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If you use coaching versus learning versus consulting

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The terms coaching, training and counseling are thrown by clients – they are believed to be interchangeable and solve people’s problems equally. In fact the techniques are very different and each one has to be deployed according to the needs to get the most effect and the desired result.

In short, the difference between counseling, coaching and training can be explained as follows:

  • Consulting tells your people what to do.
  • Coaching asks provocative questions to create an environment where people I want to to do.
  • Learning teaches a skill so they know as to do.

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Consultations: Consultants evaluate, prescribe solutions, and tell employees or companies what to do when they need to. Consultants are usually experts in their field, have an agenda and give answers to their clients. Their success is usually measured by the deployment of the solution or the customer’s response, not by the fact that the customer has successfully deployed the solution on their own.

Consultants have the know-how and are known to pass decisions directly to managers or management, who are then expected to communicate using their own preferred methodology, which may include training or coaching.

Coaching: The goal of a coach is to help a person, company, or department “get out of a dead end” or want to progress, rise, and move forward through action. A coach’s goal it is to transfer the client from the present state to the future successful state. Leaders typically use a coach when they have an employee or group that is excellent and adds value but does not realize their potential.

The coach encourages clients by asking open-ended questions that clients may have never asked themselves. The answers to these questions are used by employees to create new thoughts that ultimately create new feelings that stimulate new actions or changes. The employee will move because she wants to move forward, not because she was told to move forward. The coach is not tied to the client’s outcome: while the coach can take care of the person he is coaching and help him move forward, the coach is not tied to the employee’s decision.

Training: Training should be deployed if there is a need to teach certain skills. It unfolds when a person or group does not know how to do something. Training is usually conducted in a group, but facilitators (people involved in training) can teach one-on-one if deemed necessary. Facilitators understand adult learning styles and how to build interesting trainings to ensure that participants learn and retain new skills to apply at work.

Knowing when to use the perfect solution and talent is a secret sauce. There are situations (most often in fact) where all the skills are required at different times to achieve a specific client goal.

For example, a consultant who works with a car dealership to increase profitability may determine that their sales process is disrupted. She will tell the dealer what is ineffective and then offer a solution by providing a new / updated process (say). The dealer then hires a facilitator to train the sales team in a new sales process (skill), however the sales manager is not on board (stuck). At this point, the coach is unfolding to make the manager want to deploy and support the new direction and team.

As leaders, we may not always hire an expert coach, consultant, or facilitator; we need to play the perfect role to tell, teach or help keep our people from getting stuck. Whether you are an employee or self-employed, knowing the difference between these three sets of skills you need to deploy, and having the experience to do so will change your company’s game and, most importantly, the people inside.

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