How does coaching differ from consulting, mentoring and training

There is often confusion around the overlap between these four approaches to learning and personal development

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There is often confusion around the overlap between these four approaches to learning and personal development. This is probably because each area has a focus on performance, support and personal direction. As a professionally qualified coach, I adhere to the code of standards and ethics set out by the International Coach Federation (ICF), so to help define coaching a little clearer as to what it is and isn’t, here are the ICF distinctions of coaching and how it differs from other professional services:


Coaching emphasises the client’s responsibility for the results he or she receives from coaching and focuses as much on who the client needs to be or become as what business practices need to be done differently.

A consultant is employed to deliver an end result that meets a specific need or goal, for example, career transition. The consultant takes responsibility for the project and is a specialist with expertise in a given situation or industry, providing content and expert knowledge. A consultant focuses on what needs to be accomplished to improve the business.


A mentor is an expert with knowledge in a particular field or within a particular company who can guide others to move forward within the company or field by benefiting from his or her experience.

A coach is an expert on the development of people in general and helps people move forward on their own unique path that may be very different from that of the coach.


Training is usually delivered to an individual or group of people over a short period of time. The focus in on sharing information and knowledge that helps the individual or group to perform an activity more effectively. In order for most training courses to be cost effective, they are usually delivered in a “one size fits all” basis. Limited account is given to the specific learning needs of the individual. After the training as been delivered the trainer typically has limited contact with the people that he or she has trained. It is down to each individual to decide how they use the knowledge that they gained during the training.

Coaching focuses on helping an individual to become more aware of how they learn. This insight can then help the individual to build a clearer set of performance improvement strategies. Coaching can also be used as a natural follow on from training courses where the learning taken from the course can be reinforced through 1-2-1 coaching sessions with each participant. Specifically, coaching can help the individual to identify how, when and where they can most effectively use the knowledge taken from the training course.

About the author
Doug Mackay
5 min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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