What is the difference between a coach, consultant, advisor or mentor?

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, a coach is a private tutor or one who instructs or trains. A consultant is someone who consults another or gives professional services to another. An advisor is someone who gives someone a recommendation on what should be done. A mentor is a trusted councilor or guide. These are simple definitions but really provide little or no value to business executives who are searching for a coach, consultant, advisor or mentor. So, let me explain how these terms are used in business circles and what they mean in practical terms if you are looking for one.

Coach

A coach helps you see what you or your team can’t see by asking you questions others are afraid to ask. The coach may also help you and/or your team learn a new way of thinking. In simple terms, they bring a different approach or methodology. As a strategic coach, I help many people and teams who are amazing strategist, but they are stuck in their thinking, approach or methodology. They’re stuck because they can’t see why their strategy is not delivering the results they expect. A coach doesn’t do the actual work to change an outcome, they help you see how your thinking, approach or methodology is not working. Then they ask a lot of questions, so you can adjust what you or your team is doing to get the results you’re looking for. Since about 85 percent of your decisions are in your subconscious mind and run off old patterns in your life or business, a coach helps you see the patterns that are not giving you the results you want. A coach does not do the work for you, they help your insights, so you and your team can adjust towards a stronger orientation to get the results you’re looking for.

Consultant

A consultant helps you, or your team, get the result you are looking for by doing the work with you or for you to get the change and/or outcome you desire. The consultant learns what you or the team is doing then develops a new plan or outcome. They do the work you or your team might do yourself if you had the resources and/or talent. Most consultants have an expertise you or your team may be lacking. They support a project or initiative with their specific expertise and when the project is done, they move onto the next company or project. Consultants are very helpful if a company is lacking the resources or talents they need for an outcome. Most consultants don’t deal with the behaviors needing to change people’s thinking, they roll up their sleeves and do what’s needed to get an outcome.

Advisor

An advisor helps you, or your team, with an experience you are currently facing by giving advice based on their professional expertise and/or personal experience with similar circumstances from their own past. They will give you recommendations to an approach or decision you face. Over my career, I have bought and sold several companies and helped over 100 business owners do the same.  Often due to my background and expertise, I am approached to be an advisor to an executive who wants my advice and guidance when they go through this process.  Advisors are a great resource of information for you or your team using their experience.

Mentor

A mentor is a coach, consultant or advisor who usually performs the function for free. They have one or all the attributes of a great coach, consultant or advisor and have decided to give back by taking on a relationship with you at no charge because it meets a need within them to give back in some way. It is important to understand a mentor is usually fulfilling a need within themselves and/or they are at a place in their life or career where this is a value for them. If you are lucky enough to find a mentor jump on the opportunity. However, just be careful that the “free” advice doesn’t sway your better judgement of what you really need.

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