You probably already have a pretty good idea of the roles of coaches and consultants, but many people have tried to blur the lines of the definition of each of these important roles. This can lead to a situation where clients don’t get the correct services that they need. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other; both coaching and consulting are focused on helping a person with problems in their business. The big difference in coaching vs consulting is how they help.
What Is Coaching?
A coach’s job is to help someone progress, elevate, or move forward with action. The goal of a coach is to help their client solve problems and find better solutions. Most leaders use a coach when they have an employee or team that adds value but isn’t fulfilling their true potential.
Coaches help clients to achieve their goals by identifying what personal challenges are affecting them. They do this by using their own experience and by changing the environments of their clients.
Consider an example: Sports coaches don’t run hundred-yard sprints to help their clients, nor do they do a dive to show their clients what to mimic. Instead, they let their clients do it, and then give them advice to improve afterward. Then, they let their clients compete. This level of independent entrepreneurial growth is the key factor for business coaching.
What Is Consulting?
Consultants help assess problems and give solutions by telling the company or employees what they need to do and what they need. Typically, consultants’ expertise is their main way of delivering results. Their success is often measured by their suggested solution, rather than whether the client listens to their solution.
Consultants are not the leader of applying their idea and are not accountable for how that idea is used. They have the option to support the implementation process using advice, or even by helping to lead, but they aren’t accountable at the end of it all. The main goal is to help a client by providing another point of view on what causes problems, and then recommend solutions to resolve those issues.
The main difference between coaching and consulting is who does the work to change the company. If you choose a consultant, they will most likely work to resolve a specific problem in your business. A coach, on the other hand, will guide you through a problem while showing you how to solve problems similarly in the future.
Differences in Coaching vs Consulting
Approach to Data
Consultants often choose to administer rigorous measurements and tests. They use these metrics to have specific recommendations for future actions. A coach may choose to give assessments, but are often less reliant on data and more reliant on the meaning of said data. Sometimes a client may need raw data, so a consultant would be best.
On the other hand, clients often want an idea of what their end goal is, and what they should value during any particular challenge. Sometimes in these cases, finding data can be quite difficult, and you should find a coach to help implement solutions.
Asking Questions vs. Providing Solutions
Business coaches ask more questions than they give answers, and any good business consultant should do the same. The main difference is how they ask them. Usually, consultants enter an “information gathering” mode when they ask questions, whereas good coaches are naturally curious. This is one of the main reasons that having a coach helps.
Even though clients hire both coaches and consultants for their expertise, they may often feel uncomfortable sharing the problems of their business. The truth is, often they will try to cover up the problems to make themselves look better, but that same client will open up and answer questions when talking to a naturally curious coach.
Guidance vs. Authority
Business coaches are focused on guiding a company to success, whereas business consultants will find specific solutions to your specific area of problems.
In theory, the main difference between the two lies in what each person is working on. A coach tries to improve you, whereas a consultant works on solving a problem in your business.
Building Capacity vs. Solving a Problem
Coaching is made to create capacity; that is its main problem to solve. Consulting is more designed to help a client solve a particular challenge. These two solutions are similar but often have different ways of getting to the same end goal. Consultants often help their clients to resolve a specific problem and permanently increase operations, reputation, or their competitive position. Coaching, instead, helps build leadership skills and team confidence so that a company can work effectively.
Types of Change
Whenever a client needs support for behavioral changes, such as improving time management, coaching is often the go-to tool. Consulting usually doesn’t focus on these behavioral types of changes, and instead focuses on industry-specific solutions. Because of this important difference, a coach will often change their approach from client to client, whereas a consultant may very well be able to use the same solutions on multiple occasions.
Types of Expertise
A consultant’s expertise is usually their main source of assistance with their clients, but that isn’t to say that coaches don’t have expertise, too. The difference between coaches and consultants is when they share it. Usually, consultants will share their expertise right when they open the door; coaches, on the other hand, first tend to look for what their client wants and what is going on. Once they have found the information they need, they share their expertise in a targeted manner, helping a client find exactly what they need.
The focus of coaching is on the client’s inner abilities and helping them to identify and improve those abilities. Consultants instead focus on the problem that needs attention immediately. This often means that a consultant’s work is more data driven, with results that are easier to quantify.
Consulting Offers More Strategic Advising Than Coaching
If you want to find answers to your strategic business problems (such as, for instance, how to improve marketing or sales flow), you may want to hire a consultant.
Consultants focus much more time on recommending solutions based on their expertise. This helps you to have more possible solutions for the future ands more options for the problem you’re dealing with now.
“You Know” vs. “I Know”
A good coach will work with you as an equal, or at least train you so you can get to that level. The coach is there, not to tell you the answers, but to help you find the answers for yourself. They help you to find the right question to ask, which then leads to the right answer. A consultant, on the other hand, will simply provide solutions and right answers based on an analysis of the situation.
Modes of Operation
Coaching is based on developing a client’s ability to solve the problem themselves, using tools given to them by the coach, such as goal setting and accountability. Consulting instead helps clients solve their problems then and there.
Even if only one person or company is paying them, a consultant will usually work with more than one person. Usually, consultants work with a team, group, board, or department.
Coaches instead work one-on-one, and on rare occasions, entire teams, and even then usually on an individual level. This allows coaches to help employees improve individually, which can make a world of difference.
Truth vs. Execution
Above all, the difference between coaching and consulting lies in truth vs. execution. Coaches try to pull answers from their clients, whereas consultants tell their clients what to do. When you have a coach, you walk away with the right strategies to find solutions to your problems. When you have a consultant, you get the tools that support you to move forward. Both are very useful, depending on your goal or intention.
Similarities in Coaching vs Consulting
Now that we have discussed the differences, let’s also discuss some of the similarities that the two jobs have and how they can both help a company.
Both coaches and consultants deliver results because of their expertise in their fields. They are both skilled in sharing knowledge in important areas. They work in all areas of a company, from c-suite to individual teams. Both are even well versed in the pros and cons of transformation options and the pros of organizational design.
Coaching and consulting also both aim for the same result: a better company. Both roles are invested in helping their clients succeed, and both offer support in any way that they can.
Coaching vs Consulting: Which Should You Choose?
You should hire a coach if:
- You need long-term assistance goals
- You need help to develop leadership skills
- You need insight for long-term growth
The final results of hiring a coach include personal growth, information on your next steps, and the framework for the business you want, on your terms.
You should hire a consultant if:
- You want to start, grow, or improve your marketing strategies
- You want set actions for the future
- You want to attract ideal clients
The final results of hiring a consultant include tools for future problems, extra support for gaps in your capabilities, and a better framework for the future.
Of course, both coaching and consulting can help any company, but in different ways. Knowing the difference between the two will help you to choose what you need and when you need it. Discussing coaching vs consulting is like deciding between a hammer and a screwdriver, both are great tools, but both help in different ways.
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