From Consulting to Coaching: How is Coaching Different from Consulting

Having been a management consultant for many years, one of the questions that intrigued me was how is coaching really different from consulting and how can I be a better coach given my consulting background. I had the mistaken notion that being a management consultant all these years automatically made me a good professional coach. One of the things I learned is that the mindset and approach is different.

Coaching involves working with clients or “coachees” to help them maximize their personal and professional potential. While this can mean a lot of things, however, the focus of coaching is the coachee, that is, helping her to clarify her developmental goals, determine alternative courses of action, moving forward to achieve her goals, and holding her accountable for these.

While there are various niches of coaching, such as executive coaching, team coaching, life coaching, performance coaching, business coaching, and more, the essence is that it is the coachee who is ultimately responsible developing greater self awareness, gaining insights about herself and what may be keeping her from moving forward, for assessing the choices available to her, and for deciding and taking a course of action. The coachee works on and with herself with the coach as a facilitator, not as an adviser, mentor or consultant. Personal change and growth happens from the inside out.

Consulting involves working with organizations to analyze business problems or challenges and providing advice and solutions, including helping the client to implement these. Consultants are typically engaged because they are domain or subject matter experts in a particular industry, a particular business line, a functional or process or other specialization. They are expected to address the business challenges with implementable and working solutions that enable the client to achieve the desired business outcomes.

From my coaching experience, I’ve learned that I am not there to “fix” the coachee, as the coachee does not need or want fixing. I am not there to do something to the coachee, but rather I must have strong coaching presence so that the coachee and I take our evolving journey together. I go with flow while also influencing the conversation to achieve the coachee’s desired goals and outcomes.

From my consulting experience, the consultant was always expected to analyze and solve the problem, or to analyze the new business requirements, draw up the action plan to get from point A to point B, help organize and run the project implementation teams, and actually implement the change. Thus, in other words, the consultant is expected to “make things happen,” “make things work,” and “get things done” while working with her client counterparts.

Definitions of Interest

There are many definitions of coaching and management consulting, nevertheless, these selected ones help to clarify these two professions.

Coaching: “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. It is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses, or organizations.”

– The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is recognized worldwide as the credentialing organization for professional coaches. http://www.coachfederation.org/

Management Consulting: “Management consulting indicates both the industry of, and the practice of, helping organizations improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing business problems and development of plans for improvement. A management consultant is a professional who, for a fee, provides independent and objective advice to the management of client organizations to define and achieve their goals through improved utilization of resources. He or she may do this by diagnosing problems and/or opportunities, recommending solutions, and helping implement improvement.”

– The Institute of Certified Management Consultants of the Philippines (ICMCP) is an institute affiliated with The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI). The ICMCS is an international membership organisation and a network of the management advisory and consultancy associations and institutes worldwide, who have a common purpose and shared values and goals. http://www.cmcphilippines.org/ http://www.icmci.org/home

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