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I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth over each of those words for a long time.  I’ve thought both are not what I want to be.

Recently, I’ve had a breakthrough on these words.  The words or titles in themselves are not evil, and the people who practice both are good people.  The problem comes that both are incomplete by themselves.

I finally figured it out.  A consultant is one who helps develop a plan and a coach is one who helps implement the plan. 

The problem I have is that both often work from a place of knowing what’s best for the client.  I believe that when you’re acting as a consultant and coach you need to collaborate with your clients.  This means you need to respect your client’s expertise on tactical, strategic, and philosophical basis.

I believe clients are experts at what they want.  Sometimes clients need help in figuring out what it is they really want.  I find that asking good questions helps develop clarity both for the client and for me.

This often starts with a conversation about what we want to accomplish.  We then will talk about why this is important.  I often find that why leads back to what again for more clarification.

For example, if you’re an investment manager and you’re seeing five clients a week you might decide you want to see fifteen clients instead.  When asked why, your answer could be you need to do more business. 

In this case, I would recommend that we revisit what again.  Just because you want to do more business, the only answer is not to see more people.  There are other options you might consider more important.

After becoming clear on what we want to do we get to move to how.  Developing how is the traditional role of the consultant.  How are we going to accomplish a particular what.  Unfortunately, that’s where it stops with consultants.  They don’t move into a coaching role to help the client successfully implement what they client has asked for.

Returning to my problem with coaching and consulting.  I’ve come to believe that both are incomplete.  A coach that can’t help develop a solution and a consultant who doesn’t help create an outcome doesn’t really serve their clients.

I believe that to truly help clients you need to be both a consultant and a coach and know when you are in each role.

Josh Patrick

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Topics: mission vision values and goals, mission, decision process, professional relationships

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