It seems as though we confuse the differences between coaching, consulting, and mentorship. It’s completely understandable because I often see websites, posts and articles of self-proclaimed “coaches” who offer consulting services. If you call yourself an expert and coach in the same breath, it just means that you need help with some clarification. If we tell someone how to do something, we see that as coaching but it’s not. That’s consulting.  When we show somebody the way through our own past experiences, that’s mentorship, not coaching.

If the goal is to coach our team, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what a coach is and how it differs with a consultant and mentor. We must be aware of what each of these are and know when to use them to get the most out of our team.

Here is a breakdown of how I view their differences.


There are different types of coaches; executive, life, performance, and so on. Though they offer their own unique advantages, they are consistent in their meaning. A few years ago, I took an International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited performance coaching program and they define coaching as partnering with clients (team members in this case) in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

As a coach, your team member is the expert. In the majority of situations, they already have the answers they are seeking within.  It’s our responsibility to help them develop the confidence and strategies to draw those answers out of themselves to discover even more about who they are personally and professionally. We do this mostly through active listening and asking high-quality questions.

One of the biggest advantages with coaching is that we get to the ever-powerful ‘why’ behind the improvements that our team members are striving to make which is a great way to develop intrinsic motivation.


A consultant is a professional who provides expert advice in a particular area such as accounting, sales, service, or parts. You provide quality advice based on experience and knowledge, solve problems for the team member versus guiding them to work through it themselves, make a diagnosis of a situation and offer a solution, and assist with the implementation of the solution.

As a consultant, you are the expert. As a GM for example, you likely have more experience in variable operations than fixed operations.  With this being the case, you would have the appropriate expertise to consult Sales Managers and the sales team more than you would the Parts and Service team.

One of the biggest advantages of consulting is that it’s much easier and quicker than coaching because it’s based on what you already know.


Mentorship is about sharing your wisdom to someone who is less experienced than you are either personally or professionally. Think of it as taking someone under your wing and guiding them through the lessons that you’ve been through.

As a mentor, you are guiding the mentee based on what you’ve done or would do in similar situations. With mentorship, you can guide anyone in the dealership because it’s not just about professional experience.  It’s about life lessons you’ve learned along the way and can share with others who may not be as far along on their journey as you are.

One of the biggest advantages of mentorship is that it often leads to developing an even deeper and more meaningful relationship with your mentees.

Coaching could come across as a slower process than consulting or mentorship, but it is by far, in my opinion, the most sustainable and effective approach. Consulting and mentorship could get to the solution the quickest, but advice doesn’t tend to stay with the person as much as their own ideas and insights do.

Knowing when to be a coach, consultant or mentor will be a discovery process for you. Personally, coach-led leadership is what I’ve found to be the best approach for the vast majority of situations but you may find different and that’s okay.  Bottom line: by gaining clarity on the differences and understanding when to apply them will make you an even more effective leader.

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