Choose and Use the Right Resource Every Time
by Nan Andrews Amish, Colleen Cayes, and Joy-Ellen Lipsky

Managers want to spend time and money wisely when they hire the most expensive resources they need to supplement human resource, executive, and organizational development.

When you have a problem, you need help. Fast. You face a wide array of professionals: coaches, consultants, facilitators, speakers, trainers, and mentors. What do you do? Who do you choose?

You want a professional who can provide rapid solutions to your challenges, offer the highest impact for your organization, and guarantee the highest return on your investment (ROI). And, maybe, those who benefit directly might even appreciate the investment.

With the right criteria, you can find professionals with the exact skills and expertise you need. Understanding of the different skills, services, and benefits of coaches, consultants, facilitators, trainers, mentors, speakers, and hybrid forms will lead you to hire the right resource every time.

Executive Summary

There are two types of expertise an outside resource can bring to a problem: process expertise and content expertise.

Consultants most often have content expertise. They may understand customer relations management systems, or know the health care industry. But a consultant may also have process expertise. They might know 360 leadership instrumentation or how to facilitate a customer focus group.

Facilitators and one-on-one coaches, by definition, tend to be the most process focused. They are mostly content neutral. Business consultants, who work one-on-one, may offer expertise in where to find funding resources or the best marketing approaches. Career consultants tend to have content expertise about career instrumentation, whereas mentors have content expertise about their organization's culture and informal network and how things get done.

Trainers need to be content rich, but the better ones also know organization development processes and how to keep adults engaged during extreme content dumps. The best trainers know how to assess their participants and engage them in applying the learning before it can be forgotten.

Speakers get the shortest time to make an impact. As such, they must be entertaining, humorous, motivating, fun, and engaging. Yet with stressed budgets, to justify events planners want content, too. Most speakers provide edu-tainment. The best speakers touch your head, heart and gut; they leave you with profound ideas, sharing universal truths. They are part storyteller, part trainer. They want you to be a different person for having been in their presence for an hour.

Each has their place. Many experts share their expertise in more than one modality. Following are short definitions of each of the modalities and selected criteria to help you choose the right resource for your needs.

Executive Coach

Purpose: "Executive coaches often are brought in to help a star player navigate a new role or advance faster inside a company," says Joann S. Lublin in the February 18, 2003 Wall Street Journal. A coach can also be retained to help a valuable executive overcome performance gaps. Think of a technical VP with inadequate interpersonal skills or a superbly networked marketing executive who is adapting to a new culture.

Once employees reach the executive level, they have fewer opportunities for ongoing development based on objective and sustained feedback. This may be available only from outside the organization. Coaches fulfill needs for continued education in operational mastery (technical skills such as strategic planning) or personal mastery (interpersonal communications, client sensitivity, etc.). Examples of coaching needs may include:

  • Understanding strengths and developmental needs and how teams, clients, and/or peers perceive the executive;
  • Dealing with conflict or improving conflict resolution skills;
  • Practicing new skills and styles through role play;
  • Changing specific behaviors (influence, decision making, defensiveness, assertiveness);
  • Increasing leadership competencies (thinking more strategically, communicating more effectively);
  • Creating and managing a development plan.

Benefits for the Company: Faster integration of leaders into new roles and cultures, higher executive effectiveness, improved communications and morale, and improved job satisfaction and retention. The Manchester, Inc., study in 2000 found coaching produced an ROI of almost six times its cost. A DBM study in 2000 said, "Changes in skills and performance of executives who received coaching are still evident two years later." (Schmuckler & Ruben)

The Professional Coaches and Mentors Association's web site lists 12 types of executive coaching (including career management, hi-potential, assimilation, and inter-cultural) and three core coaching approaches: inquiry/reflective (eliciting assumptions and values which underlie behavior); observational (also called "shadow coaching"); and instrumented (using MBTI, Firo-B, 360, etc.)

