Coaching can help turn an entrepreneur into a great leader. Consulting, on the other hand, provides that much-needed expertise and assistance. Oftentimes, the lines between coaching and consulting can get blurred, creating a situation that is not effective at providing what the client actually needs.
Knowing when to employ the services of a coach or a consultant can be crucial for your business, either by helping you further develop your leadership skills or by helping you solve a problem head-on.
Below, 13 members of the Forbes Coaches Council share the key differences between coaching and consulting and why it is imperative to know when to select one over the other. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Truth Versus Execution
The main difference between coaching and consulting is that coaching pulls out answers from the client while consulting tells the client what to do. With coaching, you walk away with strategies for uncovering your truth on your own. With consulting, you get tools that can support you in moving forward and executing. Both can be useful depending on the client's goal and intention. - Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching
2. Instruction Versus Guidance
Say you're learning how to ride a bicycle. A consultant would ride the bicycle for a while and write you a "how-to" manual. A coach would have you get on the bicycle and walk alongside you, guiding you through the process until you felt confident enough to ride on your own. Hire a consultant when you need an expert who can teach you a process or method. Hire a coach when you want to discover yourself. - Leanne Wong, Leanne Wong
3. Building Capacity Versus Solving A Problem
Coaching is the building of capacity. Consulting is helping the client resolve a particular business challenge. The two can be related, but in our work, we typically differentiate between consulting (helping a client address or resolve a specific challenge to operations, reputation, or competitive position) and coaching (helping a leader or team inspire confidence and lead effectively). - Helio Fred Garcia, Logos Consulting Group
4. Outside Expertise Or Internally-Driven Growth
A consultant is usually a subject matter expert who provides technical and professional advice to clients based on their significant understanding, knowledge, and experience. A coach, however, helps clients find their own clarity and answers and assists them to understand how to move forward in achieving their goals and grow personally. - Rose Cartolari, Rose Cartolari Consulting
5. Exploring Versus Providing Possibilities
When you coach, you explore possibilities. When you consult, you provide possibilities. Knowing the difference enables you to provide the greatest value to your customer. When you're are coaching, you help them explore possibilities for themselves that they might not see. When you consult, you take those possibilities and provide them with options based on your knowledge and experience. - Alan Trivedi, Trivedi Coaching & Consulting Group
6. "You Know" Versus "I Know"
The role of a coach is to work as your equal. The coach is there to help you find the answers for yourself. They are a sounding board that provides the right questions to get you to think of the solutions. A consultant is an expert who is there to provide the "right" answers to you based on their analysis of the situation. They ask the right questions to give you the answer. - Marie Pawlak, Planning101 Group
7. Guidance Versus Authority
Developing clients to build to their potential is more an act of coaching which may derive from the client. Technical and subject matter expertise is expected from a consultant. As a career coach, I may not understand coding at the level my client does, but I can guide them to a better, more effective job search. As a consultant, I speak as an authority about the job market, search, and recruiting. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.
8. Recommendation Versus Exploration
Consultants diagnose a problem and make a recommendation. From there, they take the client somewhere based on what they believe is best. Coaches do not diagnose problems; rather, they partner with clients to determine the biggest questions they want to explore and create an experience for the client to arrive at their own answers, based on what the client believes will work best. - Sharma Graham, M.A.D.E. To Lead
9. Asking Questions Versus Providing Solutions
There is a clear distinction between coach and consultant. A good coach is a good listener, they let silence do the work. They seek to understand through thoughtful and sincere inquiry without judgment. And they guide the client to see solutions for themselves by asking and not telling. Consultants, on the other hand, provide solutions. Long-lasting clarity and growth come from within. - John J Fenton, John J Fenton, Executive Coaching
10. Different Approach With The Same Intent
In coaching, answers and solutions are self-generated by a client with the coach as facilitator; in consulting, answers and solutions are provided by the consultant as a subject matter expert. While the end result is similar -- supporting a client’s learning, choices, and right action -- the approach and process are quite different. - Cynthia Moffatt, BreakPoint Solutions
11. Focus On Problem Or On Client
In my mind, the key difference between coaches and consultants is where the focus is. In consulting, the focus is on the problem, and the consultant offers up best practices to address the problem. In coaching, the focus is on the client, and on helping them tap into their own ability to solve the problems and challenges that emerge in work and life. - Billy Williams, Archegos
12. Advice Versus Empowerment
Coaches are trained to empower the client to make their own decisions. Experienced coaches know how to ask the right questions to help motivate the client to come up with their own solutions so they feel empowered to move forward in their life or business on their own terms. Consultants are hired to give expert advice in their field. Both can help you grow tremendously. - Kerissa Kuis, The University of Wellness
13. Difference Lies In Who The Expert Is
Coaches assume the client is the expert in their business. Through active inquiry and thought-provoking questions, a coach helps the client solve their own problems. With a consultant, they are the assumed expert. Understanding this is important because coaching produces meaningful and lasting changes over the short and long term, where consulting generally produces short-term answers to a specific problem. - Chuck Gulledge, Chuck Gulledge Advisors