Choice Among Coaches, Mentors, Trainers and Consultants

Business catalysts come in several forms and understanding their differences is essential to a successful outcome. To clarify, business catalysts can be broken down into four basic categories: 1) consultant, 2) mentor, 3) coach and 4) trainer. It is critical that you understand which one you need to accelerate your career and business results. While this may seem trivial to the untrained eye, I assure you that it is fundamental in getting the results you want.

Let’s start with the definition of each. 

– An expert in a specific process, system, subject, and/or industry who is hired to close the knowledge gap in their area of expertise. Examples include: management consultants, process experts, specialist attorneys, advertising agencies, and industry gurus.

Mentor – A person that is experienced in matters that pertain to issues that an executive or team may be facing. Examples of mentorship organizations include Vistage, Young Presidents Organization, Entrepreneurs Organization and Inner Circle where CEO forums are created to share experience. Also, it is common term for someone that has achieved a certain level of success in a particular area.

Trainer – An expert at teaching specific processes, procedures or systems and brings a specific method to help the client accelerate maximum success in applying those processes, procedures, or systems. Examples include training people to use new software, implement of a consistent sales process, or apply proven methods of leadership.

Coach – An expert at helping others reach a higher level of their potential success. Using the Socratic Method, a coach has the talent of asking the right questions.

Choosing among catalysts first starts with understanding what you really need. Here are some of the questions one must answer to determine what is needed:

  • Do we have an experience gap?
  • Do we have enough resources internally to reach the goal in the desired time-frame?
  • Does the existing team have all the knowledge necessary to take the right actions?
  • Does the existing team have enough context to address the issues we will encounter?
  • Are we trying to create consistency or better outcomes in certain processes, systems or procedures?
  • Do we know whether consistency in process will achieve better outcomes? In other words, are consistency and better outcomes mutually exclusive or interdependent?
  • Does your organization have the right process for extracting the knowledge and experience in way that attains maximum benefits?
  • Do any members of our team need to make any behavioral changes that would cause better results?
  • Do any of our team members need to expand their perspective when decision-making?

Too often we find that these questions have not been adequately considered. As a result, we spend much of our initial dialog helping executives determine the answers. In many cases, the answer may be “we do not know for sure.” In these cases, I recommend having an independent analysis to help determine the answer.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach and founder of Activate Group Inc., based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com , contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him

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