As a business owner or leader, it is likely that you have considered or been recommended a business coach or a business consultant. Identifying when to hire these services, and whether a business coach vs a consultant would be more beneficial, can be key to achieving a new level of success. It is important to understand the difference between business consulting and business coaching. A business coach can help a business owner or entrepreneur build on skills that they already have, and will help build new strategies and tools to reach new goals or work to find solutions to existing blind spots. Whereas a consultant will provide business insight and will likely specialise in a specific market, helping to create a business strategy and plan to be executed. The key difference is that a consultant will give advice whereas a coach won't.
All forms of coaching work under the premise that the coach will help you to see where you are now, and where you want to be. A business coach will provide a balance of support and challenge to help you work on your goals and achieve growth.
Business coaches are often experts within their field and will be able to support you in making strategic business decisions, to keep your business competitive and growing. A business coach will understand your business at a deeper level. One-on-one business coaching can be incredibly effective as they will be able to coach you through situations that they have likely encountered before. Business coaches are often well-networked, and as part of your coaching plan they will be able to introduce you to relevant contacts that could be of support, allowing you to create a strong network of peers. As a CEO or business owner, the number one position can often be lonely, so having a network is a useful tool and can give you insights into how your competitors are operating, to help you shape your own approach.
Some business coaches may have previously been an entrepreneur or held a CEO position, and have now chosen to take a new career path. They will be experts in helping implement strategies that assist you in achieving your goals and vision.
A business coach can be brought in on both a short-term or long-term arrangement, you may need a couple of sessions close together to overcome an immediate need, with top up sessions on a less frequent basis. Coaches support you in being the best version of yourself, allowing you to best support your team and, overall, your business.
Business coaching covers leadership coaching and tends to fall into two main categories: developmental coaching and coaching to resolve problems or risks. Leadership coaching can support you in becoming more mindful, inspirational, and impactful, within your communications.
Some coaches will specialise in working with small business owners and use the same framework to help you reach your goals. They will have a track record in working with other small business owners, and will be more likely to understand where you are in your journey.
Business consultants are industry experts and will often be hired by a small business owner or CEO to help with a specific situation or problem to drive change, and will be hired for a short period of time. Business consultants can be brought back in to maintain or recheck the work that they have done, to keep you on track.
They will provide advice on how to tackle certain business areas such as: management, strategy, operations, HR, IT, and marketing. They are experienced in both business planning and strategy, which helps them to assess the direction and scalability of your business. They can also work with you regarding customer acquisition and retention.
They will use their expertise to identify problems and create solutions, working across the business, and are driven by project-orientated results. Once they have understood the goals that you are looking to achieve, they will analyse what you are currently doing to determine areas of improvement. Business consulting will analyse the business and create a solution plan to implement change where necessary. They work with you to create a plan of action and will work with a project team to implement the changes, so that you can reach your goals.
Just as you outsource some areas of your business, you can outsource your 'fresh perspective' to consultants, they will bring an outside view that you cannot get otherwise.
One of the main differences between a coach and consultant is that a coach will support you to find the answers within yourself, versus a business consultant who analyses and identifies the tasks that need to be completed for you to hit your goals.
Another difference is accountability. As you work with a coach to achieve your goals, they will hold you accountable for any action that needs to be taken, whereas a consultant will not. They will tell you what needs to be done but it is up to you to decide how these changes are implemented.
If a behavioural change is needed, consultants generally do not get involved. Whereas a coach will focus on you and your team, on interpersonal dynamics, and will support behavioural changes.
Although a coach may be an expert in their field, to have a good coach you don't necessarily need one that is a specialist, whereas you will want a business consultant that is trained and specialised in a specific area.
One similarity between a coach and a consultant is that they are both there to support you on your business goals and bring knowledge and expertise in a variety of areas. They offer an outsider’s perspective on the business and will do so without a political agenda, as they are not an employee of the organisation.
