Key Differences Between Coaching And Consulting (And How To Decide What Your Business Needs)

Linda ReyesBlogging, Forbes Coaches Counsel

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 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:

All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.

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

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

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 who 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

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