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lighthouse   guidanceThe difference between the two is really pretty simple.  Consulting is figuring out what you want to do and how you’re going to get there.  Coaching is helping you figure out the steps and keeping you focused on why it’s important for to achieve your outcome.

The challenge isn’t knowing the difference, it’s executing on both so you get an outcome for the time, money, and effort you spend.  Let’s face it, you’ve had lots of experiences with consultants and you might even have had an experience or two with a coach.  I bet that most of the time they’ve been less than satisfactory.

Consultants tend to run their agendas not yours.

I’ve rarely seen a consultant who helps you figure out what’s important for you.  They tend to come in, install a fix and move on.  Whether that fix is the right one for you isn’t really their concern. Their goal is to fix a problem you’ve presented.

I think this is mostly true because consultants tend to be specialists.  They have a relatively narrow range of expertise.  That’s what makes them useful.

You likely have brought consultants into your life before it was the right time.  Consultants should appear after you and your coach have done some preliminary work that will ensure your consultant works on the opportunity you want to take advantage of.

You need to know why before you put together a what and how.

This is big and why many of your engagements with professionals don’t work as well as you want.  Until you know why something you want to achieve is important it’s easy for a consultant to push you in a direction you might not want to go, and you might not even know this is a direction you don’t want to go in.

I find this is true in many of my engagements.  Before I’ve had a chance to help my client figure out why something is important the consultant has already started solving a problem.  When I start asking questions why we’re moving in a particular direction my client often doesn’t have a good answer.  Sometimes we need to stop the consulting arrangement until we figure out why our project is important and what the value is we’re trying to get.

Remember, you only have a limited amount of time and energy for completing strategic projects.  Make sure that when you start a project it fits in with what you’re trying to accomplish on a global basis.

There are very few people who can be both a consultant and a coach.

The real problem is we often want our advisors to act as both a consultant and a coach.  There are some who can do both and I find they’re pretty rare.  Instead I recommend you start with using a coach who can help you frame your problem or opportunity. 

Once you’ve done this, it’s much easier to manage your consultant and have them advise you on getting an outcome that you want.  You stay in control and can always ask yourself whether the advice you’re getting is moving you towards an outcome that will really add value.

Why you need to understand the role of the generalists in your life.

This conversation is one I keep coming back to.  A generalist is someone who understands your situation.  A generalist is someone who can help you think about your problems and opportunities.  I find that a good generalist can help figure out how to flip problems to opportunities.

Do you think about your issues before starting to work on them?  If so, you’re pretty rare.  Most people I know start work on the problem before they know why the issue is important to solve.  They haven’t spent any time thinking about why their project is important.  By the time we start thinking about why it’s too late.  They’ve put in too much time and effort and don’t want to stop.  That’s when bad outcomes occur.  Make sure this story isn’t one you’re going to tell.

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Topics: business coaching, advisors, personal value

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