| 4 min read

Are coaching and consulting the same thing?

Coaching and consulting are nothing alike.

You might be pretty surprised by the statement because often people say that they are a coach AND consultant.

I am one of those people.

But when I’m coaching and when I’m consulting it looks and sounds fundamentally different. This is why it’s so important that if you are hiring a coach, you are hiring someone who has been trained formally or, ideally, is certified in coaching.

Let’s break down the fundamental differences between coaching and consulting…

I’m going to start with consulting because I actually think it’s conceptually something that we are more comfortable with.

Consultants are “engaged in the business of giving expert advice to people working in a professional or technical field.” 

The keyword there is ‘advice’.

You are hiring the consultant to get you from point A to point B as efficiently and quickly as possible. 

Consultants are thought partners or thought/strategic directors. You are paying them for their years of expert experience in the field where you are trying to solve a particular problem. You want to hire them because you agree with how they make decisions, you are fundamentally aligned on the way they think about the professional or technical field you need support in. 

How you get to the results is not important when it comes to consulting.

How a consultant supports your leadership development can be completely irrelevant if they are phenomenal at what you need. You likely aren’t hiring them for the relationship that you were going to have with them (although of course you want it to be pleasant), or because of how they are going to change your skills directly. There might be some osmosis as you see the way they make decisions and how they do things, that you can add to your toolbelt, but they are focused on solving the problem right alongside you, not building your capacity to solve the problem yourself.

Coaching, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.

Coaching is a developmental process where a leader gets tailored help from a coach to help THEM achieve a goal and become a more effective leader.

“When a leader has all the technical excellence, knowledge and resources to achieve a desired outcome, but is unable to make the difference they need or want in the space they work, more training is often not the answer. Leaders need something much more personal and involved: leadership coaching.” 


A certified coach, when being asked to coach, knows how to hold back advice, judgment, or their personal experiences.

They honor the integrity of the question and recognize that they are there to hold space for the leader’s development, and to guide them on a journey of self exploration that helps them arrive at the place they desire, eventually.

A coach is also uniquely trained in how to ask questions – to identify inner blocks and supply the RIGHT question to help an individual move through a particular problem or challenge. 

The coach is not co-creating the results, they are facilitating the coachees experience and leadership development. Any results are 100% up to the coachee.

In a world with KPI’s and ROIs, those things are constantly at the forefront of how we decide to work with people, which can make hiring a coach scary….

‘Nothing is guaranteed. The results are up to YOU.’

This is why a coach’s ability to remove their own ego is both challenging and critical. 

A coach cannot hold any expectations or urgency around how fast a coachee arrives at a particular ‘answer’.

The coach’s ‘needs’ are irrelevant and cannot take up any space. 

This is because, as I said before, the journey is just as, if not more, important as the destination. 

And this is HARD and why it’s critical that folks are trained formally as coaches, and are not just adding coach to their resume because they used to manage people at a past job. 

Can you hire someone who is both a good coach and a consultant? 

There are professionals who are able to compartmentalize and leverage their coaching and consulting expertise in a relationship with a client.  

From my experience, what makes all the difference is 

  1. Someone formally training in coaching 
  2. Transparency and permission in a session when the coach might come out of coach role and go into a consultant role (or sessions being separated by coaching and consulting)

What are the downsides to hiring one person who is both a coach and consultant?

One thing to recognize is that whenever you are mixing consulting and coaching you are never getting 100% pure coaching in that relationship. Because once you know the opinions and perspective of your coach/consultant it will be impossible to fully remove their judgment from the way you think about the issue at hand. Even if the COACH can remove themselves from certain decisions, the coachee will always have the previous comments included in their lens and perspective of the situation.

This is not always problematic depending on why the coach/consultant is being hired but it is important to understand.

If the challenge that needs to be addressed is leadership development, meaning that you believe you or have all of the technical skills necessary to do the job, but the challenges are based on the inner barriers, my recommendation would be to hire a certified coach and not ask them to consult. 

You could hire a consultant separately if you need technical skills as well. 

What are the upside of hiring someone who is both a coach and consultant?

If what you need are technical expertise, and thought partnership, then it can be helpful to hire a consultant in that technical area that is also a trained coach. They will be able to weave in their coaching skills around asking the right questions, facilitation, and leadership development into the way they show up as a consultant.

Coaching skills are valuable in so many different settings and can deepen the results you see with a consultant.

This is why I say that the Power Partners Formula™ is a fundraising strategy course with executive coaching tools and principles interwoven throughout.

It is NOT pure coaching. But it provides, transparently, many of the most helpful tools that executive coaches use in order to help members self coach around the inner blocks they are likely to encounter fundraising.

To find out more, join me for my next free Masterclass — malloryerickson.com/free

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