Coach? Mentor? Consultant? Which is Which?

Lots of terms are tossed about in the world of leadership development, executive performance, and employee engagement when it comes to external support. Organizations have formal MENTORING programs, high-performing CEOs have COACHES, and of course, people hire CONSULTANTS for all kinds of things.

But are these all really the same thing?  HARDLY!  Here is a simple way to look at it:

Consultant:  An expert in a field that comes to the table with answers (or at least the job of finding the answers).

Mentor: An individual who takes a vested interest in you, “takes you under their wing,” provides an ear, or gives advice and support as needed — sometimes formally, but usually informally. Think about the mentors in your life. They aren’t usually people you find and hire. They usually have an existing personal relationship with you (e.g., parent, teach, boss, friend, peer).

Coach: An individual who does for the leader’s mind what a physical trainer does for an athlete’s body – help them develop new muscle memory! A coach doesn’t give answers. Instead, the coach uses professional techniques to draw the solutions from the coachee, and help hold them accountable for action. Leaders engage professional coaches when they are ready to achieve the next level of leadership.

These are a bit over-simplified, but pretty close to the sum of it. There is room for all three practitioners. They are all incredibly useful. The trick is knowing which one you need, and when.

Here are a few tips:

Engage a consultant when:

  • You need a specific project led.
  • You need advice in a functional area (finance, marketing, IT, etc.).
  • You need “done-for-you” services.
  • You need research and recommendations.

Engage a mentor when:

  • You are stuck on a problem the mentor may have also faced.
  • You are looking to advance your career.
  • You want to run an idea by someone.
  • You want another perspective.

Engage a coach when:

  • You want to increase focus and performance through the pursuing of challenging goals.
  • You want to intentionally work on leadership behaviors.
  • You want to strengthen your leadership muscles.
  • You want to figure out how to get more out of your team.

If you are considering engaging a leadership coach for yourself or a senior leader on your team, click HERE to learn more! We can help!

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