Business

A Coach or a Consultant or a Trainer? Here’s How to Know.

The terms coaching, training, and consulting are thrown about by clients, believing they are interchangeable. In reality, each solution has a unique impact on you and your people.


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The terms coaching, training, and consulting are thrown about by clients; believed to be interchangeable and to solve people problems in the exact same way. In reality, the distinction is very different, and each solution must be deployed in accordance with the need, to get the biggest impact and your desired result.

In short, we explain the difference between consulting, coaching, and training this way:

Consulting – tells your people what to do.

Coaching – asks provocative questions to create an environment where people want to do (act.)

Training – teaches a skill so they know how to do.

In long…

Consulting: Consultants assess, prescribe solutions, and tell employees or companies what to do when they are in need. Consultants are typically experts in their industry, have an agenda and give answers to their clients. Their success is usually measured by the deployment of the solution or answer to the client, not if the client has successfully deployed the solution on their own, or if the solution is necessarily accurate.

Related: 5 Skills that Should be a Part of Every Manager’s Training

Consultants have the know-how and have been known to transfer solutions directly to executives or leadership teams who are then expected to communicate down using their own desired methodology, which might include training or coaching. 

Coaching:  A coach’s objective is to help a person or company, or department get unstuck,” to want to progress, elevate and move forward through action. A coach’s goal is to get a client from their present state to a future, successful state. Leaders love to deploy a coach when they have an employee or group that is great and adding value but isn’t fulfilling his or their potential.

A coach encourages clients by asking open-ended questions that the clients may never have asked themselves. The answers to these questions are used by the employee to create new thoughts which ultimately create new feelings that propel new actions or changes. The employee will propel because she wants to move forward, not because she’s told to move forward. A coach isn’t attached to the client’s outcome; while the coach may care about the person she is coaching and helping him/her to move forward, the coach is not attached to the decision the employee makes. 

Training:  Training should be deployed when there’s a need to teach a specific skill. It’s deployed when a person or group doesn’t know how to do something. Training is typically delivered within a group however facilitators can teach one-on-one when deemed necessary. facilitators understand adult learning styles and how to construct engaging training to ensure participants learn and retain new skills to therefore apply the new skills when on the job. 

Coaching, consulting, and facilitation are completely unique deliverables and knowing when to deploy the ideal solution and talent is the secret sauce. There are situations (more often than not actually), where all skills are required at different times as a result of the client’s ultimate goals.

Related: 7 Key Considerations to Finding the Right Business Coach

For example, a consultant may be working with an automotive dealership with a goal of increasing profitability and she determines their sales process is broken. She will tell the dealer what is not efficient and then provide a solution by providing a new/updated process (tell). The dealer then hires a Facilitator to teach the new sales process to the sales team (skill), however, the sales manager is not on board (stuck). At this point, a coach is deployed to get the manager to want to deploy and support the new direction and team.

As a leader, we can’t always hire an expert coach, consultant or facilitator; we must play the ideal role to either tell, teach, or help to get our people unstuck. Regardless if you’re using a hired hand or you’re on your own, knowing the difference between these three skillsets, which to deploy and having the expertise to do so, is a game-changer for your company and most importantly, the people within.


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