Written by Jennifer Maxson, CPC
In May 2020, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Certified Professional Coach program. One of my biggest take-aways from this experience was the difference between Consulting, Mentoring and Coaching. Many individuals think that these three roles are the same. We are mentored in our organizations, our managers coach us on how to problem solve and follow processes, and we may even bring in a consultant to solve a problem. Here is how these roles are different, using a metaphor of learning how to play tennis.
Consulting: Consultants have knowledge, tools, and expertise that they can share with you. They understand the mechanics of tennis. They share information on where your tennis ball should hit the strings of your racquet, proper grips and how to stand so that you can quickly move around the court. They ask questions to understand the root cause of a problem, your tennis serve is out of the court, so that they can provide you with a solution. That solution may be fixing your grip, buying a new tennis racquet or tennis lessons. Consultants are focused in helping their client see improvements and may provide new processes or tools for results. Consultants are focused on the “what” and the “how” of your needs.
Mentoring: Mentors share their experiences with you. They may share information and suggestions on how to navigate a situation. This may be through telling their favorite tennis story or providing a tip that helped them win a tennis match. They model the way they think you should play a tennis match because it has worked for them in the past. Many times, the mentee is asking the mentor for advice and looking for new ways to approach a situation. The mentor may then share specific tips such as what racquet to use, what court shoes best support your feet and help you move quickly, and how to take care of your equipment. The Mentor shares their story and best practices because they have been in a similar situation. Mentors tell their “why” and “how” through stories.
Coaching: The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches ask purposeful questions that allow their client to create self-awareness and evaluate their current thinking. A Coach will listen to your desire to play tennis, what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy. They may ask if you like the kind of racquet you are using. Coaches are not trying to fix your problem or tell you their story. Instead we will play beside you, checking in about your experience, and what may make it more fun or successful. We hold you competent, capable, and expert in your own life. A Coach may explore how playing tennis fits with previous and current goals in your life, or how you manage the mental game if you win or lose a point and how that applies in your career. The goal of coaching is to help you achieve your goals, determine where you are today, where you want to go and most importantly, you get to create the path forward. You get to create your strategy on how to win the tennis match. Coaches are focused on the “who” they are focused on you.
Consulting, Mentoring, and Coaching are very different roles with different outcomes. As leaders, we need to understand what others need from us and what we need to grow. Coaching is a powerful development option for leaders at all levels in an organization. We would welcome the opportunity to to be your coach, to watch you create new self-awareness, build confidence, and win your match.
Take every opportunity to…Lead to the Max!SM