Often the lines between a coaching and consulting can get blurred, creating a situation that is not effective at all. That's why it is best to decide which you really need at that time; many small business owners or business leaders will use both at different times on their journey, dependant on the pressing need at that point in time. If there was a need to deliver a specific project to enhance logistics, for example, a business consultant with a specialist skill-set may be the best option. Whereas if you were feeling stuck, a business coach may be a better solution due to the wide-reaching support offered, in terms of development. If you need someone to support you in achieving and working through your goals, a business coach would be the better option, rather than a consultant, as they would use their own expertise to reach goals for you.
When bringing any external resource into your business, it is always advisable to speak to a number of people before making your decision. Coaches offer chemistry calls to help you understand the tools that they would use, and their working style. Consulting firms will be able to put together a proposal for you to understand where they might have worked on a similar project before. Consider the size of the consulting firm you are looking at working with, as if you are a small business, there will be firms that specialise in working with small businesses and will have a better understanding of the challenges you may face. It is always worth getting referrals and reading reviews to understand the quality and credibility of the information being shared, and to help you make a justified decision as to what's best for you and will make a difference to your business.
In the business world, managing as a coach is a necessity not only for your success, but also for your survival. Business coaching is about helping employees become more effective — and supporting and involving your employees in the process. Coaching influences employee adaptability, productivity, and retention. It helps you make better use of your time.
It is acknowledged by senior management in many organisations that their company will thrive if they offer some form of coaching and mentoring to their staff.
More often than not, mentoring and coaching are used interchangeably in the business context. That’s why at many organizations, a mentor is expected to undertake coaching responsibilities as well. But despite what most people might think, there is a big difference between a mentor and a coach.
If you are wondering how these two roles differ and what these professionals bring to the table, you need to know the specific responsibilities of a mentor and a coach
People can get a professional qualification in coaching and mentoring, a certificate in coaching and mentoring; there are many courses offering training in coaching development, creative mentoring, career coaching, face to face training, online training, workplace mentoring, becoming a coaching and mentoring consultant, building a coaching network, business approaches to coaching and mentoring, distance learning, management mentoring, staff coaching, in-house training courses, 'out' house training courses. There are basic courses and advanced coaching and mentoring training and qualifications.
The list truly is endless!
It seems as though everyone from business schools to the corner shop is offering coaching and mentoring. The only problem is that for someone who has never used a coach or mentor before, it can all become very confusing.
For those who want to train to become a coach or mentor, the choices can seem daunting: 'Where do I begin?'
For companies who want to initiate a coaching and mentoring programme, they want the reassurance of the tangible benefits and return on their investment.
Coaching: we see a business, corporate or executive coach in much the way we see a sports coach. This person sets specific goals and objectives, sees what you need to do to achieve them and works with you on target setting, professional and personal development, expansion of your skills base and offers practical and relevant advice and guidance.
Mentoring: a mentor can almost be seen as a wise, experienced friend or favourite aunt or uncle type person. A mentor leads by example and is a role model. They might be very good at helping you see the big picture and understand the politics of the organisation you work for.
A coach can be a mentor and a mentor can be a coach or the role can be rolled into one. The key is that whatever term you use, the person being coached or mentored gets unbiased support and guidance.
Many great small business owners credit their success stories in part to having a great business coach. By combining the power of a business advisory board (who acts as a sounding board for ideas and challenges in your business), with a business coach that will help you to implement ideas and strategies borne from each monthly meeting.
What is a Mentor?
A mentor, in simple words, is someone who offers their knowledge, expertise and advice to those with less experience. By leveraging their experience and skills, mentors guide mentees in the right direction. Most of us might be familiar with the concept of a business mentor within our workplace as being someone who has more experience or wisdom and is willing to share their knowledge and insights in bringing on a younger colleague, guiding their career within the company.
It is only relatively recently however, that the term mentor has broken out of the workplace and into the marketplace and the term ‘business mentor’ is often freely bandied around to encompass a broad range of activities and services from business angels to non-executive directors.
A mentor helps mentees consider opportunities for career growth, gain confidence and improve interpersonal skills. The support is based on the mentor’s own experiences and learnings, which makes them more reliable figures in the eyes of the mentees.
