Are You Coaching or Consulting

Confusion often exists between executive coaching and consulting.  Let me explain the difference.  The consultant is usually hired to solve a problem or provide expertise in a certain business area. Consultants are subject matter experts and they are expected to offer solutions to business problems.  They give advice that leads to effective problem solving.  A coach, on the other hand, engages in a process that helps others to identify and structure the problem for solution.  The coach’s special expertise is in the methodologies that help others to solve their problems.  Good coaches work hard not to confuse this distinction between consulting and coaching. When a coach gives advice, he/she does the “heavy lifting”, thus reducing their effectiveness.  Effective coaching creates tension between a  desired goal and the current situation, which should lead to discomfort and the need for tension reduction.  By owning the problem and the need to reduce tension, the coachee engages in behavior that leads to positive change.

What are the methods that a coach uses to help coachee to work the problem?  One example is reflection. Reflection is a powerful method of recreating  past experiences  By recalling them, the coachee recreates situations that offer clues about how the coachee thought and acted at the time of the situation had occurred

One of my coachees reflected on a recent situation that occurred when one of his managers failed to meet a deadline on an important project.  The situation turned tense, and my coachee became angry, condescending and demeaning toward this  manager.  He later learned that the missed deadline was due to circumstances outside the manager’s control.  One of the coachee’s goals was to be approachable and fair with his managers.  By recounting this experience, the coachee was able to reflect  on what he had done wrong and offer alternative behaviors that would have been more fruitful in understanding the reasons for the missed deadline.  He also reflected on his reaction and suggested improved  ways of handling the situation.  Reflecting  allowed my coachee to realize he had missed not only the opportunity to solve a problem but had also fallen short of his personal goal of being approachable and fair.  We next turned our attention to how he was going to reestablish his positive rapport with this manager.

The lesson learned here is that coaches “pull” solutions from coachees and not to impose solutions on them.   Which approach do you use in your coaching?

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