As a seasoned business professional, you have, certainly, been on both sides of the give and get equation when it comes to guidance: get advice, give consultation. Gain a mentor, bestow some wisdom. Get inspired, coach a colleague. And, perhaps, the experience of being on one side or the other was helpful, sometimes, and lackluster, other times. While in these essential “help” moments we want to be impacted and make an impact, that doesn’t always happen.
Does it help to know there is a difference in the types of support we can offer? Though a nuanced distinction at best, coaching, consulting, and mentoring are not the same thing. In simplest terms:
Coaching is internal and external awareness building that allows for focus on personal skill development. Coaching is partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires ways to maximize personal and professional potential. It is the Coach’s responsibility to meet you, the coachee, where you are. The coach can support with creating goal setting and behavioral experiments, but all outcomes are up to you as you build awareness around choices you are making or want to make.
Consulting on the other hand is only an external experience for problem solving and creating solutions. Consulting identifies what needs to change and offers specific projects and tasks that, when executed, will proffer change. Consulting houses advice and expertise and is often hierarchical; consultants have information and insight that you do not currently have and will give that to you. The consultant is responsible for the outcome.
A Mentor is a trusted counselor or guide. Someone who is invested in outcome and may provide insight, past experiences, and possibilities for growth or personal awareness. Unlike a consultant, a mentor may offer advice but then will trust that the choice to take it or not take it is up to you. And unlike a coach, a mentor may use personal experience and learnings to provide counsel. The outcome is a shared responsibility in a mentoring relationship.
Though it is certainly possible to play all three roles or, indeed, seek insight from all three perspectives, like finger-paint, each is more vibrant and effective when used on its own. Try it out and see what you think. Next time you find yourself looking to give or get some support stop to decide which approach would be best. Maybe this is just the kind of advice that guides your inspiration! Good luck.