Question: What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Consulting?

by Shaun Kieran

Since I do both, I’ve often been asked, “What’s the differences between coaching and consulting?”

Fo businesses, the distinction is  straightforward: coaching means the process of working directly with personnel to achieve higher performance – by effectively listening, supporting, challenging, and facilitating personal development and learning. It’s a role, and it’s about interacting dynamically to help someone be more productive.

Consultation in the business world means any kind of service provided by someone – not a full time employee of the organization – who identifies problems and recommends specific solutions to those problems. Very often consultants provide or perform those identified tasks directly.

My strategy for helping my clients is a “blend” of Coaching methods and skills with the capacity to also address specific organizational tasks. Mostly I coach, because the essence of the work does boil down to those direct, ongoing interactions – in person or by telephone – that help supervisors and managers reframe and renew their own goals by taking effective action.

The consulting part comes about when clients want specific advice and concrete examples to help them think well and brainstorm possible solutions to a current problem. I do that.  My years in Employee Assistance Programs often demanded urgent, focused consultation to get done whatever could be done in one session: hear the problem, ask clarifying questions, then quickly come up with a “do-able” plan based on specific recommendations and action steps.

Because I’ve received formal “Coach” training, I’m extremely aware that the professional coaching world is leery of any claim to be able to “solve” someone’s problems. They want the distinction between coaching and consulting to be crystal clear.  I agree.

My clients like my direct approach, precisely because I’ve been willing to be explicit and say, for example:  “you need a lawyer,” or “you should call the school and request a meeting regarding your child’s situation,” or even “it may be time to seek employment elsewhere.”

Too often, having more than a single session has been a luxury, and having the time which allows clients to navigate, practice, make mistakes, and learn their way to their optimal performance is heaven itself.

But EAP work has always  meant that less-than-ideal was the norm, so I’m comfortable with clients wanting clear feedback, concrete plans, and as much hope and relief from the problems and pressures that brought them in as is humanly possible. 

So – yes – I coach and I consult, and my style is the blend it needs to be to respond to a client’s unique needs.

And that leads me to my special 90 for 90 offer. Read about it here.

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