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Thinking about Becoming a "Coach"? Understand the difference between a Coach, Consultant, and Mentor.

Published August 13, 2013

Coaching is becoming a big buzzword in the business world. Coaching in the world of business is not new and it is being seen as being more acceptable to retain the services of a coach. Some companies even pay for this service for their top level executives. You see Executive Coaches, Life Coaches, Job Coaches, and some businesses have even integrated “Coach” into job titles for their organization.
So with all this coaching going on how can you keep it straight and truly understand what coaching is? There are some clear distinctions between Coaching and other professions where you invest in people to create or facilitate change.
Coaching is a place to play; it draws out of someone something that is already there. Coaches create a space for that to happen. They are not the expert. They may actually know very little about the industry or field of the person they are working with. They simply encourage someone to move forward with ideas and concepts they already have inside of them.
Mentoring implies someone who is a little farther down the road of experience is pouring into another person. This could be someone in the same field or a similar one and identifies a person (or is requested to work with someone) they would like to take under their wing and help them avoid some of the pitfalls they may have experienced.
Consulting is about putting out results and the bottom line. Your job as a consultant is to bring in expertise, processes and systems that help expand the bottom line of the organization you are working with. While there is heavy client interaction, the focus is not on the client.
There is a big temptation to wear all three hats when working with an individual or a team. While there may be a need to “switch hats” during a conversation, that act of changing gears must be clearly called out as to not confuse the client. And even then switching up should be the exception, not the rule.
In coaching you really say very little. The goal is to be as invisible as possible as well as create as little disruption for the client as possible. The best thing you can do for them is listen well, ask great questions and frame things in such a way that the client can get new perspectives on their circumstances and opportunities. Less is More. By asking great questions client will create the disruption inside themselves, which is exactly the goal. They must own the process. If they do not own the process they are working through they will not move forward in a way that results in sustainable growth and change.
Coaching allows us to work with a client on a personal and practical level.

  1. Coaching is non-directive profession. We make the assumption that the client is the expert of their own life. We are not the expert at their life and don’t pretend to be.
  2. What we listen for is different. Tone of voice, inflection, rapid speech, and slowing down speech are all examples of what you might listen for as a coach.
  3. How do we respond to what we listen for? The temptation is to offer your opinion on the situation. The best thing you can do as a coach is to reframe what you’re hearing as a question.

Remember, you are not the expert when you are coaching someone. But you are the expert in knowing how to listen, ask the right questions, and help draw out what is already inside of your client.