Do you need a Coach, Mentor, or a Consultant?

I thought I would share with you a topic that arose during a conversation I had with a businessman this week. He was confused as to whether it was better to hire a coach or a consultant to assist in his business.

I told him that that depended on what he was trying to achieve. We need to know what outcome we want before we embark on a course of action.

There is much confusion about the terms coach – mentor – consultant. It is made even more complicated by the fact that they may mean different things in different countries.

For example in America, Executive Coaching is used to develop the capabilities of high potential performers or improve leadership performance.

Executive coaching in America is more achievement oriented, whereas in Latin America the focus is more about the development of talents and values.

In the UK, the process is about encouraging executives to explore possibilities, come to conclusions and make decisions of their own volition.

As I am based in Australia I will give you my simple definitions:

A coach will help you to explore and develop options for various problems or situations with the focus on the fact that you probably know the answer you just cannot see it. In other words he helps you work it out.

A mentor will tell you what to do, based on his or her experience of the situation you want to deal with. In other words he will tell you what to do and you will do it.

A consultant will tell you what needs to be done and then he or she will do it all for you.   By the way, consulting is often referred to as “business coaching” as it deals with knowledge and skills.

Let me give you an example of each.

A CEO of a large organisation, engaged an Executive Coach to help him with hisperformance management issues.  He was working extremely long hours and taking work home, which was affecting his personal and familylife.

With the help of a coach, he reviewed his approach to his competencies including planning, monitoring, motivating and communicating.

He implemented improvements in all areas.  As a result he achieved a 50% improvement in efficiencies, he became a better manager and was promoted within 6 months.

Successful leaders can be successful mentors, offering many benefits to their protégés.

Due to declining numbers of long term serving officers, the Police chief of a small US county became a successful mentor to his officers.  By meeting with the officers on just 2 occasions yearly, the Chief imparted his experience and expertise to advise and reassure officers. They also undertook employee goal-setting and career planning.  The officers reported on their progress and achievements at the second meeting.  It proved to be a very successful formula with a significant reduction in staff turnover and longer tenure within the Service.

Consultants are the experts in their field.  A good consultant will help you to achieve success in areas where you don’t have knowledge or strengths.

This was the case for the new owners and first time restaurateurs of a well-established eatery. They came in with a “new broom” and changed almost everything.  Guess what, the regular customers, didn’t like it and the business very quickly foundered.

They engaged a hospitality consultant, who assessed where they went wrong.  He re-employed some former staff, toned down the gaudy décor, and returned some of the old favourites to the menu.

They also launched a promotional campaign to get the regulars back and within 3 months, the business was back on its feet.

If you are facing challenges in business, ask yourself what you want the outcome to be, decide how you want to achieve it, and go forth with the support of the person best suited to your needs.

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