What is the difference?
Consultants give expert advice to people while coaches support people in achieving their goals by facilitating thoughtful reflection and new approaches, creating immersive experiences, providing training and mentoring. Coaches will usually have mastery in particular domains like transformation, specific technical/functional areas or agility.
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In our recent podcast, I asked Lisa Duty, our Singapore Director,what her thoughts were on how they differ. Lisa has previously been a management consultant and is now an Enterprise Coach & Business Agility Strategist.
Describing her journey as a “reformed Management Consultant”, Lisa felt her previous well-intentioned approach was often taking ownership of the problem away from the client and solving the problem for them, rather than helping the organisation resolve it themselves. The lasting impact of the learning opportunity was therefore often missed.
For example, say a business wanted to establish some agility by doing Quarterly Planning instead of annual? A consultant might be engaged to help create a 90 day roadmap by facilitating sessions to understand the capacity of the teams and the requirements, then build out the roadmap with the best information available.
While this is a good outcome, has the organisation really learned, improved agility or taken ownership of their own portfolio of work they’re not adapting this planning into their way of working, including events such as Big Room Planning? Doing this regularly would introduce a strategic level of inspection and adaptation.
The role of a Coach is to help uplift the capability of the organisation to embrace agility by not just helping run these events but also imparting the full understanding of them to effectively and sustainably take the strategic intent through to delivery.
So, is coaching better than consulting?
When consulting is the focus
In the same view of Agile vs Waterfall, it’s not one or the other and they’re not mutually exclusive within an organisation, consulting is suited for some situations and coaching for others.
“There are some problems where clients will say, look, I really need help. I don’t have access to the right people and need an expert opinion or some guidance and that might be because pthey have gone down a certain road or a certain path, and then now to the state where something is so problematic, they can’t see the way out. And so we certainly go in, in some of those situations, exclusively doing consulting.” – Lisa
Sometimes in those situations the invitation to be coached may not be there and it is exclusively a consulting role. However, in most situations the benefit to uplifting in that capability we are consulting on, is recognised and desired.
When coaching is the focus
Putting aside whether we’re assisting in solving a problem or we’re helping an organisation achieve a bold objective, coaching is about introducing change in mindset and behaviours within organisational relationship systems, building their capability to achieve the desired outcomes themselves.
“Coaching groups of individuals whether they be teams or whether they be Executive teams and whole organisations, we’re still looking at as a human system but nevertheless even if we’re coaching very specific business problems or outcomes that need to be achieved, it’s still a very emotional thing because we’ve got to push them into a space where they’re not always comfortable and they can be vulnerable.” – Lisa
The aim is to help people build new skills, while holding space for them – and a bit of motivation thrown in, so that they can not only achieve their goals but continue into the future.
How to utilise a coach in your business
If you’ve brought a coach into your environment or you’re looking to, the key things to consider is not only what your objectives are but what capabilities are you looking to uplift.
“The solutions that coaches will always believe in are the solutions that the teams and the organisation themselves come up with. When developed with the right mindset & approach, they will always be better and certainly more fit for purpose than something that an external or a consultant comes up with.” – Lisa
Every individual, team and company is different, one approach is not going to fit all. At EPiC, we tend to lean more towards coaching because it’s more human-focused, helping clients to evolve themselves and their organisations while solving for their own problems and opportunities.