Monthly Archives: September 2012

Coach OR advisor OR mentor? No, it’s not the same.

Pile of hatsAre there too many coaches in the kitchen? Definitely! When coaching became popular in business a few years back many consultants and advisors jumped on the trendy bandwagon, eager to call themselves coaches without checking the implications. The resulting mishmash not only devalues the field of coaching, it makes for messy work processes. There’s a right time for coaching, advice, teaching, process leadership, consulting and mentoring, just not all at once. Here’s why and how.

The Coach

Defined: The main (and most often misunderstood) thing that separates coaching from the others titles is that the coach does not give any answers. A true coach uses tested techniques to lead the coachee to find their own answers. The questions should be open and guiding, no pushing or coaxing allowed.

Marketing use: Strategic. I use coaching in the initial phase of a project to discover, together with the client, the core of what they really need and want. It’s ideal for establishing values and goals. I get pure and valuable insight and understanding before I start advising, while the client gains clarity, ownership and ultimately a better integrated solution.

If you’re interested in learning more about coaching or finding a coach, check out The International Coach Federation . They hold the standard for the field and certify coaches as well as coaching educations accordingly, including CTI, where I have my training.

The advisor

Defined: The Advisor does just that: she advises. The advise is usually based on her experience as it relates to a speciality, and her interpretation of what the client needs in that area. Of these three roles this one is the broadest, and can be used in a variety of roles – teaching, consulting, team or process leadership, etc. This is the area where you get to bring something new to the table and to show your special skills. Most of us are eager to get to this, so unfortunately many spend too little time really listening to the clients needs before they start solving the perceived assignment. Not infrequently they come up with clever, but not necessarily fitting or lasting solutions without the proper groundwork. An advisory role can easily be combined with hands-on implementation.

Marketing use: Since I am a marketing professional, this is the role I am most often called upon to have. Most people hire me to use my advertising experience to improve theirs. I often start workshops with teaching about the possibilities before the collaborative sessions start. Then I switch roles to process leader. I advise when I work as a consultant, and also when I follow by giving advice and making suggestions based on web analytics.

the Mentor

Defined: The mentor is called upon primarily for her experience. She is a guiding star, most likely with a success the mentee identifies with and would like to replicate. She shares of her success formula to help others, but is rarely directly involved in the work of the mentee. On the contrary – the distance is part of the value, so she can maintain and contribute with a bird’s eye view.

Marketing use: For clients who choose to handle marketing themselves, a mentor gives them a useful external perspective. After all, marketing is all about connecting with people on the outside. When you are on the inside it’s easy to loose sight because you are too close to the product. You can fall into the traps of talking to yourself in tribal formulations, product codes, or irrelevant marketing. That’s when it’s good to have a mentor with a different angle. My mentoring has usually  been for workshop clients where I know their products as their goals, so I am able to efficiently dive into their situation and give my advice while keeping a keen eye on the broad strokes. As a mentor I work to make you better.

So you see, each role has its distinct merits and advantages. They also have their own “language” of communication. Many of us are required to wear more than one of these hats in our jobs, and it makes our lives interesting. But wear them all at once and you’re likely to become a confused, marketing schizophrenic.

How to spot a mixer

So if your coach comes to you and start telling you what to do, she’s not coaching, but advising. If she starts asking you leading questions, such as “Have you considered using social media marketing?” she’s not coaching, but might be mentoring. But if she asks you, upon your offering an interest in social media marketing “How do you see that fulfilling your marketing goals?” you might be looking at a coach. Follow along, and you’re probably about to find out that you have a lot more resources to draw upon than you thought you did.

Whichever you are or have, make sure working together inspires!