Knowing how to seek advice is critical to any person’s ability to make good decisions and achieve their goals. Particularly in the world of business, leaders regularly need guidance in order to adapt to new challenges and remain successful. Whether you’re determining how to maximize your social media outreach or figuring out where to invest your money, the problems a modern leader faces are wide-ranging and diverse.

As a result, determining exactly whom to seek advice from is of utmost importance. Here are three different types of advice-seeking relationships to consider to make sure you are getting the help you need to achieve your goals.


Coaching relationships are formal and professional. Coaches are often brought into organizations to provide a specific space and time for leaders and employees to enhance their performance and develop self-awareness around their work. According to Columbia Leadership Group Co-founder Michael Ireland, there isn’t a power dynamic when you are working with a coach — you are equals working together to craft strategies and co-design a plan to meet your goals.

The key here is that the learning falls on you. Coaches ask open-ended questions that facilitate learning, such as: How is the status of your project? How can we create greater success in your role? Rather than giving the specific steps by which to achieve your goals, coaches serve as the catalyst for you to recognize and build on your strengths and realize areas of weakness. You can then work on your own to develop self-improvement techniques in those areas, and employ those techniques to enhance your skills. Your future success will be much greater if you are able to make insights into your challenge areas of your own accord.

Above all else, a good coaching relationship will be characterized by trust, mutual respect, and openness. Whereas you might be hesitant to share your developmental challenges with your boss for fear of judgment, a coach is someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing those challenges.

In this way, you can work together to develop self-improvement and cultivate self-management.


A mentor is someone with whom you have a strong personal relationship. They have a stake in your long-term success, and are dedicated to helping you flourish and thrive.

A power dynamic exists in a mentoring relationship: mentors are often older than their mentees, and have proven experience in the specific area of need. As such, mentors can provide specific advice on what actions to take to make the best decisions.

Unlike coaches, a mentor will also have specific knowledge of your personal background. They can therefore give pointed advice to help guide you in reaching conclusions in a way that a coach won’t be able to. For example, they might be able to suggest opportunities if you are considering transitioning career based on past knowledge of your interests and strengths.

You should turn to mentors for personal and professional advice that helps guide you in the direction you need to go.


A leader is someone you can turn to for insights into developing a bigger vision for your project or company. A leader has expert knowledge in your field, and can provide farsighted advice on how to approach an especially intricate or unfamiliar situation.

Leaders can help you craft a structure for understanding a complex issue. They can provide insight on how to transition your business into a foreign market, for instance, or the rate at which to effectively scale your team.

A leader is someone you look up to, whose work inspires you, and whose opinion you trust in tackling complex issues.

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