Difference Between Coach, Consultant, and Mentor

by Howard Shore, Date: Jan 23, 2014

Difference Between Coach, Consultant, and Mentor

One of the hardest decisions for a CEO, business owner, or other senior executive, is to consider outside assistance with matters that will help strengthen the business. I am approaching my 14th year as an executive coach, business consultant, and business coach. I have credentials in each of these areas. One common misconception is that a coach, consultant, and mentor are all the same. If you fit the designation, you should be able to help in all circumstances.

However, this is not the case. Here we explain the difference between a coach, consultant, and mentor in order to understand which will benefit you the most.

Coach, Consultant, Mentor:
Which Do You Need?

In order to understand who to hire, there are many questions to ask. I am going to address that in a separate article. Prior to address the questions to ask, it is prudent to first know the difference of the coaching, consulting, and mentoring disciplines:

Business Coach

The business coach does not provide answers or solutions.  With coaching, the idea is the leadership team already possesses enough knowledge, skills, and capacity to develop the strategies and lead the organization – but has yet to reach their potential as a management team. The coach is brought into bring processes, tools and that external view that causes a shift in the way that management looks at things.

The goal of coaching is to create that shift in view to causes the management team to:

  • Develop different strategies
  • Make better people decisions
  • Be more focused
  • Strengthen the culture
  • Better align the entire organization

For example, I have a client that after 9 months of taking them through a process and some hard questions, they dramatically increased their earnings and have a completely different strategic focus that has a lot more potential than their old one. All the ideas came from the organization.

Executive Coach

The executive coach’s role is to help an individual unlock their potential and is not about teaching or showing the way. The coach helps the person being coached discover areas where their motives, values, and personality traits are causing them to be less effective as a leader. The biggest part of coaching is helping the person being coached become self-aware as research has shown that the higher the position the higher the gap in self-awareness.

The goal of coaching is to:

  • Improve leadership skills and effectiveness
  • Improve the likelihood of new management being successful
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Improve relationships
  • Create higher levels of self-confidence
  • Increase self-awareness

A good example is a COO that I worked with that CEO appreciated because things got done. However, the problem the CEO ignored was that no one else on the leadership wanted to work with this person because they had no empathy and was steamrolling everyone in the organization. This person believed that was the only way things could get done. That worked for a while but eventually no one would cooperate with the COO and things got really heated. COO could not see things from anyone else’s perspective.


The mentor is someone that shows you the way. They have been there before, so they show you how they have done it. Their qualification is the outcomes they have achieved. They are typically donating their time and not getting compensated for the advice they bring.

A good example is a role I play with new Gazelle coaches. When they sign on with Gazelles international, they are assigned to senior coaches that have done many implementations with clients. The reason is that we have the many hours of experience working through the challenges with clients that they have yet to face. So we are able to talk them through these challenges as they are occurring. By doing so, we are able to:

  • Accelerate their learning
  • Create smoother transition into the community
  • Create better outcomes for clients


The consultant is a paid expert that shows you the way. There are many different types of consultants. Essentially you hire these experts to fill process, knowledge, industry, or experience gaps that you current team does not possess. By filling these gaps it allows your business to:

  • Grow faster
  • Scale
  • Be more profitable.

An example is the hiring process we put into companies. By using the methodology we provide our clients are able to save significant time, increase the number of candidates they consider for every position, reduce mistakes, and increase performance for each position. This methodology has the benefits of helping the company grow faster, scaling, and helps the company be more profitable.

Why You Should Hire External Help

It is important that you understand the purpose of hiring the external resource. Often we find companies are overweight factors that will not help them overcome the challenges they are facing.  A good example is a company I spoke to last week. The owner felt really strongly that he needed someone with experience in his industry. As we got to know each other, the main issues holding him back related to his sales process and other factors that did not require industry experience.

Hiring a Coach and Consultant

Call Howard Shore, one of the top business coaches and consultants in the United States, for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 or contact Activate Group today to see how a coach can help you and your organization.