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Office of Human Resources Management
USDA Virtual University
United States Department of Agriculture

Differences Between Coaching, Counseling, Managing, Mentoring, Consulting and Training

Coaching
The Coach’s primary attention is on strengthen the client’s wisdom, thought processes, and directed action toward the future, based on the client’s self-identified agenda. A supportive and non-judgmental environment is created in which to inquire, challenge, and stimulate critical thinking and new ways of being, thinking, and acting, often resulting in new behaviors applicable to the client’s whole life.

Counseling (Therapy)
The Counselor’s focus in or addressing a personal issue with client, often related to emotions, attitude or behavior. Counseling therapy may include asking thought-provoking questions similar to those used in coaching. The emphasis however is on applying principles of mental health, holistic lifestyle, psychology and human development to address wellness, personal growth, behavioral change or emotional well-being.

Managing
The Manager’s primary attention is on achieving specific organizational results through their direct reports. To that end, they will direct and support their subordinates and develop them through performance feedback where coaching skills may be used.

Mentoring
The Mentor’s primary attention is on imparting wisdom to a less experienced individual by taking an active interest in their development. A less experienced individual learns from someone who is literally and/or metaphorically older and wiser and has worn the same shoes and traveled a similar path.

Consulting
A Consultant’s primary attention is on helping an individual achieve personal or organizational results through the application of their specific expertise where they advise the client on the best course of action for achieving desired goals. Consultants may or may not also be charged with transferring knowledge or a skill set to their client.

Training
A Training and Development Professional’s primary attention is the successful transfer of specific information or skills to a group of individuals in which individual learning needs may or may not be addressed. Trainers often use a co-active approach and coaching skills.