Q: What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Consulting?
I am often asked what the difference is between coaching and consulting. There is a big difference. Consultants typically come into an organization for some period of time to do a project, solve a problem, build some process, or offer advice to management. In many cases, tools (software programs, technology, or processes) are used. Consultants usually provide their service and then move on to other clients or projects. They don’t have a vested interest in the success of any one individual. They are more concerned with the organization or a specific project/problem.
Coaches work with individuals and spend their time trying to find ways to make them better at what they do, help them avoid the mistakes that can hold their organizations back, and push them to do things they may otherwise have avoided.
Of course, there are times when this is exactly what you need. I know… I have used consultants in my business for decades. They have their place and they can often help a company do things it couldn’t do on its own. When appropriate, find a good consultant that has the expertise your organization lacks, and use them. I supplemented my company’s weaknesses by finding good consultants to fill in the holes.
On the other hand, coaching is a much more personal thing. Coaches work with individuals and spend their time trying to find ways to make them better at what they do, help them avoid the mistakes that can hold their organizations back, and push them to do things they may otherwise have avoided. There is definitely a level of accountability having a coach work with you. Coaching is long term. It’s typical to work with a coach for a prolonged period of time. A strong relationship develops between you and your coach. Of course, this means that there has to be some chemistry there. Although some coaches use tools (I use 360 surveys and other analysis tools from time-to-time), they still focus on the individual.
Coaches work with people, not businesses. You may be a CEO or high level executive, but you show up for your coaching session as a human being, with all of the baggage and assumptions that human beings have. Great coaches know this, and work with each person on a very personal level, structuring their coaching to suit that particular person’s needs, personality, and concerns.
When you need something done, hire a consultant. When you need to do something yourself, hire a coach.
Q: Why Do I Need an Executive Coach?
Everyone needs a coach. Even I have a coach! A coach is a non-judgmental person who can help you develop in areas where you are weak. They help push you along, getting you to do things you didn’t think you could do, or more importantly, doing things you avoided doing. Think of a coach like a personal trainer…someone who pushes you to achieve more, encourages you while still showing you the right way to do something, and holds you accountable when you slack off.
Let’s take a look at Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game. How many coaches do you think Tiger Woods has? At least five that I am aware of. He has a putting coach, a pitching coach, a nutritionist, a personal trainer, and a swing coach. Maybe more! If the best golfer in the world needs five coaches, how many do you need to be the best in the world at what you do?
Tiger Woods has all of these coaches because he always wants to get better at his game. He is constantly trying to improve so he can stay the best. And there are other athletes that have multiple coaches, even though they are at the top of their game. Coaches can help us become the best at what we do, and help us to remain at the top of our corporate game.
Sometimes we need a coach for a very specific problem we are struggling with. Maybe we need to be better at developing our staff. Or perhaps we have been having difficulty dealing with disruptive employees. Or maybe we have been hiring people that don’t seem to work out.
Whatever the situation, becoming better at dealing with these types of issues is a key objective of coaching.
Q: What Do Coaches Do?
A great coach listens to you. He/she needs to really understand what you are struggling with. A coach asks questions that go below the surface to find the real issues that are causing you to lose sleep or wring your hands over a particular issue. Your coach will structure a program that identifies where you may be weak or where you lack expertise, and then pushes (or sometimes, pulls) you to overcome those weaknesses so you can achieve success, both in your life and in your business.
Really great coaches have a strong depth of experience so they can dig down into their own past (and of others they have coached) to recognize situations that are similar, what was done, and what results were achieved. Intuition is particularly important for a great coach. I know for a fact, that I can hear one of my clients talking about an issue they are struggling with, and I can immediately feel a sense of déjà vu, because either I have been there before, or I worked with someone who had a similar problem. I can use this experience to help the person I am working with develop a strategy to solve the problem. In many cases, they have an epiphany.
In some cases, my client just needs someone to vent to, and I’m that guy…sitting there and listening to them get something off their chests. There is no one else they can go to for this. They need an outside person, with no vested interest in their organization, to listen to what they have to say, and be non-judgmental about it. The coach becomes their guide, mentor, confidant, and teacher.
Anyone that has ever had a coach will tell you how powerful and productive that experience has been. If they can’t say that, they had a bad coach.
Q: What kind of results can I expect after having a coach work with me?
It’s often hard to measure the results of coaching in a purely analytical way. Metrics for a specific issue might be tough to develop. But measuring success is not impossible. When someone decides to hire a coach, there is usually a reason. There is some issue or problem to solve, or some weakness they want to overcome. You and the coach need to lay out what those issues are, and determine what does success look like. In essence, define for each other what results you expect to achieve from the coaching. Once you have agreed to the expected outcome, you have a goal to work towards. If you agree to a metric, for example, “I want to decrease my employee turnover by 20%,” then you can have a measurement to evaluate success. If the goal is “I want to be better at dealing with disruptive employees,” then the end result will be measured more by how you and your coach feel you are progressing based on anecdotal information and your description of how you are NOW handling these kinds of employees vs. how you previously handled them. I often hear a client say something like: “Mike, I have to tell you how I handled Bob’s outburst the other day. I did exactly what we talked about, and he calmed down almost immediately. It was so much better than the last time he had an outburst.” That’s a measurement of success that’s not a metric.
Ultimately, only you can tell if you are making progress and achieving the skills and capabilities you need to be successful. But, let me say this… when you are getting better at something, you will definitely know it.
Q: What Does it Cost to Retain an Executive Coach?
Most coaches charge per hour or per assignment. I usually charge $500 per hour for my coaching services. That’s based on individuals getting one or two hours per month. However, if someone wants me to do more hours, or we determine they need more, that price can decrease a little. Some clients put me on a retainer, and I guarantee them a certain amount of time each month, including phone conversations and face-to-face meetings, all for a fixed fee. In other cases, they want me to work with their entire management team. When that happens, there are some reductions in cost because I can be in one location for a longer period of time. The bottom line is that coaching needs to be flexible, and I understand that, so I will usually structure a program that meets an individual’s needs and fits their budget.