Coaching Success Story

A growing, entrepreneurial company recruited fifty-two year old Bill from a very senior position at its dominant competitor where he had spent the past 25 years rising through the ranks.

Bill, who continued to use his top-down management style in his new position, expected the same automatic compliance he had received from long-time subordinates at his old company, who trusted him. However, his new entrepreneurial colleagues resented this style. Coaching increased Bill's awareness of the impact of his communication style in the context of the new company and gave him the insight he needed to change. The coaching investment allowed his new employer to leverage Bill's valuable industry knowledge and helped Bill succeed in his career move.

Methods and Tools: Assessments and instruments (Myers-Briggs, Birkman); profiles (personality, learning, work performance); feedback (360-degree surveys); interpersonal skills (active listening, objective feedback)

How Hired: Most often the executive or human resources selects external coaches for a period of three to six months or longer and may partner with internal coaches (coach the coach). The coach works confidentially one-on-one to support an executive's developmental, behavioral, and career goals.

Credentials: Professional coaches may have psychology, communications, and organizational development backgrounds, plus years of executive experience in the industry or position. They are skilled in recognizing and working with the psychological processes of the individual and the organization. They may hold International Coaching Federation (ICF) certification and may have attended a coaching school or certification program.

What's the difference between a coach and a consultant? Consultants typically bring content and analytical expertise into the organization to address specific issues. Coaches use process expertise and tools to support clients in developing their own answers through expanded ways of seeing themselves and their situations.

What's the difference between a coach and a mentor? Coaches and mentors both work one-on-one, but mentors tend to offer specific content as well as contacts, while coaches focus on processes to support clients in doing their own learning.


Purpose: Mentoring is a formal arrangement for a specific time period between a person experienced in a particular area (mentor) and another person (mentee), less experienced, who is seeking help and guidance in order to know, understand, or succeed in that area. The most sought after mentors are often successful executives. The quality of the results obtained through mentoring depends upon the follow-through, commitment, and initiative of the mentee.

The mentor and mentee, by mutual agreement, determine the duration and frequency of meetings. By definition, mentors are internal to the organization or community and generally volunteer their services. Formal mentor/mentee relationships usually last three, six, or twelve months with a weekly or bi-weekly meeting.

Benefits to the organization: Rapid improved effectiveness of the mentee. Corporations use employee mentor programs as part of their employee development process. Employees can request a mentor to improve their current skill area or to learn about other career opportunities.

Mentoring Success Story

Joe Programmer wants to increase his effectiveness in handling his multi-project assignments at work. As part of a formal mentoring program, Joe is paired with Maria Mentor, a senior project manager, who is skilled in time and project management. Joe and Mary agree on the logistics (when, where, length) of their mentoring meetings. Joe provides Maria with his desired results for their sessions together and agrees to follow through on commitments.

Maria tutors Joe in project management basics and arranges introductions for Joe with others in project management positions who can provide input, suggest a course of action, or point Joe to additional resources to help move him forward. Joe applies what he has learned from Mary and uses her connections to strengthen his own professional network. His effectiveness in managing his projects has greatly improved, and his stress level decreased as a result. Their mentoring relationship ends after an agreed upon period of time, in this case six months.

What is the difference between mentoring and coaching? Mentoring is often confused with personal or executive coaching. A mentor, generally a volunteer, uses his/her knowledge, connections, and skills to help another reach desired goals. A personal coach, usually for a fee, helps an individual uncover his/her own answers or direction. However, some mentor-coaches will interject their knowledge into their dialogue with the client.

Oops! Wrong Modality: Using the wrong modality is counter-productive for participants and decreases the credibility of the sponsors of the program. For example, as part of a management development program, the company required Nancy to sign up for coaching. Nancy is a self-directed individual who is excellent at managing her time and her projects. Nancy's areas of self-development were to improve her negotiating skills and to increase her connection with managers in the company. The personal coach Nancy drew did not provide any support for improved negotiation skills nor for Nancy's expansion of management contacts. The sessions, according to Nancy, were a waste of time and money. Nancy needed a mentor to help her understand the informal workings of the management organization and to provide introductions to other management resources.


