Do I Need Coaching or Consulting?
Mark Komen, President
Are coaches, “consultants?” Are consultants, “coaches?” Can someone do both? To address these questions, I look at coaching and consulting as activities not labels describing professional practices. Yes, coaches can be consultants and vice versa but these are distinctly different approaches to addressing client needs using skill sets that are very different from each other.
So what’s the difference between coaching and consulting? My short answers:
Coaching is about exploring possibilities, looking for barriers to success, encouraging client progress, holding them accountable, providing focus, supporting their strengths, helping them overcome their fears, enabling them to improve their effectiveness, happiness or other client-defined outcomes.
Consulting is about providing methodologies, data and solutions to client issues.
As I see it, coaching is then evocative in nature where consulting is prescriptive. Traditional coaching engagements are client-driven. The focus is on what the client wants to address. Although these can be driven by the need or desire to strengthen a skill or address a weakness, the coach’s job is to listen, reflect back and clarify what the client is saying and encourage them to make the changes they desire to make. The coach becomes part of the discovery/understanding/change process.
In contrast, the consultant is typically relied upon to collect, review and analyze data, draw conclusions, and make recommendations. The work can address task, process or interpersonal/behavioral issues but the consultant is being relied on for an opinion about what to do where the coach aims to help clients discover the answers for themselves. Further, a consultant may engage an entire client organization to help them see what changes need to be made and how to implement changes they agree to.
So where does training come into the mix? Training can enter as a result of consulting or coaching engagements or as a stand-alone engagement. In an organizational context, training’s aim is to provide content and experience to enhance employee skills and capabilities. We certainly need to know things so that we can be of more value in our jobs, meet company expectations and grow professionally. Although they are different approaches, coaching and consulting engagements often surface the need for training which may be task-based (learning new technologies, job procedures, company policies or management approaches for example) or interpersonal-based (changing behavior, overcoming fears, dealing with conflict, etc.).
As part of my early engagement process with clients, I discuss the different approaches and we agree on the one they want or the one that best fits the situation and desired outcomes. They may want to resolve their own issues rather than have me tell them I what I think they should do. When the situation calls for a combination of approaches, I make a point of telling the client which hat I’m wearing (coach, consultant, trainer).
My philosophy is to help my clients be successful and achieve their visions, goals and dreams. The path we take for this comes from on-going discussion.
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