Coaching and consulting are services offered by professionals in many areas. These words are often used interchangeably, despite the fact that they are actually distinct services. Simply put, coaching is helping a client to work through a situation and find their own solution, while consulting is offering advice and/or ideas. Coaches guide exploration; consultants advise. Both coaching and consulting have value, for different situations and purposes. So, which one is right for you?
Coaching might be for you if you don’t like being told what to do. If you have a lot of great ideas or strong opinions, but you aren’t sure exactly how to put them into action, then coaching is a great option. If you know what you want to do, but you haven’t been able to get it done, coaching can help. Or, if you want help exploring and organizing your thoughts, analyzing a problem, or making complex decisions, coaching is for you. Anybody who wants a good listener to help them sort through their situation would likely be served well by a coach. Coaches can help their clients make progress in many areas of life.
On the other hand, consulting might be for you if you just want somebody to tell you what you should do. Consulting is more of a “quick fix;” although it doesn’t necessarily mean low effort, consultants offer advice that is tried-and-true. If you want some outside ideas to solve a problem you are having, consulting may be a great option. If you have no idea where to start, consulting can help. Anybody who wants expert advice in an area they may not feel confident in would likely be served well by a consultant. Consultants can help educate their clients in a specific area.
Coaching and consulting as professions both have no legal definitions, but there are various forms of training and certification from individual organizations for both. As an example, I was trained through the Christian Coach Institute, which offers their own certification as well as a pathway for certification through the International Coach Federation. There are many coaching schools and overseeing organizations, and this is just one example. The word “consultant” is used more loosely, and can mean any number of things. Frequently, a consultant is a person who is considered an expert in some area. Companies may have consultants who use their products or services to help clients. Other consultants, such as myself, may be self-taught and simply using their personal experience to advise others.
Hopefully, this short article has been helpful in clarifying what I mean when I say that I offer both coaching and consulting services. As a professional, I will always strive to be very clear about when I am providing which service to my clients.