What is Coaching? Your Guide to Coaching vs Mentoring, Training and Consulting

What is coaching? It’s a buzzword that’s thrown around a lot these days…

There are countless different types of coaching - from business coaching and life coaching to executive coaching, career coaching and countless more. And these are often mentioned alongside mentoring, training and consulting. But what does each term really mean? And how can you figure out what’s going to be most helpful for you and your unique needs?

Let’s take a look at the differences.

Coaching definition

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

In short, coaching is guiding you to find the answer yourself. A certified coach is trained to ask you questions, actively listen to your needs and prescribe you exercises to empower you to unlock your potential.

Much like a sports coach will guide you to achieve your fitness goals, a coach will guide you to achieve your life or business goals.

The key here is that you’re the one doing the work. Your coach is simply guiding you through the process. It’s this empowering nature that makes coaching such a sustainable practice. The results stick around long after your coaching sessions are over.

What is coaching?

When you first start working with a coach, they’ll ask you what your goals are for your time together or what you’re looking for support with.

Whilst it’s helpful to be as specific as possible, if you’re not sure what you want to achieve that’s alright!

A lot of my one-to-one coaching clients will come to me wanting to make a change in their lives or business. But, often, they don’t know what they want that change to look like. So, that’s something we find clarity on together.

Most coaching will involve:
A deep questioning process to help you uncover what you really want

  • Thought-provoking activities and exercises to empower you to find and focus on your goals
  • Active listening, so you can discover insights you didn’t even know you had!
  • Agreed actions, to help you create a plan that’ll move you toward your goals
  • Accountability, to enable you to follow through on your agreed actions and bring that plan to life

What is business coaching? Coaching in your career

A business coach will help you focus on your professional goals. This is especially helpful when you’re launching a new business, looking to change the direction of your current business or considering a pivot in your career.

Your business coach will help you find clarity on your business vision, focus on your business goals and hold you accountable to take action to achieve those goals.

What is executive coaching? Coaching in your workplace

Executive coaching, or corporate coaching, typically takes place in your place of work. An executive coach will develop a programme specific to your company, to bring your team together towards a common goal. They also often work one one-on-one with senior executives to help them develop leadership, communication and management skills.

Your executive coach will listen to both your needs and the needs of your organisation. They’ll act as an impartial third party, helping to bring a new perspective to the conversation.

What is Coaching? Coaching vs Mentoring, Training & Consulting

What is life coaching? Coaching for your personal life

A life coach will take a more personal approach. Their goal is to help you create a life that you truly love. A life that fills you with joy and that you feel satisfied with at the end of the day.

Your life coach might help you focus on a certain area of your life, such as personal relationships, self-development or self-worth. Or, they might look at your life as a whole. It all depends on you and what you want to achieve!

Some coaches, myself included, offer a combination of both life, executive and business coaching. Since our modern-day lives are so intertwined with our work, this enables you to take a holistic approach to discover your full potential.

The importance of coaching certifications

A coaching certification means that the coach has been thoroughly trained to provide the best level of support to their clients and are required to keep to a certain standard. Not all coaches are certified. But in an ideal world, they would be.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s leading organisation for coaching. They set a gold standard for coaches to adhere to and offer third party certification and accountability for coaches around the globe.

There are three types of coaching certifications under the ICF:

  1. Associate Certified Coach (ACC) - this is a coach that has 60+ hours of training experience and 100+ hours of coaching experience
  2. Professional Certified Coach (PCC) - this is a coach that has 125+ hours of training experience and 500+ hours of coaching experience
  3. Master Certified Coach (MCC) - this is a coach that has 200+ hours of training experience and 2500+ hours of coaching experience

The ICF’s coaching badge

When coaching is kept to certain standards and ethics, as you get with a certified coach, you’ll be getting the best possible experience as a client. So be sure to look out for both experience and certifications when choosing your coach!


What is coaching vs mentoring?

Whilst a coach empowers you to find the answers yourself, a mentor will share their own answers from their personal experience. 

Mentoring typically takes place in the workplace with someone who has trodden the same path you hope to follow. 

Mentors are usually unpaid and share their own story to help inspire your own. They’ll be able to answer specific questions about your career path and share ideas, actions and advice based on their experience. 

coaching vs consulting

What is coaching vs consulting?

Consulting is far more prescriptive than coaching. Instead of helping you to find your own solution like a coach would, a consultant will offer you specific advice based on their area of expertise.

Most consulting takes place between two businesses, with experts such as business consultants, marketing consultants and social media consultants devising strategies in their particular fields.

For example, a business consultant would advise on your business strategies, how to enter new markets, how to take your products to market, and so on.

What is coaching vs. training?

Training typically requires you to follow a set programme towards a specific educational goal. There will be a curriculum, with learning outcomes to achieve along the way.

The idea is that training will take you from point A to point B, helping you to acquire a new skill or new level of knowledge along the way.

Coaching, however, is far more nuanced than training. Instead of being guided by a training curriculum, it’s guided by you - the client - and the specific outcomes you want to achieve. 

How to find the right coach for you

So, taking all this into account, how do you find the right coach for you?

Try to look for these three things:

  1. The coach’s level of experience - do they cover the areas you want to work on, such as life and business?
  2. The coach’s certifications - do they have the right qualifications?
  3. The coach’s personality - do you have a rapport with this coach?

Most coaches will offer the opportunity to have a call with them before you work together. This gives you the chance to see if you have a good rapport, ask them any questions you may have and enjoy a taster of what your coaching sessions will be like!

Now you can create a change, without having a perfect plan

...discover how coaching can empower you to unlock your own potential