Evaluating Certifications: Finding the Right Mentor for Your Organization
In terms of age and history, consulting and coaching are both very young professions. In the past 30-40 years they have been developed so that most—if not all—industries have access to qualified and capable consultants and coaches. Consultants have a longer history, having been around since the end of World War II, while Executive Coaches have gained traction more recently. In today’s market, both are seen as useful sources of specialized guidance and are often engaged not only to right a corporate ship, but also to anticipate upcoming challenges in order to well-position an individual or organization to succeed in the future.
Why Engage a Consultant or Coach?
In the early days of Coaching, having a coach engaged for an employee was something of a negative sign; it was an indicator that this was a last-ditch attempt by the company to avoid firing an underperforming team member. As times have changed, so have corporate attitudes towards coaching. No longer is there a stigma surrounding individual mentorship or guidance in the workplace.
Today, many mid-to-large size companies and many more governmental agencies regard hiring a coach or consultant as an attractive value proposition.
To those who are unfamiliar with consulting and coaching, the two professions may seem like different titles for the same job: after all, both of these titles indicate that an outside party is coming in to assist and guide another organization. While this is the case, the differences between the two roles and their respective functions means that Coaching and Consulting are indeed two distinct fields.
However, there are important facets in which these two roles overlap:
- The need for a strong focus on clear communication.
- The dedication to actionable plans and encouraging those who engage them to shoulder the responsibility of seeing plans through.
- The need to act as motivators; most often with the consultant leading the way for organization-wide strategy and the coach providing support and guidance to individual members of the larger team.
Who Can Call Themselves a Coach or Consultant?
Organizations looking for guidance should be aware that experience in the field alone does not necessarily make someone the right coach or consultant. In addition to the knowhow, these individuals need to be excellent teachers, someone who can make connections and effectively pass on their expertise in digestible ways.
Historically, certification and accreditation are ways in which coaches and consultants alike distinguish themselves from each other. Currently, there is no hard standard or requirement for anyone to call themselves a Coach or Consultant, although many reputable organizations do enforce ethical standards and certify their members. As an organization sets out to find the right mentors to work alongside, they should consider which of the many certifications a mentor has to offer, as well as their track record and general fit with the corporate culture they will be interacting with.
Coaching, much like consulting, is an evolving field where many players are trying to establish their credibility—just like organizations are embracing the need for outside help and are looking to create competitive advantages by empowering employees. While both fields share some common goals and strategies, it’s important to differentiate one from the other when deciding whether to pursue a company-wide mentorship approach (consulting), or to support future success by further developing the individuals that comprise a team (coaching).