Have you heard the word “coachsulting” and wondered, “What buzzword will people come up with next?” You’re not alone! The term is new and refers to people who have skills of both consultant and coach. First, let’s be clear on the difference between coaching and consulting.
What Is Coaching?
Typically in a coaching engagement, the coach asks powerful questions that help the client navigate their thoughts and generate an answer that already lies within them. A coach:
- Aids by enabling learning, not teaching
- Is not limited by a personal relationship
- Is growth-focused
- Does not need to be an expert in a specific industry
- Has goals related to performance, results and outcomes
What Is Consulting?
In a consulting engagement, the consultant acts as a subject matter expert through content or experience and provides advice, answers or resources to the customer. A consultant:
- Works with more than one person in groups, teams, department or boards
- Executes specific deliverables, gathers data and reports on that data
- Is problem-focused
- Is regarded as the expert who will help identify and solve problems
- Has goals related to programs, processes or systems
What Is Coachsulting?
Coachsulting provides both coaching and consulting services to the same clients under the same engagement. The goal is to provide one-on-one sessions that are tailored to the client’s specific personal and professional development needs. The engagement could entail a mix of coaching, training, advice and guidance at various points in the relationship based on the client’s needs. Coachsulting sessions are designed to enhance, develop and support leadership skills. Whether an individual is transitioning to leadership, an established leader or an individual contributor, the fusion of services is meant to help them achieve personal and professional goals.
The Argument for Coachsulting
Leadership development isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. The coachsulting approach provides an individual focus with less emphasis on broad conversations when the priority is a solution to a specific problem. The pace of the engagement can be adjusted to suit the individual.
Occasionally, when a person or organization is working with both a coach and a consultant, there is a disconnect between each person’s recommendations. It isn’t a matter of one person’s being right and one person’s being wrong but simply two people looking at the same issue from different perspectives. Having one person serve as both consultant and coach can enable cohesiveness. As a coach, the coachsultant guides the client to decide what they want to do, and as a consultant, they teach the client how to do it.
The Argument Against Coachsulting
There is a place for both coaching and consulting services, but can they really be mixed? The goals and approach of each are different. One approach may supersede the other if the coachsultant is more comfortable using one skill set over the other. For example, if the client believes they are being coached, and the coachsultant is consulting (giving advice) instead, how would the client recognize that the advice is is feasible, sustainable and meeting their true need?
Coachsulting in Action
Let’s say you are contracted to work with a new team manager for the next three months. The manager is tasked with launching a suite of online learning for the organization within a tight timeline. At the start of your engagement, she needs guidance and resourcing on the design, development and delivery of the online learning program. These initial needs fall into the consultative category. Based on your expertise in launching online learning programs, you can provide best practices, resources and advice.
After working with you for three weeks, the manager is running into challenges with team buy-in of the new launch, because her team members feel that the former online learning program was adequate. The manager is also struggling with giving feedback to individuals on deliverables that don’t meet the quality expectations of the executive team. Coaching would be the best approach to address these challenges. Your role would be to ask powerful questions that allow her to develop her own solutions. Coaching gives her the opportunity to create a solution that she is likely to implement, that is authentic to her style and that works in the context of her team. During the three-month engagement with the manager, you would shift from consultant to coach based on her needs at a given time.