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The Difference Between Coaches and Consultants

Coaches guide you to find your own solutions, while consultants lay out recommendations. Know the difference before hiring one.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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  • Have you noticed how everyone seems to be a coach nowadays? Pull up LinkedIn and type in "coach," and the sheer volume of offerings may surprise you. And then there are consultants. They too have a heavy presence online--collectively including over 700,000 people. They appear to have the solutions to all of your problems as a business owner. However, it can be confusing to know which type of service fits your needs and who is qualified.

Before enlisting anyone to help you or your team, you must know the difference between coaches and consultants. The short answer: A coach takes you on a self-reflecting journey to uncover your own blind spots and grow in certain areas. A consultant will instruct you on what to do and how to do it to obtain a result. Both coaches and consultants are there to help you, but it's the method of doing so that differs. 

As an avid cowgirl, I hired a horse trainer to help me train my stud colt. While I sat on the horse, he watched from below. He noted things like how I was sitting, using my legs, and holding my reins, all aspects I was unable to see or feel. Using these observations, he guided me to adjust to accomplish what I needed from the horse. He helped me discover my blind spots using his outside perspective. This is an example of coaching, through observation and questions, he allowed me to find the answers on my own.  

On the flip side, a consultant focuses on the end result. A friend reached out recently asking me to consult him in finding a new job. In doing so, I first created a plan for him to find a position. I assigned him homework to write down his "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves" and what types of companies he might want to work for. I then guided him through each step of the search process. He eventually took his current position, and my work was done. Consulting is greatly tied to a specific goal, while coaching involves self-discovery. 
In determining whether coaching or consulting is right for you, consider which process suits you and your company. Coaching is extremely detailed and takes many hours of critical thinking to complete. Consulting is straightforward and goal-oriented, but much of the work is left to you once it's spelled out. 

Check their qualifications.

With the current trend of self-employment and side gigs replacing traditional office work, coaching and consulting have become hot alternatives to 9-to-5 jobs. Check online and you'll find many "quick" options to gain a title, so it's important to decipher between those who are qualified and those who aren't.  

Please don't Google "coach" or "consultant" and contact the first one to appear. They may have an amazing SEO team, but what about their qualifications? It's worth diving deeper before reaching out. Read their client reviews and always check their experience: What course did they take? How long have they been coaching/consulting? If you see a wide range of unrelated positions and then a "coach" title, it's a red flag.  

I must also note that some promote themselves as coaches who are actually consultants. If seeking a coach, ask them to define coaching and how it works before you sign any contract. This will help you determine if they are a coach or a consultant. The same goes when searching for a consultant. It is also possible that someone is both a consultant and a coach, like me. Now that you know the process, you should be able to weed out the fakes.  

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