Purpose: A facilitator is a professional skilled in group dynamics whose job is to bring forth the opinions, data, and wisdom that exist within a group. Pure facilitation is content neutral, the goal being to create a safe environment for participants to share thoughts, feelings, and beliefs so a team can develop its own culture and norms. Facilitation promotes participant buy-in and rapid commitment, because the resulting decisions are collaborative wisdom or knowledge.

Benefits to the organization: A facilitator's role is to encourage all participants, inviting introverts as well as extroverts to express their views and to manage the energy so that the most vocal do not dominate the discussion. This guarantees the highest use of talent. A skilled facilitator can assist the group to synthesize the best input from all of the participants into a more sophisticated whole than any one member could have created. Solid facilitation skills are desirable for consultants, coaches and trainers.

Facilitators provide value to multifunctional groups who need to develop common language and to brainstorming or strategy sessions that require generation of free flowing ideas. Any meeting can benefit from a facilitator, although meeting facilitators tend to be part time facilitators, part time masters of ceremonies, and part time management experts responsible for agenda completion.

Facilitation Success Story

Frank Facilitator has content expertise in organizational development and is skilled in group dynamics. He facilitates meetings of many cross-functional product teams. Frank is good at balancing multiple interests using group processes without inserting his opinion into the discussion. He takes care to summarize what has been said, helping the group find synergy in the discussion. He helps quieter voices get heard, using games and experiential techniques. This team is becoming more productive with Frank's assistance, reaching common ground more rapidly in spite of team members' different backgrounds and points of view.

Duration and how hired: Half-day meeting to a two- or three-day event. Preparation for these meetings and events requires pre-meeting interviews and assessment as well as post-meeting review. Most facilitators are hired for the meeting or event. Pricing is fixed and includes prep time. Senior executives and major corporations often have dedicated internal OD practitioners who are skilled facilitators or external facilitators on retainer.

Where used: Retreats, board meetings, strategy sessions, product or program kick-offs, team start-ups, any tough complex decision with multiple stakeholders.

Credentials: Facilitators often have degrees or experience in organizational behavior, organizational development or organizational psychology. They are skilled at asking questions designed to bring out the range of opinions in an organization as opposed to offering expertise. They may be a member of the International Association of Facilitators or the Organization Development Network.

Oops! Wrong Resource: It is difficult for department managers or executives to cleanly facilitate meetings in their own organization. Their authority hampers their ability to be neutral and their subordinates tend to defer to their opinions.

Ed Executive attempts to facilitate his own strategy meeting. Ed believes there is no need for a facilitator because he understands the issues as well as anyone. He chooses not to engage one to save the cost of the fee. Ed shares his own expertise first, in the process shutting down contributions from his subordinates. Participants nod their heads in a show of support for Ed's authority, but in reality they do not feel heard and do not buy into Ed's plan. Months later the continued resistance to his initiative and the slow pace of its implementation stymie Ed.


Purpose: A consultant is typically an external resource who assists in achieving a complex corporate or organizational goal with which internal resources have been struggling. The consultant brings objectivity, a new perspective, and, often, specialized industry or functional expertise. A consultant's skill set usually includes the ability to assess the situation quickly, determine the real issues, and propose alternative courses of action.

When consultants are internal, they typically won't have direct line control. They are more likely to be consulted, and their recommendations are seen as input to the final executive or managerial decision. External consultants also typically provide specialized expertise, but rarely make final decisions.

Tools: Most consultants have methodologies to assist them in assessing an organization's current situation. They use analytical processes, maps, and tools to help organizations close the gap between where they are and where they plan to be. In recent years, technology consultants have been most in demand due to the rapid pace of technological change. Their tools often include system management and the ability to write customized software applications to address unique client needs.