A business mentor provides support to the mentees with regard to their career growth and interpersonal skill development. Specifically, a mentor helps mentees explore their career options, set development goals, develop new contacts and identify resources. In this way, a mentor serves as a professional advisor and role model for the mentees.
A mentor’s role evolves as the needs of his/her mentees change over time. In most instances, mentoring relationships are informal, while at times such relationships could be more formal. In formal mentoring relationships, mentors follow a structured approach to set realistic expectations and gain mutual benefits.
From a business perspective, mentors help employees gain more confidence in their work and develop skills to add value. Confident and satisfied employees steer organizations forward, which explains why a number of businesses are now shifting their focus on identifying the right mentoring programs.
Business mentoring does not involve employing a consultant or employee to help run your business. Instead, it’s a relationship between you, the business owner, and someone with business experience that can guide you through making the difficult decisions, point out ways of improving your business, ask you the tough questions and motivate you to want to achieve higher levels of performance, all within the bounds of a trusted relationship.
Because it's lonely at the top, business mentoring can offer you a partner in the process, a sharing of views with someone who really knows the ropes. Working with a business mentor will help you gain fresh insights into problems and decision making, through impartial, objective discussion and feedback.
Your business mentor has no agenda apart from your own success. This allows your mentor to give unbiased independent support to help your business grow and develop.
A business coach focuses on specific skills and development goals by breaking them into concrete tasks to be completed within a specified period of time. By doing so, business coaches help and guide businesses clarify their growth vision.
For many businesses, identifying and prioritising goals is a big challenge. Business coaches address this challenge by helping businesses prioritise their goals on the basis of importance. They follow a more formal, structured approach to resolve issues and manage specific aspects of the job.
A good business coach focuses on identifying goals, prioritising them and choosing the right path to achieve them. In doing so, business coaches help businesses become more accountable, goal-driven and competitive.
Business coaches cover various aspects of running a successful business. These may include sales targets, marketing strategies, communication skills, team building, leadership and more.
Coaches comprehensively assess businesses to recognise their core strength and growth challenges. Based on their assessment, they help formulate a plan or strategy, set targets and identify the steps required to achieve the desired results.
A great business coach challenges the status quo, questions business decisions and prompts organisations to take a closer look at their approach. This way, they bring in a fresh perspective to the business strategy and goals. But rather than simply questioning how things are run at a business, a coach guides the organisation to adopt appropriate growth strategies.
For businesses, a coach helps succeed by guiding in the right direction. Often businesses lose sight of where they want to be and the steps they need to follow to achieve success, a business coach provides clarity. They give pointed advice and opinions to get businesses back on track.
By now, it should be clear that a business mentor differs from a business coach. To sum up the difference between a mentor and a coach, here are some specific points of differentiation:
Resist the potentially destructive belief that you must always go it alone, or that your team needs to address things amongst their own collective, without relying on outsiders. Instead, consider the value of coaching and mentoring through the perspective of a professional:
Both mentors and coaches benefit businesses in several ways. To benefit the most, businesses need to be clear on what their priorities are and what kind of support they are looking for. With the right support, small businesses can become more productive, profitable and competitive.
Despite the many similarities between coaching and mentoring, the 'purists' like to draw distinctions by pointing out the differences in techniques used in each. In reality, many of these distinctions are unnecessary and confusing. To add to the confusion, the rules of traditional coaching and mentoring are also often blurred by professional practitioners themselves. There are mentors who have little or no direct experience in their clients' roles and there are coaches who do.
Most often executive coaches are hired to help C-suite, VP’s and other executives to support in setting, following and achieving goals. These goals comprise of personal goals focusing on happiness, work-life balance, increasing productivity, developing leadership skills, managing staff and improving communication. They will also focus on supporting short and long term organisational goals.
Executive coaching can be done on a one-on-one basis or a group setting and executive coaches can be hired by an individual or business. If the organisation, executive, and the executive coach work in partnership this will help to achieve maximum impact - for further detail and insight into Executive Coaching, read our article 'What is Executive Coaching?'
