Many of my clients are new to the concept of coaching. They
know there is a difference between consulting and coaching yet are not sure
what they are. Often, their expectation is due to prior experiences. So, what
is the difference and why in the world do we even care? A few key observations,
distinctions and opinions to consider:
First, there are no hard and fast rules. There certainly
are guidelines and clear differences between the two disciplines; yet, the
primary focus is always the client. As a coach and a consultant, it is my job
to respond to the client and offer what will be most beneficial to them. My
responsibility as an ICF (Professional Certified Coach) is to ask permission
before putting on a consultant’s hat, and to certainly draw the distinction
when reverting to a consultant’s approach versus a coach’s approach.With that
said, what are a few of the differences?
Pure consulting offers the following traits: telling and advising on matters for which we are hired, offering subject matter expertise, and helping to solve problems by
offering solutions. Sadly, many consultants try to promote dependency on them
or their firms.
Coaching offers a distinctly different approach. The focus is 100% on the client, promoting
independence and ongoing sustained transformation long after the coach is gone.
Coaches encourage this through probing, asking provocative questions, and
promoting self-awareness and discovery. We believe the answers are within the
individual, so we encourage digging deep to gain clarity, and self-observation
in various situations to uncover what’s working and what’s not working. We try
to draw out ideas, options and possible solutions from the person being coached
so that they can determine how to move forward intentionally toward their
I have observed that my clients often want a blend of
both. Thus, an experienced business
background, strong knowledge in leadership and management, as well as expertise
on research, personality and leadership assessments, behavioral models, and
coaching approaches, are all critical to being an effective coach with many
executives and leaders. Coaching and consulting require different competencies,
and there most definitely is a time and a place for both.
So, what is the point of this article? This article is in direct response to social and
professional conversations over the past several months, as well as questions
many prospective clients have asked. In closing, I will offer a few personal comments and opinions.
the primary job of a coach is to create a safe and open environment for
growth, exploration and self-disclosure to help reveal and encourage the
best from the client. In addition, in a business environment, executives
expect relevant content, ideas, thoughts, approaches, and observations.
Without this, a coach’s value may be questioned.
- In the
same breath, however, the coaching client must also realize that the real
heavy lifting resides with them. Just like a baseball or swimming coach,
the athlete is the one swimming the laps and running the bases. The coach
supports, encourages, challenges, probes, and holds the athlete
accountable for forward momentum and growth. The ultimate goal is to help
the client become transformed in the areas on which they are focused; so
that once the coach rides off into the sunset they have indeed changed
their perspective and approach for sustained growth and progress.
- Finally, every coach has
their own model and approach they use when they work with clients.
For more information on my approach, visit my website. Coaching
and consulting are both valued professions. Just remember, a coaching or a
consulting relationship is a collaboration between individuals. My job, in
whatever role I am asked to play, is to meet the individual, team, or
organization where they are and to respond to their needs. Our responsibility
is to create an environment where the client is supported and safe, yet
challenged to bring out their best.
And, from my perspective, the single most important
cornerstone is that the relationship must never be about us – it is always