Management and OD consultants have skills that overlap the most with coaches, trainers, and facilitators. They improve organizational performance and often address organizational dynamics, change management, and leadership issues. Strong management and OD consultants tend to have facilitation, personality instrumentation, team-building techniques, and coaching process skills in addition to analytical skills in their tool bag.

Success Story

Caroline Consultant has content expertise in market research and strategic planning and strong facilitation skills. Her Fortune 500 client hires her to support the executive team in developing their product strategy for the next three years. Victor, the VP of Marketing, has Caroline research industry trends and competitors prior to facilitating the strategy discussion with the executive team. Caroline is an optimal fit for this particular assignment because she has the research skills and industry knowledge to keep the team grounded in the market realities and the facilitation skills to engage the entire team in this complex decision-making process. Caroline is so successful with this assignment that VP Vic asks her to help the divisions with their research and implementation plans as well.

Ooops! Wrong Modality. Executive coach Ellen gains the confidence of CEO Charlie. Charlie trusts Ellen 100% and asks her to facilitate their strategic planning session, which will drive the strategic initiatives for the ABCD Company for the next two years. Ellen has excellent facilitation skills but is not financially savvy enough to ask the right questions to focus the conversation on critical success factors. The strategic plan is not rooted in the reality of the competitive industry situation. The "vision" ABCD comes up with is inspiring but not achievable in the time frame stockholders will require. Ellen could have avoided this outcome with a referral to a strategy-savvy colleague.

How hired: Consultants can be hired by the day, task, or project. Consultants are typically hired for several months at a time.

Examples of where used: Anywhere that time-critical, complex, high-impact decisions must be made.

Credentials: Consultants typically have advanced degrees from solid schools (MBA, PhD, MS Engineering), or certifications in specialized tools (MBTI, SAP, Cisco Certified). They may have worked for leading edge companies who have developed the methodologies they use in their work (SAP, IBM, DDI, Covey, McKinsey, major consulting firms) or have been an analyst for an industry (IDG, market researcher, investment banks).


Purpose: Trainers face a daunting challenge: transferring large blocks of content to participants who must typically use the new knowledge rapidly to experience job success. Usually trainers have been selected to address a specific skill or knowledge gap in the organization that applies to an entire group of participants. Corporations and organizations use training to keep their employees up to date on the latest business practices and technologies. Employees want training to add to their value in the marketplace. Associations want to provide educational opportunities to their members to keep their skills current or to introduce new processes, information, or skills.

How Hired: Usually selected by the department head or team leader or by the human resources department if the knowledge gap is organization-wide. The duration of training is generally from a half-day to a week. A good trainer makes him/herself available for questions during a reasonable period of time after the class. Trainers are generally hired by the course with the length of the class and the level of expertise required the major factors in the remuneration of the trainer.

Benefits for the Company: Knowledge is disseminated in a rapid, consistent, and cost efficient manner to large or small groups of people.

Training Success Story

Sam Student wants to learn to use Microsoft's Front Page in order to build and maintain his organization's web site. He signs up for a class available through a local training organization. Terry Trainer is an expert on the use of Front Page and is skilled at engaging his students as well as creating course material. The course material is easy to follow, challenges the students, and enables follow-up after the course. Terry is able to field questions from Sam and the other students while posing thought-provoking questions. Sam profits immediately from the class and uses Front Page to build the site.

Methods and Tools: Training is the means of transferring information from the subject matter expert (trainer) to the student. Training can be offered face-to-face, in a lab, or by teleconference, videoconference, e-learning, or self study, both web based and paper based. Strong training programs blend these delivery methods, choosing the most cost-effective implementation that is appropriate for the skill being learned. Face-to-face methods are chosen where interaction is critical to the learning. Web-based methods can be ideal where consistency is critical to becoming familiar with a given body of knowledge, such as with new policies or procedures.

