A rose by any other name… Is Your Business Coach Really A Consultant?

The difference between business coaching, life coaching, mentoring, consulting and training

Business Coach Australia

As always, in the end it’s about people

I’m often asked about the difference between business coaching, life coaching, business consulting, business mentoring, business advising and business training. I tend to confuse people with my answer. So let me see if I can make more sense of it all for you here.

First of all you need to understand that there are actually no accepted definitions of the terms coaching and mentoring. Many people call themselves coaches who would have called themselves consultants, advisers or counselors prior to 2005 when coaching became a very trendy idea.

I myself trained in various coaching and counselling disciplines and was a member of one of the private coaching bodies called the ICF, the International Coaches Federation. It was and is one of the most serious bodies trying to regulate the coaching world, but I would hazard a guess that not even 10% of professionals that refer to themselves as coaches are members of the ICF or any of the other professional coaching bodies.

Business coaching is even less defined as a specific profession and most business coaching companies have simply created a set of programs that they believe will help their clients get ahead in business. They use the “business coach” label because it seems like the best descriptor. I refer to myself as a business – life coach and to be honest I’ve never come across another business – life coach and so, what I do is anybody’s guess 🙂 (But my clients all tell me it works incredibly well, so I’ll just keep doing it).

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Coaching is one of the tools

To be fair, that’s not all that different for me either. I gave up my ICF membership more than 5 years ago, because I concluded that I don’t ascribe to the coaching model that the ICF tries to regulate anymore. Coaching, in the ICF certified way, is just one of the many tools I use to support my clients.

I refer to myself as a business coach and mentor. But to be more accurate, I should really call myself a business coach, mentor, adviser, hand-holder, sounding board and backside kicker. At different times, I step into all those roles. Besides, the way I work with my clients is entirely different to how most other business coaches work with their clients. Many of the business coaches are part of larger organisations such as ActionCoach or Shirlaws, or Fish Coaching. Those organisations have specific business development programs that the coach or consultant helps the business implement. The programs might include training and workshops and group coaching and are based on specific philosophies of business. They are the same for all clients.

It’s all about the relationship

Business Coach AustraliaOver the past 12 years, doing what I do with my clients, I’ve seen that an engagement with a coach, mentor or adviser is only as good as the relationship that develops between the coach and the client. When I realised that it wasn’t whether I applied a certain coaching technique or followed a certain program that changed my client’s business and life, but that it was all about my relationship with the client, I gave up my ICF membership and decided to totally customise my approach for every client.

So last week I might have been a counselor and offered nothing but deep empathy for the client’s challenges, this week I might tell the same client to pull his finger out and get his overdue admin up to date and next week I might help him understand the vagaries of the balance sheet or start writing a social media marketing plan with him.

These days, when someone asks me what the difference is between coaching and mentoring, consulting and training, I tell him that it’s the wrong question to ask. The only question to ask is: Do I think I can Do Great Work in my business with the support of this person.

Nothing else matters… I promise you.

More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here

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4 comments on “A rose by any other name… Is Your Business Coach Really A Consultant?
  1. Bravo, bravo, bravo!
    #IwishIdwrittenthis

  2. David wells M.Bus says:

    You are so right. Your interpretation of coach etc is not to different to mine. Personally I try and avoid telling people what to do but take a more gentle approach where I talk them through the situation guiding them until they actually come up with the solution themselves… most times. Great article… agree wholeheartedly

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