Coach vs. consultant: what’s the difference?

When I speak with people about coaching, I am regularly asked something along the lines of: “What’s the difference between what a coach does and what a consultant does?”

Many business people are familiar with hiring consultants. Typically, consultants are brought on as experts who offer advice, knowledge, and solutions. In essence, consultants are paid to offer answers. Trainers and teachers can also perform a similar function. With these approaches, a client is told the knowledge or information, told what information is key, and may be told what they need to do.

With coaching, the driver of progress is the client. The client is never told – instead they are the holders of the answers. A coach asks powerful questions to spark ideas and to draw out knowledge or insights already present in the client. The coach also acts as an accountability partner to ensure that solutions are implemented and forward action is maintained.

There is some overlap between the roles of coach and consultant. Both may work with the client to define priorities and set goals. Both may function as a thinking partner or strategist.

I would argue that the roles of coach and consultant are complementary. In fact, a coach can be an excellent resource to sustain change – by working with a client after training has finished or after a consultant’s recommendations have been implemented.

In an era in which knowledge doubles every few months, there is a need for experts to impart their knowledge, and there is also a need for coaches who enable clients to unlock their creativity and adaptability.

About the author

Steven Steven Moyes is an executive and career coach who works with emerging leaders, executives, and business owners to define what they want to achieve, develop an effective strategic plan, and get extraordinary results. steven@forward-edge.ca

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