When you are faced with a challenge and become stuck, you may seek the services of one or more of these professionals:
- a consultant
- a lawyer
- an accountant
- a therapist
- a mentor
- a personal coach
- or some other advisor.
However, your self-selecting choice matters.
Choosing the wrong expert can waste time, money and put your organization on the wrong course of action. That is why knowing what kind of help you need and who is best able to supply that specific type of help is important.
The water can be muddy when sorting out the roles advisors play today; especially, when many consultants, therapists, lawyers and mentors may also call themselves personal or business coaches. When you really need a professional coach, it would be a mistake to engage to some other professional.
Personally, I am a recovering management consultant. At some point, it seemed to me that solutions for client problems seldom became a permanent fix due to leadership blind spots preventing seeing why the problem arose in the first place. So, I began doing more business and executive coaching by helping clients to fix their own problems and personally excel in their personal and professional lives.
Yet, few potential clients seem to know what a business coach is and does---many continue to categorize me as a consultant. Conversely, management consultant firms are working to transform themselves into becoming more coach-like since personal and business coaching works well in situations where consulting may not.
So, what's the difference between coaching and consulting?
A consultant is brought into an organization because of his or her knowledge and experience to solve a specific business problem. The consultant proactively solves the problem and then disengages. Whereas a coach is brought in to guide the executive or business owner in solving their problem and then disengages. The difference is subtle but important.
The coach assists the client to understand whatever is causing the problem so the client can solve the problem today and when or if it reoccurs. Whereas, the consultant knows or discovers what caused the problem, solves the problem and leaves without transferring this knowledge to the client. When the problem reoccurs, the client may simply call the consultant in again to resolve the problem, time-after-time.
If you are willing to call or recall someone to fix problems as they occur, call a consultant. If you want to learn what is causing the problem and how best to fix it now and in the future, call a coach. The choice is yours.