Executive coaching provides a healthy balance of support and challenge, whereby executives will be stretched but only as far as they’re comfortably able. This will help executives to perform at their highest potential without feeling overwhelmed or stressed. A study by Perkins (2009) has shown that effective coaching will increase an individual's rating on their productivity, leadership effectiveness and overall leadership, thus increasing self-awareness.
Executive coaching will challenge the executive to define a number of goals at the start of the process, these goals will have both long and short term focuses and will be challenging to achieve. An executive coach will help to keep the individual engaged and excited about achieving those goals and will also support in bringing the whole team together on the journey.
As executives are trying to fit a great deal into their day, most will fall into habits where they are being subjective rather than objective. With an executive coach supporting and facilitating the process executives will be able to see the company through a number of different perspectives allowing for greater clarity. This newfound insight will allow them to ensure they are focusing their time in the right areas. Executive coaches can offer a fresh perspective to old and new problems and in turn, help give the individual and the company the support to drive through any workplace changes that need to be made.
Smither et al (2003) looked at the effectiveness of executive coaching through tracking more than a thousand senior managers over a two-year period. This study showed that those who received executive coaching had more positive feedback from their colleagues and team and typically experienced an increase in those sharing ideas on how to improve, amongst other useful feedback.
For most executives, especially CEO's the top of a companies hierarchy, it can be quite a lonely space with a limited number of peers that they can have a conversation with as this may result in discussing confidential issues. Working with an executive coach will provide a confidential thinking space and will allow executives to discuss all matters openly. In addition, this will enable them to be able to work through any problems and set short and long term goals that are in line with both their personal aims and those of the company.
Executive coaching is a great way to nurture and support high performers as they accelerate through their careers, in our article 'When to invest in executive coaching and how to select high potential talent?', we discuss how to identify high performers and the way to best measure their return on investment.
Whilst executive coaching can provide huge benefits to an individual and the business, as with all coaching it is imperative to understand that when entering into this process it is not going to solve what might be management issues. If an individual is underperforming this can’t simply be offloaded to a coach in the hope that they will fix any and all problems.
The coach requires time to gain a good understanding of the company culture and key internal players and any good coaching relationship is built through a number of sessions whereby coaches will have tools in place to help them build and retain this information quickly.
It is important that anyone entering into this process is both coachable and open to change and achieving new heights. When looking into executive coaching, or any coaching for that matter, it is important to note that a coach can't and won't coach any psychological issues that underpin a person's behaviour - anything that falls into this category should be addressed by a therapist. An article by the Harvard Business Review outlines the damaging effect of trying to coach a leader that has narcissistic tendencies and how coaching this type of person has heightened some of their negative behaviours.
There are no easy answers, as an executive coach won't give the coachee advice, this will be a journey to identify the answers they or the business are looking for. When considering coaching it is always important to remember that, as mentioned above, coaches don't give advice. If that is what you are truly looking for then you may want to consider finding a mentor or bringing in a business consultant.
The quality and approach of executive coaches can differ, it would be advisable to have a number of 'chemistry calls' to find and match the right coach for the coachee and the business. Credible Coach is an independent review site that offers verified reviews from clients that have undergone coaching and it is a great way to assess the quality of the coach you are considering hiring.
It is important to note that the coaching process may be so life-changing that an individual could consider leaving the business and pursue a new career.
Business coaches will be experts within their field and therefore will be able to use their insights and give hands-on knowledge that could support you in making changes to allow your business to stay competitive and reach new levels of success. With your coach understanding the business at a deeper level, one-on-one business coaching can be really effective as they are also likely to have a number of relevant contacts that could be of support. Some business coaches may be entrepreneurs or seasoned business leaders that have undergone training and moved into coaching to share their knowledge and help leaders implement strategies that assist the CEO or owner in achieving their goals and vision. Business coaching can, in turn, be of great use to business owners who need some outside guidance on reaching the next level with their company.
