Problem Solving – the Coaching Approach vs. the Consulting Approach

Written by on January 26, 2016

How do you choose between a coach and a consultant? When it comes to advice on navigating the more difficult issues that a business or organization encounters, a coach’s approach is very different than that of a consultant. The key to obtain the best results lies in picking the right approach for your organization. To make that choice correctly, let’s examine how the different strategies a coach versus a consultant would employ if your goal were to create a strategic plan.

The Top-Down Approach of the Consultant

The consultant would take a top-down approach to creating a strategic plan. A good consultant brings to the table a level of tactical and strategic knowledge in addition to industry expertise.

The consultant’s process would be to:

  1. Gather initial information about your organization and what you want to accomplish.
  2. Perform an independent analysis to identify the best approach for your organization.
  3. Present you (and possibly your team) with a number of different strategic planning models.
  4. Recommend one model in particular, with clear reasoning. He or she will also include a possible list of people you should involve at each step.

While this is a good approach for handling unknown territory, it relies on the assumption that the organization’s processes are already functional. Consultants will not spend additional time understanding how your organization works, and they operate under the assumption that you will be able to implement their recommendations.

The Bottom-Up Approach of the Coach

Should you hire a coach to help you create a strategic plan, he or she will focus on the process in your organization, ensuring that it can determine and implement any necessary strategic planning.

The coaches process would be to:

  1. Identify your concerns in the creation of a strategic plan and your organization’s ability to implement it.
  2. Identify and convey potential roadblocks in your organization’s process that would create problems when implementing strategic planning.
  3. Work with you to reach the point where you can develop a strategic plan with confidence – this may involve advising you to hire a consultant to deal with knowledge gaps.

This is an approach that works from the bottom-up. The coach would never say, “Here are six possible strategic planning models, and this is the one you should use”—instead, the coach will say, “What areas of this strategic planning are a concern for you?” This method prepares you to develop your own strategic plan.

The Approach That Matches The Needs of Your Organization

For best results, you need to determine what is best for your organization. If you have an organization already capable of implementing the necessary work, but lack the knowledge to produce it, then you will get the best return on your investment and time by hiring a consultant. On the other hand, if you have the strategic or industry knowledge, or your organization still needs development before it can implement a plan, hiring a coach would provide the best outcome. In either case, it’s crucial to understand the two different offerings of these separate roles to hire the right person at the right time for the most streamlined process and effective results.