Confusing Coaching with Consulting

There’s a lot of confusion in the coaching industry (and those hiring coaches) about the differences between coaching and consulting.

A significant amount of this confusion arises from the fact that the vast majority of those calling themselves coaches aren’t actually coaching. At best, they’re providing a blend of coaching and consulting, without distinguishing the two. (At worst, they’re giving advice and cheerleading).

This inability of most coaches to distinguish this creates significant breakdowns for their clients, and leads to dissatisfied clients that were expecting coaching results from consulting conversations.

Coaching Results

Coaching results are based in breakthroughs. 

They blast through what has been holding the client back in their life and leadership up to this point, and have them create a new way of being from which they will never return.

We’re talking caterpillar into butterfly.

Effective coaching does not incrementally move the client forward and help them overcome the problem du-jour. 

It completely shifts the way the client shows up in the world, and in doing so, obliterates those kinds of problems from ever showing up again.

Coaching addresses the being of the client or organization. It addresses everything hidden beneath your consciousness that you can’t see, but which dramatically impacts your results.

These are not the results of consulting. Consulting provides expert advice, and is rooted in addressing the doing of the client.

A consultant may have brilliant advice for you, but if your being doesn’t align with theirs, it’s not going to create any real shift. More often than not, it leads to frustration and incremental change.

“Take these actions, follow these steps.”

“Have a difficult conversation using these kinds of words instead of those kinds of words.”

We can follow steps, but if the real breakdown is in the way we show up in relationship, it doesn’t matter how refined your language is - until you gain awareness of your way of being, no amount of action will shift your results.

Consulting Conversations

People generally want the kind of results that coaching creates, but from the kind of conversations that consultants have.

People want transformation and breakthroughs (who doesn’t?), but they want to create it by being told what to do, and given advice to follow.

People want the rewards of coaching, with the risks of consulting.

This isn’t how coaching works.

Coaching is client-driven — not coach-driven.

Coaching has you step into the unknown — it has you develop your ability to show up in the face of not knowing. 

Consulting removes the need to be with the unknown — it arms you with information so that you can avoid being in situations where you don’t know what to do.

Coaching increases your exposure to risk (is there anything riskier than stepping out of your comfort zone into the unknown?). 

Consulting reduces it (here are the expert steps to follow — do these and you will succeed).

Coaching develops leaders. (You are the expert. Let’s see how you’re getting in your way).

Consulting develops followers. (I am the expert. Here are the steps for you to follow).

A time and a place

There’s a time and a place for both. 

Sometimes it’s not the right time to take on breakthroughs. Sometimes, you’re not interested in stepping in to the unknown.

Sometimes, you just want to know the next steps to take to keep the ship moving forward.

Coaching and consulting are both valuable modalities — just be clear on the results that you’re intending to generate, and choose accordingly.