Terri Levine

Article Summary:

What’s the difference between a coach and a consultant, and which should you choose for your needs?

The Difference Between A Coach and a Consultant

Coaching involves working with people who usually, but not always, already have some degree of success but are “stuck” and want to move forward and don’t know how. There is, in coach-speak, a “gap” between where they are right now and where they want to be, and this may involve their professional career or their personal life, or both. This may also be on a larger corporate scale or on a small individual level.

Coaching is a co-creative process. Coaches assist clients to accomplish their life goals and dreams and discover and fulfill their purpose in life in a process that involves the client 100%. So, regardless of whether the issue is career related or personal, a Coach will help you find out what it is you really want out of life and “coach” you to achieve it. Coaching is always about YOU. Coaches are non-judgmental and do not provide therapy or tell you what you should do next. You hire a Coach to assist you to design the life you want – not the life thrust upon you by circumstances or parental influence. If you want more of the same, that is somebody else’s ideas, you hire a consultant.

Coaches also assist career professionals who have forgotten how to “have a life” and no longer have work/life balance. With the increase in company downsizing and added pressures applied to many career executives, more and more of these stressed out individuals hire coaches to help them ease into a new career or start their own business, or just cope with what they are currently doing with more ease and joy. And they do all this without advising.

Advising is something that consultants do, and in asking a Consultant for advice, you are asking for answers and solutions and action steps you should take to reach a certain result. A coach helps you find the answers to your issues yourself, and in so doing, you learn more about what is really important to you in life, and you become more responsible and more aware on more levels. If you are tired of being told what to do and of living your life according to other people’s rules, desires, wishes, and expectations and want to be successful and happy and fulfilled on YOUR terms, in a way that is perfect for you, then you hire a Coach.

The Difference At A Glance

Coaches use a process of powerful questions that taps into the client’s own “inner wisdom”. They don’t provide the answers for you or tell you what to do. You ask for and receive answers and solutions, given from the consultant’s perspective – their “wisdom”. You are expected to follow the advice and often left to motivate yourself to move forwards.
Coaches stay with you while you implement your action plan and remind you about all the other important aspects of your plan that you’d otherwise forget and ignore, such as life/work balance, staying on track, reminding you of other choices you can make, helping you through obstacles, and generally, keeping you focused and accountable. Consultants deliver their report/action plan, then their job is done. It is up to you to implement it, follow through and remain self-motivated.
The Coach will help you do it YOUR way. If you hire a Consultant for their answers, the idea is that you do it THEIR way; after all, that’s what you are paying them for.
A coach will assist you to achieve your goals, but looks at it from YOUR perspective and assists you in a way that is your way. Coaches care what is important to you, what resonates for you, what is comfortable for you, what brings you joy, what sends you to sleep, and so on… A consultant isn’t interested whether something is boring to you, or difficult, or doesn’t suit your personality, or doesn’t matter to you, or what brings you immense joy and satisfaction… that is not part of what they need or want to know. When you ask a consultant for advice, you are getting an answer based on their experience and their personal outlook and their view of your situation from their perspective.
A coach will change direction with you when you want/need to change direction. Unless your ‘change’ is really a disastrous move, your Coach will not ‘judge’ or make you do something different. There is not the flexibility here that you have with a Coach. You do it the way the Consultant says. A simple change of direction is a whole new ball game.
Coaches take a broader view of all issues affecting your career/life and incorporate strategies in a holistic sense. Consultants are only concerned with the situation you contracted them to deal with. Anything outside that is not in the equation.

In some respects, Coaching is a form of consulting, in that Coaches assist you to solve problems, reach goals, design action plans, and create the desired results. However, unlike Consultants, Coaches also help you move away from the things that don’t work in your life, toward things that are more in line with who you really are and what you really want. Life transitions are easier to navigate when worked through with a coach compared to trying to do it on your own. Typically, these types of assistance are not provided with consulting.

If you have no idea what you want to do, all you know is you are not happy right “now”, a Coach will help you identify that which truly fulfills you, and establish your “goals”, and encourage you to set even better goals that will stretch your boundaries, yet still be in line with who you are and what you want. Then they will help you reach those goals in a way that resonates with you. You will focus with more clarity and obtain results more easily and quickly – all without being told what to do. Your Coach will expect more from you than you would do on “your own”, and will provide you with the support to see your dreams turned into reality.

But don’t expect a Coach to advise you, although there are Coaches who are also Consultants and will blend the two processes in your favor, with the preference being that you still march to your own drum. When you receive a consultant’s advice, you march to the beat of their drum. The question then becomes one of “whose drum would you rather march to?”

Any expert “advice” you receive might be professionally accurate and workable, but might not be something you can work with easily and comfortably – it may not resonate with who you are. It may be very sound advice, and if followed, may achieve the desired outcome, but there are other ways to reach the same “destination” that are more in line with who you are and what you are comfortable doing.

Coaches deliver the goods over a period of months – they don’t just hand you a report and go away. When you hire a Coach, even though you won’t be told what to do, you will take more successful action more quickly, you will stop putting up with whatever has been holding you back or putting you down, and you will get more of what you want in life. Even though a Coach won’t advise you, they can show you new possibilities or options you had not thought of, however, they won’t make up your mind for you – you make up your own mind. Obviously, when receiving advice from a consultant, you don’t need to make up your mind – the consultant makes up his mind for you, which is fine for some people.

A Coach will offer feedback and examine areas of weakness in your plans and goals and assist to look for opportunities for improvement. Some may even offer suggestions to help your own creative process, but the choices and ultimate decision making is always yours. They use a process of powerful questioning to help you uncover your own answers and solutions, and in the end, what you will have accomplished is in line with your desires and goals – not what somebody else thinks is “the way it should be done.”

So, in a nutshell, advising entails telling you what to do and you doing it. Coaching supports and facilitates YOU choosing what is right for you in a way that assists you to achieve your goals. With advice, you do it somebody else’s way; with coaching, you do it your way.

As Frank Tyger said, “The trouble with advice is that you cannot tell if it is good or bad until you’ve taken it.”

Coaches won’t put you in that precarious position. They will listen fully to you, give feedback and ask you to dig deeper. You will uncover possibilities and your Coach may give you some more to ‘consider’. Your Coach will encourage you to explore the options but will never give you the answers – because your coach is not you – and making the choices, finding the solutions, etc. comes from you.

Finally, does it matter? It does if you honor yourself and respect your right to make your own choices and do those things that resonate with who you are. There is more than one way to dance a fling and when it comes to the crunch, our own steps are always the most enjoyable and easiest to ‘dance’. A coach will never tell you what steps to do and you always remain the choreographer of your own dance. Rumba, anyone?

Terri Levine, MCC, PCC, MS, CCC-SLP, is the Founder of Comprehensive Coaching ? The Professional’s Coach Training Program. A popular Master Certified personal and business Coach, Terri is also a sought after Public Speaker. She is the author of the bestsellers “Stop Managing, Start Coaching”, “Work Yourself Happy”, “Coaching for an Extraordinary Life” and “Create Your Ideal Body”. She can be contacted via the web site at: TerriLevine.com or by telephone: 215-699-4949.

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