Coach, Mentor or Adviser? – the choice is yours

JR-HR Solutions

I thought this was an apt blog to write, as I have passed my ILM7 Executive Coaching & Mentoring Certificate this year!

Before I undertook this course, I didn’t realise that I didn’t know the exact differences between the above either! Many businesses hire the services of a coach or consultant but some consultants call themselves coaches and vice versa, or some provide a mixture of all 3 services. So to clarify this I have provided some definitions below:

Coaching - "Coaching is not teaching, it is about creating the conditions for learning and growing; it is opening yourself to your true potential." (Sir John Whitmore).

Mentoring - "A mentor is a more experienced individual willing to share knowledge with someone less experienced in a relationship of mutual trust" (David Clutterbuck, founder member of EMCC).

Advising – offering suggestions about the best course of action to someone (Oxford Dictionary). A consultant will act more as an adviser and/or mentor, so they will either tell you what to do or guide you in the right direction using their experience as examples.

A coach will ask powerful, open questions to empower you to find your own solutions, but they may occasionally mentor you, if you ask them for help when you are struggling to come to any conclusion, as they may have some experience or knowledge in the area that you are discussing.

Note, I say may – a good coach does not need to have any knowledge or experience in your field – their skill is to help you develop this, whereas if they are purely mentoring you, they will need this knowledge and experience to guide you.

So if you are new to business/self-employment and have no idea how to grow your business, then possibly, a Business Adviser or Consultant may be the best option for you.

On the other hand, if you have grown your business to a satisfactory level, but want to come up with some better ideas on how to take it to the next level, you may prefer a coach/mentor to help you with this.

So firstly you need to decide whether you need an adviser, coach or mentor and then secondly, who will be the best fit for you?

I would suggest you check the following when looking for a coach/mentor in particular:

• Are they qualified? – this is not essential with coaches or mentors, however, my view is that there are many self-professed ‘coaches’ out there, so a qualification would give you more of an indication as to their abilities, professionalism and commitment to their own ongoing development.

• Do they have some experience of the subject matter? When purely mentoring this is essential, but with coaching it is not. However, a complete lack of relevant experience in the subject matter may necessitate in the coach signposting you to other experts, which adds to possibly the cost and definitely the time taken to achieve your goals.

For example, I’m a self-employed HR Consultant so I have provided coaching/mentoring to business owners/managers on people issues, improving people management or interpersonal skills, or increasing confidence when dealing with conflict, presenting or public speaking etc.

• Are they professional? – during your initial conversations do they explain what coaching and mentoring is, to check which is the right development tool for you?

Do they provide you with documents to demonstrate that they work to a code of ethics and give advice on relationship boundaries etc.?

This is important, as you don’t want a coach/mentor who has a particular bias, otherwise, they may lead you along a totally different path that does nothing to resolve your problem(s) or your development.

• Do they clearly explain their role in the process and what is expected of you? Experienced and qualified coaches will work with you to shape the relationship and define an agreement around the expectations of you both.

This ensures a safe and confidential environment for an honest and transparent relationship.

• Do you feel comfortable with them? Simply put, as in doing business with anyone, do you like and trust them? You may have to share your feelings with your coach at times, so you need to be able to completely open up to them, otherwise the coaching will not work.

• Do they have testimonials or other people who can vouch for them?

If you work with a novice, you may have a poor experience that completely puts you off coaching or mentoring, when in fact it could have been exactly the right tool for you!

I hope you found this useful and thank you for taking the time to read my blog.