Credentials: Trainers have expertise in instructional design and delivery plus curriculum development and facilitation and OD process skills. Workshop and seminar leaders need to have more facilitation and OD expertise to provide the experiential component expected in these modalities. On-line and e-learning training experts must have expertise in designing e-processes.

Trainers are often confused with speakers and lecturers. There are many similarities, such as the transfer of information, expertise, and the need to engage the audience. The professional speaker tends to have a shorter face-time with the audience and is expected to be topical, highly entertaining, and tailor the talk to their audience's needs. A trainer knows course development, typically transfers a higher density of information per hour than a speaker, and is expected to transfer detailed content for attendees to retain and use in their jobs.

Oops! Wrong Modality: Terry Trainer is hired to do a keynote talk at an association conference. The conference organizers want a speaker who is knowledgeable about the subject matter and knows the association to provide pearls of wisdom in an entertaining manner. Terry knows the content, but does not have the platform skills to carry off a keynote talk in front of 3,000 conference participants. His talk is too detailed, too stiff, has little entertainment value, and the audience has difficulty determining his key points. The conference organizers are disappointed and the attendees are bored and exit before the end of his talk.

Professional Speaker

Definition: Professional speakers are experts in their chosen field who are paid to motivate, impart their knowledge, and connect with their audience to provide a memorable experience.

Benefits to the Organization: Attendees are motivated, get new ideas, get inspired, and are edu-tained.

Speaker Success Story

Sally Speaker is an expert in the area of information overload, specifically in effective communications and in the misuse of e-mail, phone mail, and snail (paper) mail. She has written a book and articles and is well known in the field. She has been speaking for several years, and audiences respond to her authentic presence and dry humor. Technical companies and conferences hire Sally to help employees/attendees become more effective in gaining control over information overload and to make the process fun to enhance learning and retention.

Professional speaking is often confused with public speaking. Public speaking occurs when anyone presents to a group of individuals. Toastmasters is an organization known for helping people to improve the quality of their public speaking. Professional speaking is when a skilled presenter who is an expert in his/her field expert is paid to speak, enlighten, and entertain a group of individuals, usually with a specific purpose in mind.

Professional speaking is often assumed to include any trainer. While both trainers and speakers convey information, professional speakers master sophisticated platform skills that inspire, motivate, and edu-tain.

Oops! Ouch! Wrong resource choice! Anytime an expert with poor platform skills is asked to do a keynote before a large audience at a conference, there will be disappointment and time wasted for the audience.

How Hired, Duration: A keynote presentation may be arranged a year in advance. Conference breakout sessions are assigned six to nine months prior to the event. In-house talks at corporations are arranged several months or weeks ahead. Professional speakers prepare for their engagements by researching the organization, its needs, and its current concerns. An engagement may be anywhere from a half-hour to a full week. A contract for in-house talks may include post-event follow-up, such as content for newsletters, but this is negotiated. Professional speakers are hired by the event or occasionally by the series. Professional speakers are most often used for conferences, company or group off-sites, customer meetings, sales meetings, and association events.

Oops! Out of Scope

The following categories have not been addressed, but may show up in discussions about resources. In the context of choosing the right resources, these categories are almost always automatic oops.

Contract workers are also referred to as consultants. Contract workers are typically short-term employees who require a high level of skill. They rarely act in an advisory role. Instead, they act as a spare pair of hands where resources are constrained.

Recently unemployed professionals may hang out a shingle to avoid the stigma associated with being unemployed. While these pros often have useful expertise and credentials, their lack of experience in managing the business relationship can cause you to spend added dollars with low return.

A Final Note: Return On Investment

This article has focused on choosing and using the right resource for the right task every time. It has offered examples of the benefits of a good fit between task and resource.

Getting it right also favorably impacts ROI. If you happen to work with CFOs who care about these things, here is an anecdotal example meant to encourage us all to spend a little more time to get it right.

If the Manchester study, which indicated that coaching produced six times its cost in benefits, were indicative of the typical coaching return on investment, why wouldn't every organization do as much of it as they could? 600% ROI? Wall Street should have it so good.

