When I first received coach training back in 2005, a lot of energy was spent explaining the difference between coaching, mentoring and consulting, and why you would never want to mix them. After all, we were learning to be coaches, and coaches focused on transformation of the individual. So therefore, all of the solutions for our clients came from within them. I referred to this as the ‘purist’ coach teaching. If you were a purist, then you believed that you should never offer anything other than coaching, and that consulting and mentoring were taboo in our industry.
The distinctions were clear:
Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential;
Mentoring is providing guidance and ideas to a mentee in a field in which you’ve had previous experience; and
Consulting is providing advice based on research, understanding, expertise and prior experience.
Now I’m a big believer in coaching, and transforming people’s lives through the methodology. But what I’ve learned over the past 10 years of coaching, and the 20 years prior to that in corporate America, is that most of the time people are not ready for true transformation. They’re ready for small steps or incremental steps that improve their lives on both a personal and professional basis. So in those cases, the coaching helps, but mentoring and consulting also fill the gaps they have at the current moment. And as a coach, who am I to question what they need when they are asking for mentoring or consulting? After all, as a coach we are taught that our clients have the answers, and if I really believe that, then sometimes they know that the best thing for them is the addition of a mentor or a consulting perspective.
Combining Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting
The combination of all three of these partnerships can be a beautiful thing. There is even something called coachsulting. The combination allows for much more flexibility in the relationship and an increased value for the client. In my business, I’ve had experiences such as:
- Consulting and coaching with business owners who don’t have any methodology for setting long term visions or strategic plans.
- Mentoring and coaching young women who are joining the work place and dealing with imposter syndrome or confidence issues.
- Coaching and mentoring new leaders, who are making the transition from ‘doing’ to ‘leading’.
These are just a few of the combinations I’ve experienced with my clients. I have over 20 years of experience in a corporate environment in a leadership role. Why wouldn’t I want to share that with my clients while also coaching them? I think it would be a shame not to.