There are many ways to develop an organisation and due to the large scale and high complexity of this task we find a palette of different disciplines offering their helping hand. Whether an organisation decides to follow the coaching, mentoring or consulting approach depends mainly on their individual situation and the challenges they are facing. All three disciplines can bring immense value to an organisation. Although all three follow different approaches, they also share many similar elements.
By discussing these disciplines we will be able to consider their advantages and disadvantages and enable ourselves to decide the best way for our organisation. No discipline is able to replace the other one. A forward-thinking organisation might consider using all of them and combine their advantages and even out disadvantages. A combination of all three therefore might be the answer to a sustainable effective and successful development approach. But judge for yourself!
Let´s look at similarities first:
- Although mostly executed by external specialists, internal specialists are also suitable (but often considered as less effective)
- Highly flexible and adaptable to client´s needs
- Investment delivering fast but effective results
- Executed by experienced and skilled specialists
- Working with teams and individuals
- Need effective sponsorship and stakeholder management
- Adjustable to any situation
- Based on methods, processes and communication
- Based on commitment to change
- Highly valuable to organisations
- Based on rapport and trust between individuals
- Concentrating on the present and aiming to influence the future
- Run as 1 to 1, projects or entire programmes
- Work as short- or long-term approach
Mentoring and Consulting
Both disciplines are mainly based on the process of implementing external skills, knowledge or experience into the organisation which were lacking before. Therefore organisations are seeking support in receiving direct advice, information and suggestions. This is definitely the most outstanding advantage, coaching (by its nature) is not supposed to deliver – the straight transfer of technical specialist knowledge. Coaching instead provides a platform for unlocking and developing existing skills and knowledge internally within the organisation.
Like coaching mentoring is also a discipline concentration on individuals, but opposed to coaching it is based on (external or internal) mentors giving advice and sharing experiences with other, mostly less experienced members of the organisation. This knowledge transfer is mainly based on personal experiences which are directly transferred from the mentor to the individual. Mainly we will find a mentor providing his services to one person, rarely to a team. Nevertheless this process is –like coaching- highly focused on the individual’s needs and learning. Another outstanding aspect (also to be found in coaching) is the deep relationship and rapport between mentor and individual which enables the transformation through emotional support.
Consulting is also provided by using (or renting) external skills and knowledge to make development happen. Development happens within the organisational structure or business processes rather than working with individuals. It is following strict methods and processes which normally don’t leave much room for individualism. Very often consulting is supported by related disciplines like project or change management in order to organise and structure the consulting approach. Consulting delivers a predefined service or product that can be adapted to the organisation’s needs. In consulting the knowledge transfer is mainly carried out by external consultants who are technical experts in their field. Knowledge is implemented rather than developed.
As we can see both mentoring and consulting are suitable if special technical knowledge needs to be installed into the organisation (often within a very tight timeframe), knowledge that hasn’t been there before. Whilst mentoring is dealing with the development of individuals, consulting is concentrating on the organisation as a whole without necessarily including internal resources.
Coaching works from a different angle. It is appropriate if an organisation seeks a deep and effective approach in developing the organisation by developing its individuals. The most significant difference is the main principle of coaching, the approach of not giving any advice or suggestions. Coaching follows the strong belief that individuals are holding everything they need to successfully reach their goals. The focus is purely on unlocking and developing existing talent. The underlying process is based on communicational, psychological and neurological principles and addresses the individual in a holistic way. The individual is enabled to become more aware, focussed and motivated in order to find its own way to make change happen. In a similar process as with the individuals, coaching is just as effective with teams and executives. Instead of borrowing external knowledge, the organisation is using its internal abilities to make change happen.
The success of coaching lies in its uniqueness of developing individuals and as a consequence the organisational development will follow. This approach makes it today’s most effective discipline for personal and professional development.
As we can see each of the three disciplines come with their advantages and disadvantages and they need to be chosen carefully by considering the actual business case behind it. But it is the idea of combining two or more of them which makes it even more interesting.
It is the tempting idea to fully make use of your own human resources (to use all their skills) and allow them to be their best rather than putting someone else’s stamp on it. Trust the talent you have once chosen and move them out of their box.