful.

Training and coaching are especially useful in the field of talent management and development. As you learn how to be an effective manager, you’ll benefit immensely from the guidance of experienced peers, mentors, teachers, and coaches. Here are some of the most compelling reasons why in-person training and coaching are ideal for learning management skills.

Management is too complex to standardize

Any field that deals with understanding, anticipating, and responding to human behavior includes far too many variables to be neatly summarized in a one-size-fits-all lesson. A good manager knows that there is rarely an objectively right answer to every problem. While it’s easy to develop rules of thumb, situations ranging from employee morale and motivation to team composition and hiring decisions must still be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For this reason, individualized coaching and training have a clear edge over by-the-book management courses. A personal coach or mentor can help you by using scenarios that are relevant and applicable to your business and working environment. Even though some principles of management may be universal, a manager of a team of remote employees will face different challenges than a manager whose direct reports all work in the same room.

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By the same token, someone who works in the insurance industry will have different needs than someone who works in advertising. While you can still learn a great deal from advice tailored to a different field, ensuring your training is relevant and personalized will help you retain ideas better and grow as a manager faster.

Personal relationships drive success

A recent survey from Bersin by Deloitte found that 95% of leaders who have professional mentors get promoted within 18 months. Anyone who’s ever benefited from the wisdom and expertise of a more experience friend, boss, or colleague knows that personal connections offer a unique opportunity to learn and succeed.

Personal coaching and mentoring provides a critical degree of accountability that can’t be replicated through an impersonal online course. Humans crave external validation. If we know that another person is waiting to check up on our progress, it helps keep us honest and on task when it comes to putting in the time and effort necessary to improve our skills.

Becoming a great manager is something that takes time and experience. Everyone makes mistakes throughout their career, but the best bosses turn these mistakes to their advantage and take them as an opportunity to learn. Whether it’s your superior acting as an informal mentor or a formalized coaching arrangement, a personal relationship will undoubtedly yield examples of these valuable learning moments from your coach or mentor’s professional career – examples that you’re unlikely to find in a textbook or online course. As a result, you benefit from their discoveries and epiphanies (and hopefully avoid making some of the same mistakes).

Frequent constructive feedback is essential

There are plenty of ways to measure how your management style is working, including employee engagement, retention rates, customer satisfaction, and of course the good, old bottom line. But there’s no replacement for personalized, constructive feedback.

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Being able to bounce ideas off a teacher, mentor, or coach can be a valuable method of refining and perfecting your management skills. While tests and quizzes in an online course can gauge your mastery of theories and concepts in the abstract, getting a fellow professional’s take on a specific given situation exposes you to new ideas and ways of thinking about a problem. Armed with this knowledge, you can respond with minor (or major) course corrections – long before more formalized metrics of success would otherwise be available.

Criticism (otherwise known as negative feedback) isn’t the only benefit of having a coach instead of taking a course. It’s easy to dismiss the value of receiving positive feedback and encouragement, but having your ideas and actions reinforced and reaffirmed by an expert can be extremely powerful, improving your self-esteem and giving you the confidence to take bold steps toward success.


If you feel your management skills need a bit of enhancement (and let’s face it – who among us couldn’t stand to learn a few things?) then your best bet isn’t a generic online course or video series aimed at the widest possible audience. The most effective way to improve your skills and take your career to the next level is through individualized, personal instruction.

Learn more about Ace-up’s Leadership & Executive Coaching services, and discover our deep bench of seasoned experts with a broad range of experience across a variety of fields.

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