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New York TimesProfessionally I fill roles as either a consultant or a mentor (some call it coaching), depending on the professional, company and situation. In my old line of work (enterprise technology) a consultant was usually a semi-temporary non-employee team member that was brought in to fill a specific gap in talent – and come off a different line item for payment in the books (no health insurance or taxes to pay either). Consultants felt a bit more expendable than employees, made more money, and were the first to get cut when budgets got tight.

In the true meaning of consulting (such as what my business partnership with Faucet Group behaves as), the practice revolves more around generating new ideas and facilitating progress. Bringing in ‘temp’ help at an advanced level to get your company over a hurdle or growth jag – as well as infusing a shot of outside (and impartial) expertise can be a sound strategy.

Mentoring in its true form isn’t usually a paid position, but professional coaching is. Imagine having an industry or topic expert to call to work through ideas or issues and help realign your progress. Imagine being able to sustain and grow this progress even after the coach is ‘gone’. Much different outcome than a consultant, even if subtile.

It’s good to know the difference between consultant and coach, and know the difference when looking for help. In my experience, and in my line of services this is what a consultant vs. a mentor / coach looks like:

  • Consultant = Figures out a plan of action based on their experience and your needs and then executes those plans. Progress may continue after consultant is disengaged, but only if team has championed the process themselves.
  • Mentor / Coach = Works with you or your team to help you figure out your own path to success and guides you to produce results yourself. Processes put in place by the coach will continue to be in use after coach is disengaged.

This New York Times article gives some great real-world examples of how choosing a consultant or coach can improve your business. What do you think? Have you ever hired a consultant or a coach? What do you think about the process or outcome?