Both Executive Coaching and Business Coaching will touch on leadership coaching and it can be considered a subsection of both. Leadership coaching tends to fall into two main categories; developmental coaching and coaching to resolve problems or risks. Leadership coaching can support the coachee on becoming more mindful, inspirational and impactful within their communications.
Companies have said that a business coach can be like having a highly experienced team member with the value they bring being priceless.
Those that receive business coaching see the same effects of an executive coach in terms of levels of increased internal feedback, creating open forums and gaining different and greatly beneficial perspectives from other leaders.
However, a business coach will help you identify which aspects of your leadership role that requires the most focus, and which can be delegated. By having oversight of all operations you will be able to drill into the detail on occasions, but you will be able to lead more strategically as you will have a greater amount of time to focus on other areas.Business coaching supports these skills, so as you can set the vision for your organisation, prioritise goals for success and implement change without resourcing expensive consultants.
Some leaders will have high levels of confidence whereas some leaders may need to learn how to exhibit this, after all leading a company is challenging and will come with highs and lows - even the most confident people may experience moments when they don't feel as self-assured as they would like. A business coach will help you recognise your own strengths, abilities and skills as well as give you tools to navigate these tougher moments. This can do wonders for your self-confidence and for your business and it has been shown confident leaders hire people better than themselves!
Often those working around senior leaders will become compliant and be reluctant to express disagreement in an aim to avoid friction and keep people onside. A business coach will be very honest and will highlight any negative behaviours as well as challenging any potential ideas. They will be able to support the transition to open communication within the company in a way which ensures people can share the good and the bad honestly.
A business coach will challenge your business acumen, you will gain a better understanding of decisions that may be reckless and which are founded on decisions based on evidence. Using experience gained over a number of years they will use their insights to help shape the way decisions are made.
When leading a business for a number of years or whilst maintaining the same position in a company it is easy to fall into a stagnant mindset and continue to do business in the way you always have. A business coach will offer a fresh perspective which can bring new levels of innovation and energy.
Some business coaches will support your network to find like-minded senior executives and external peer groups in similar positions. Many view networking as a major leadership tool, however, good networking takes skill, a business coach can support you to get the most out of a networking event to help both you and your organisation.
Coaches don't give advice and in some circumstances, a business consultant may be of more value. A business consultant will provide professional advice on how to tackle certain business areas such as management, strategy, operations, HR, IT and marketing.
It is important to ensure the coach has a balanced relationship with the CEO or business owners, whilst a coach doesn't give advice they will have a strong relationship with the coachee and could steer them in a different direction to what is wanted or expected.
Finding the right coach is key. You need to source someone that you personally gel with and someone you can be open and vulnerable with whilst discussing professional matters. As most business coaches will have a broad and in-depth industry knowledge, it is important to feel that their experience is aligned with your needs. Investing in the wrong coach can have detrimental effects and as with an executive coach, the quality and approach of business coaches differ. Before starting a coaching engagement, we recommend finding a business coach that is well-reviewed and proceeding with a number of chemistry calls to ensure that you are confident with your decision before entering the process.
Both Executive and Business coaching can have an incredibly positive impact on your professional and personal situation, they will both enhance your leadership skills and provide a different perspective on the challenges faced within your company. As with any new process focusing on yourself or work goals, it is essential to define what you want the process to look like and what your key goals are. This will enable you, the organisation and the coach to evaluate the outcomes and adjust accordingly. It will also give you a great indication of how you are tracking to complete them by the end of the process.
The personal development achieved through having either type of coach will be noticeable and tangible, most assert that one of the best outcomes is finding a better work-life balance. Business coaching is likely to be a better fit for business owners as it also comes with key industry insights and knowledge. Coaching executive talent can be hugely beneficial and will have a strong impact on the leaders of a business, often individuals share the personal lesson and gains that the coach has provided and thus encourage others to seek their own personal coach.
When considering a coach, it is always important to identify your true needs and therefore ensure you find the right type of coach and the right coach for the job.