Trainer, Coach, Mentor: What’s the Difference?

 In Mindset

Trainer, Coach, Mentor: What’s the Difference?

I believe that for any human being to reach their next level of success, they have to get out of self and into service. They have to get out of self and surround themselves with people who are on a similar journey. They have to get out of self and ask for help!

I don’t think anyone makes it alone. We get help: emotional, financial, intellectual. For many high achieving people, that help comes in the form of a coach.

The coaching industry right now, to me, seems to be one of the many Wild Wild West sectors of business. There’s not real barrier to entry. There is no degree required. No experience necessary. No shoes, no shirt, no problem!

I’m sure that there are a good many people out there who are calling themselves a coach, whether they be a life coach, financial coach, transformational coach…the list goes on and on…who are good people with good intentions. I’m sure that a good many of these people are truly helping their clients. But how are we as consumers to know what makes for good coaching? How are we to evaluate what it is that we are paying for? What are the metrics of success?

I want to share with you not an exhaustive or definitive rubric for evaluation, but rather a starting place. A place that will allow you to determine if what you are getting in your coaching experience is what you had intended. And furthermore, is what you are offering in your coaching program what you intended to give?

As I see it, there are 3 true categories of personal and professional development service providers. What I see happening is that we lump all of these categories into one category that we call “coaching.” But upon closer evaluation, we discover that, while we had hoped to deliver coaching, we were actually delivering one of 2 other services.

Here is how I break it down:

Trainer: I will show you how to do it. Here are steps 1, 2, and 3. How to…

While an essential part of any new experience in life, training is the most basic form of development service. Training is a commodity. I can package it and sell it (books, workshops, classes…). Good training has a prescription for how the elements are present, rolled out, or introduced. Good training takes into consideration things like learning styles, delivery of content, and frameworks that increase the retention of information.

A good trainer is a good teacher.

Mentor: I will show you how I did it. This is what I did. Here’s my feedback on what you’re doing.

There are many “coaching” programs in the market place that are actually mentorship programs. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not really coaching and shouldn’t be called it. A mentor has already been there and done that. They have walked or are walking on a similar path to the one that the client is walking. A mentor can offer insights into what has worked for them in their business. They’ve been in the trenches.

Here’s the thing to be aware of with mentors: what worked yesterday may not work today. Mentors will likely have a limited perspective (it’s their own, what worked for THEM, their personality, their circumstances, their market, their timing…). So, while a mentor can offer extremely valuable insights, the client should be aware of the limited field of sight and continue to explore additional input.

Coach: You already have the answers you’re looking for. I will help you see the best version of yourself and push you to discover your next level.

True coaching is based in psychology and has a focus on performance. Coaching will focus on the WHO and not the HOW. A good coach doesn’t need to be from your industry. Since a coach is focused on you, they don’t even need to know your business. Being good at your business and being good at getting you discover your next level are two completely different skill sets.

True coaching isn’t transactional. It’s TRANSFORMATIONAL.

A coach will help you discover things about yourself that you were blind to. They will teach you how to think, they will challenge you, and they will help you see yourself as you really are. Really good coaching will do that with an undercurrent of accountability – accountability to yourself and the people you love.

I hope that this guide will help you on your path to discover your next level. 

No matter what coaching program, training, or mentor you decide to go with (and you absolutely should get outside help!), know that their efforts are worthless without your effort. The coach’s job (as I interpret it) is to give you the tools to discover the best version of yourself and to help you achieve higher than your norm over the long-term, all while maintaining well-being and positive relationships.

It’s like a bow and arrow. You have to pull the bow string back toward you. You have to look inward; you have to work on you. Then you release that bow string and let the laws of the universe take over. Your coach should help you master that pull, that aim, and that posture so that when you are released into the universe, you simply fly.

NEXT STEP: Work through the following framework.

Take this message, write it down, and place it somewhere in your home or office where you will often see it.

What is Next Level / High Performance / Success / Achievement?

  1. Succeeding beyond the norms
  2. Consistently over the long term
  3. While maintaining well-being and positive relationships


  • Who has been an influential TRAINER that helped you get where you are now in your career? What made them a great trainer?
  • Who has been an influential MENTOR that helped you get where you are now in your career? What made them a great mentor?
  • Who has been a transformational COACH that helped you get where you are now in your career? How has your experience with them been transformational?
  • How are you showing up for your agents and/or clients now? Who are you for them?
  • Is that what you intended? Is that who you want to be for them? If not, who do you want to be for them?
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