What is the Difference Between Consulting, Mentoring, and Training?

14 May 2016

The corporate sector regularly brings individuals into contact with the concepts of consulting, mentoring, and training.  The problem which many corporate workers face is that their views of each of these concepts are often skewed by the fact that these models are often spoken of as being not only interchangeable but identical.

The truth is that consulting, mentoring, and training are individual concepts applicable to differing situations.  Granted, they are all aimed at the betterment of certain individuals in terms of their outright performance, but their approaches and expected outcomes can differ greatly.

In order to best distinguish the differences between these three concepts, it is best to highlight the fundamental role of a consultant, a mentor, and a trainer individually.

What Is an Executive Consultant?

There are various different types of the executive consultant. That is to say, there is an executive consultant who differs in their approaches.  But, while these consultants might approach their duties through diverse methods, one factor remains constant; consultant are consultant from the onset.

  1. An executive consultant is hired for a specific purpose, and thus the relationship between executive and consultant is clearly defined from the beginning of their professional relationship.  Similarly, the executive being consulted has a specific purpose for the consulting – a goal which must be reached.  Regardless of the time-frame required, this goal is as clearly defined as the consulting relationship.
  2. An executive consulting is brought in to provide technical expertise, but never in the role of a consultant.  A consultant should never be seen as one to provide the answers in trying moments.  Instead, a consultant helps executives refine their thought processes.

That being said, consultants don’t adopt a completely disinterested approach.  Sports consultants, for example, take an active role in bettering their athletes by providing proactive insights.  It is thus important to strongly consider the precise needs of the candidate when hiring a consultant.

Coaching vs Mentoring

What is a Mentor?

Unlike executive consulting, mentoring is a less formal relationship.  This type of relationship often develops between friends or colleagues working together at the same organisation, or in the same industry.

This type of relationship will often form organically when the mentor comes to realise that he or she has a great deal of useful knowledge to impart and the recipient of the mentoring has an appetite for knowledge and the drive necessary for self-improvement.

This type of relationship is often acknowledged but rarely labelled.  As it takes its natural course it may evolve, or rather relax into mutual respect between peers.

What is a Trainer?

A trainer is a knowledgeable individual brought in to facilitate the learning of another individual.  In this case, there is a clear lack of knowledge or practice in a specific task on the part of the individual who requires training.

A trainer teaches an individual how to perform a certain task and monitors the individual’s progress.  Once the trainee can perform the task at a particular level of proficiency, the training is complete.

Consulting is Different from Mentoring and Training

In the cases of mentoring and training, a lack of knowledge is present on the part of the individual being mentored or trained.  Consulting, however, is not necessarily aimed at imparting knowledge.  Instead, Consulting is aimed at leaders or people in important positions who are vital to their companies’ future success.


This article was contributed by Shirish Agarwal from Flow20, who offer web design, SEO and other digital marketing solutions.

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