Consultants are experts in certain fields. They have an agenda and provide potential answers or proposals to their client. Coaches on the other hand, have no agenda except to help the client achieve what he/she wants. While coaches have specializations in certain fields, their true expertise is in the coaching process. The primary difference is that the consultant promotes himself/herself as the expert in certain aspects of life, and the coach accepts that the client is the expert and has within him/her the answer to any and all situations he/she may face. Another difference is that the coach stays with and “partners” with the client to help implement a plan they both develop. A consultant usually does not participate in this type of relationship and leaves the client to implement the plan of action on his/her own. Coaches not only help bring about change; they provide a confidential and safe environment in which the client can explore his/her issues and concerns.
A mentor is someone who has “been there and done that,” can share their experiences, and can be a role model. A coach does not use his/her personal experiences as a model of success for the client. The client is the expert on his/her life. The coach is the expert on the coaching process and is skilled in helping the client even without first-hand knowledge of what the client has experienced.
The therapist’s typical functions are to help clients fix problems, overcome issues and sometimes manage mental illness. Coaches do not work with mental illness nor spend much time on client issues or problems. Actually, coaches do not see anything as a problem, only as an opportunity. Coaches focus on solutions. They do not dwell on the client’s past nor try to analyze behavior. The past is only a focus of coaching as a learning/growing instrument and if part of the present situation. Coaches do not start in the past, nor remain there, but release the energy the past has on clients, so they can continue forward. Simply stated, the therapist usually helps the client figure out “why,” while the coach helps the client focus on “how.”
Although professional coaching does have its roots in sports coaching and there are many similarities, professional coaching is not based on competition nor is it on a win-lose scenario. Professional coaches concentrate on bringing out one’s best but not in order to beat someone else. Contrary to sports coaching, professional coaching helps people to think and create win-win scenarios for all involved.
We all recognize the value of a best friend. But is your best friend a trained professional who you can trust to work with you on the most critical aspects of your life-without giving you his/her own personal advice? Let’s face it, friends usually have their own agendas and, more often than not, they are all too willing to tell you what you should do. In addition, friends may not point out various issues you should be addressing, for fear of hurting your feelings. Coaching is a collaborative effort that is solely based on what the client wants and thinks he/she would like to do. Unlike a best friend, coaches are objective and nonjudgmental.