When a Fortune 500 company offers training to accompany implementation of a major enterprise-wide software initiative, they increase the value of the software investment by increasing employees' comfort level with the application. The difference between no training vs. training everyone is the difference between nobody using the software, a total waste of the investment, vs. a high proficiency in its use in multiple applications by everyone. The increase in the value of the software to the company might be as much as tens of millions of dollars.

On the other hand, after Ellen, the executive coach, facilitated the strategic planning retreat, the executive team chose an ill-advised course of action due to Ellen's lack of finance and business knowledge. That error cost the organization a market window for introducing a product and wasted technical resources. Oops. The cost of using this particular highly skilled, but wrong, resource was $400 million in lost revenue.

Choose and use the right resource for your task and your ROI will be many times the investment, every time.

References and Resources:


"An Executive Coach Should be Viewed as Aide, not Enemy," by Joann S. Lublin, Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2003 (

"Coaching for Results: An Overview of Effective Tools," Marcia Ruben, CMC, and Jan M. Schmuckler, Ph.D. (

"The Case for Executive Coaching," by Andrew W. Talkington, Laurie s. Voss, and Pamela S. Wise, Chemistry Business, November 2002.

International Coaching Federation (

Professional Coaches and Mentors Association (


Linda Phillips-Jones, The Mentoring Group, ( email:

San Jose Business Journal, May 2, 2003, "Survey: Mentors Can Mean IT Career Success" (


Flawless Consulting (2nd edition) by Peter Block (

Advances in Appreciative Inquiry by David Cooperrider et. al. (www.appreciativeinquiry/

Million Dollar Consulting and The Ultimate Consultant by Alan Weiss (

Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) (,

Organizational Development Network (ODN) (

The Harvard Business Review (


Organizational Development Network (ODN) (

International Association of Facilitators (

International Speakers Association Facilitators PEG (

David Cooperrider / Appreciative Inquiry (ww.appreciativeinquiry/

Facilitation see also: Open Space, Future Search, Whole Scale Change


American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) (

Bob Pike Group Training Newsletter (

Games Trainers Play by Ed Scanlon (

Professional Speaking

National Speakers Association (,

Public Speaking

Toastmasters International (

Colleen Cayes is a leadership consultant and business coach with 20 years of successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. A recognized innovator, she has led teams of physicists, chemists, and engineers to develop, mature, and successfully commercialize high technology products, She has held senior management positions at Seagate Technology, Avery Label Company, Conner Peripherals, and Applied Materials, She holds a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School and excels in teaching people and companies how to fulfill their greatest potential. To contact Colleen, go to

Nan Andrews Amish is a speaker, strategist, a futurist, "the big woman with the big picture perspective". An integrator and systems thinker, Nan was honored with a Business Week "Product of the Year" for her leadership of a Fortune 500 cross functional product/service team. She was a "Big-5" Management Consultant prior to forming her own consultancy. Nan holds an MBA from University of Michigan, has done Organizational Systems work at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. She is past president of a 1000 member chapter of the American Marketing Association and was on the board of the National Speaker's Association in Northern California. Contact Nan at

As the Effectiveness Expert, Joy-Ellen Lipsky's approach to time management and success skills comes from research, experimentation, and applying the techniques to her own life. Joy-Ellen creates systems and methodologies for personal and business effectiveness for both linear and creative thinkers. She holds a BA in Mathematics, an MS in Computer and Information Science and has received awards from ABWA, National Speakers Association, Northern California, Tandem Computers, and ITUG. Joy-Ellen is co-author of "Success is a Decision of the Mind" from Insight Publishing. She is also a certified labyrinth facilitator with Veriditas, a certified facilitator for Franklin Covey seminars, leads meditation, mentor, and contemplative study groups. Visit for more information.

Many more articles in The HR Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2004 by Colleen Cayes, Nan Andrews Amish and Joy-Ellen Lipsky. All rights reserved.

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