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The difference between coaching and mentoring, consulting, therapy or training

How does coaching differ from mentoring or consulting?


Some people use the term mentoring interchangeably with coaching. In fact mentoring is very different to coaching because it relies on a more experienced person passing down their knowledge. This can create a dependency on their external expertise which can become expensive and unsustainable for a leader or organization.


In consulting “solutions” are provided by external experts which again risks creating a dependency on outside expertise.


In contrast to both mentoring and consulting, coaching helps people find the resources within themselves to create sustainable transformation. It requires expertise in the art and process of coaching, not in the subject at hand. That is one of its great strengths.

“Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

International Coaching Federation (ICF)

What is the difference between coaching and training?

While executive coaching can be described as fast-track leadership development, it is different from training because the focus is generated by the individual. There is no pre-fixed agenda or curriculum. Coaching is not about instruction, teaching or telling.

The leader being coached will acquire facts, skills and behaviours through the process of reflection and experimentation. Not by being “taught” but by discovering from within.

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What is the difference between coaching and therapy or counselling?

Psychotherapy and counselling both focus on a person’s experiences and problems in the past, particularly the emotional past. They tend to be more reactive.

This is different to coaching which tends to be more proactive and focuses on the future and on goals, strengths, potential, insights and action.

Coaches should clearly communicate to their coachees the distinction between coaching and psychotherapy and counselling, and be able to refer coachees to a professional psychotherapist or counsellor as needed.

“In therapy you follow the trail of tears with a goal of healing… in coaching you follow the trail of dreams with the goal of igniting the person to be their best.”

Carol Kaufmann, PhD, PCC
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How can you develop internal coaching capacity in your organization?

Sir John and his colleagues at Performance Consultants were the first to take coaching into the workplace and coined the term “performance coaching” in the early 1980s. We continue to lead the field in performance improvement through coaching leadership training.

Select one of the options shown. Or get in touch and one of our world-class leadership development consultants will work with you to create a tailored programme that meets your specific needs.

  • Attend a Coaching Course – experience the benefits of coaching first hand. See our Global Training Calendar to find the right course for you
  • Transformational Leader Pathway – learn how to be a leader–coach with a coaching leadership style that creates a culture of high performance for you, your team and entire organization
  • Performance Coach Certification – become a coach or take your coaching skills to the next level so that you can practise transformational leadership coaching
  • Individual Coaching (1:1) – take your leadership to the next level with a tailored, fast-track professional development coaching programme
  • Team Development – unlock the next level of potential in your team with team coaching