Are You Mentoring, Consulting, Coaching, or Being a Friend? Hot Takes From a New Coach

by


A lot of us consider ourselves coaches. Calling yourself a coach is an increasingly popular way to frame people-management and leadership styles. Ask someone what their definition of a coach is, and you’ll get a variety of answers. In my life, I’ve had many friends, just as many consultants, and several mentors. Less frequently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a coach and experience a true coaching conversation. So, what is this elusive idea of a coach, and what does coaching look (and feel) like? I’ve been reflecting on the differences between these roles since starting my coaching certification program with iPEC several weeks ago. Let’s start with a mentor.

The mentoring relationship is reciprocal and — if it’s authentic — blossoms out of a mutual friendship and respect of one another. Simon Sinek has a great clip on this. As a mentor, you illuminate a path for your mentee often by basing your guidance on your personal experience. A mentor’s agenda, insofar as you have one, is to help your mentee learn the ropes and, in the process, you learn from one another.

Similarly, consulting is characterized by collaborative problem solving, which may or may not be based on personal experience. At Thought Ensemble, we pride ourselves on welcoming and valuing diverse perspectives to achieve the best outcome. The crucial difference between consulting and coaching is this — when you’re in consulting mode, your agenda is to solve someone’s problem. This approach is often our default stance, especially in a professional setting. Consider the last time someone came to you with an issue — did you tell them how to solve it? Or did you ask open-ended questions and encourage them to solve the problem using their own resources?

A related category is that of a friend. Friendship is based on a shared history in which you get to know another person’s likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams. As a result, friends have expectations of one another, which makes it difficult to be a naturally objective listener. As a friend, you often have an opinion (or several) about your friends’ lives — and they probably feel the same way about you!

Like all of the roles above, a coach is focused on helping people. The cornerstone of coaching is to support people in shifting their mindset to realize their own power and inherent worth. This is precisely why coaches never give you the answer. As a coach, you believe people have all of the resources and answers within themselves to achieve their definition of success. The client is the expert, not the coach.

It is helpful to think about these roles (mentor, consultant, friend, and coach) as hats that you can take on and off. None of these definitions are either/or. You can flex between all of these roles over the span of a relationship and even within one conversation.

So, are you mentoring, consulting, coaching, or being a friend? Which hat will you wear next?

READ MORE

Leading Yourself to Better Remote Meetings

Leading Yourself to Better Remote Meetings

Name a common work activity that makes you feel uncomfortable. Was it leading meetings? If so, you’re not alone; many people find that leading meetings can be quite stressful. You might think, then, that remote meetings, with their web conferencing and dial-in lines,...

read more
“What Do You Actually Do Here?”

“What Do You Actually Do Here?”

As a consultant, the question, “What do you actually do here?” comes up quite often. In answering this question, I’ve realized that my response has a slightly different flavor almost every time. When you work in consulting, it’s normal to jump from project to project;...

read more
PowerPointers Episode 2 – Formatting

PowerPointers Episode 2 – Formatting

Last year, I wrote about why you shouldn't blame PowerPoint for your bad presentations. As part of my continued effort to help you make your presentations better, I've just finished Episode 2 of a ~6ish episode series I created with the intent of helping...

read more
Socratic Selling

Socratic Selling

Socrates, as we all know, was a famous classical Greek philosopher who lived over 2,000 years ago. Primarily through the writings of Plato we have learned about his contributions to how we think about ethics, good vs. bad, and justice. But more specifically, he...

read more
PowerPointers Episode 1 – Making Selections

PowerPointers Episode 1 – Making Selections

Back in May I wrote about why you shouldn't blame PowerPoint for your bad presentations, so, in an effort to help you make your presentations better, I'm releasing Episode 1 of a ~6ish episode series I created with the intent of helping you unleash the power of...

read more
Consulting Myths

Consulting Myths

“Oh, so you’re like the Bobs?” This is typically the first thing you hear from someone once you’ve told them you’re a consultant. Because even 18 years after “Office Space” debuted, that’s still the most culturally relevant image people have of consultants. And it’s a...

read more
Working Anywhere, Anytime… But Not ALL the Time

Working Anywhere, Anytime… But Not ALL the Time

It's 4:30 PM on a balmy Wednesday in July. I'm sitting on a blanket in the grass by the corner of 9th and York Street, listening to the soft whir of traffic and a buzz of happy people lined up in front of and behind me. Those of you Denver people may know exactly what...

read more
My 4 Year Old on Change Management

My 4 Year Old on Change Management

About a year ago, my company held our monthly Thought Meeting in my basement. In preparation, I enrolled my husband Eric to help me move the couches around to set up the room for the group discussion. My 4-year-old Gus watched this activity and grew quite agitated....

read more