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When To Deploy Coaching vs. Training vs. Consulting

The terms coaching, training and consulting are thrown about by clients — believed to be interchangeable and to solve people problems in the exact same way. In reality, the methods are very different, and each must be deployed in accordance with the need, to get the biggest impact and your desired result.

In short, the difference between consulting, coaching and training can be explained this way:

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

In more detail:

Consulting: Consultants assess, prescribe solutions and tell employees or companies what to do when they are in need. Consultants are typically experts in their industry, have an agenda and give answers to their clients. Their success is usually measured by the deployment of the solution or answer to the client, not if the client has successfully deployed the solution on their own.

Consultants have the know-how and have been known to transfer solutions directly to executives or leadership teams who are then expected to communicate down using their own desired methodology, which might include training or coaching.

Coaching:  A coach’s objective is to help a person or company, or department get “un-stuck,” or to want to progress, elevate and move forward through action. A coach’s goal is to get a client from their present state to a future, successful state. Leaders tend to deploy a coach when they have an employee or group that is great and adding value but isn’t fulfilling their potential.

A coach encourages clients by asking open-ended questions that clients may never have asked themselves. The answers to these questions are used by the employee to create new thoughts which ultimately create new feelings that propel new actions or changes. The employee will propel because she wants to move forward, not because she’s told to move forward. A coach isn’t attached to the client’s outcome: While the coach may care about the person she is coaching and helping them to move forward, the coach is not attached to the decision the employee makes.

Training: Training should be deployed when there’s a need to teach a specific skill. It’s deployed when a person or group doesn’t know how to do something. Training is typically delivered within a group — however, facilitators (the people doing the training) can teach one-on-one when deemed necessary. Facilitators understand adult learning styles and how to construct engaging trainings to ensure participants learn and retain new skills to apply on the job.

Knowing when to deploy the ideal solution and talent is the secret sauce. There are situations (more often than not actually), where all skills are required at different times to achieve the client’s specific goals.

For example, a consultant working with an automotive dealership with the goal of increasing profitability might determine that their sales process is broken. She will tell the dealer what is not efficient and then provide a solution by providing a new/updated process (tell). The dealer then hires a facilitator to teach the new sales process to the sales team (skill), however, the sales manager is not on board (stuck). At this point, a coach is deployed to get the manager to want to deploy and support the new direction and team.

As leaders, we can’t always hire an expert coach, consultant or facilitator; we must play the ideal role to tell, teach or help to get our people un-stuck. Regardless of whether you’re using a hired hand or you’re on your own, knowing the difference between these three skill sets, which to deploy and having the expertise to do so, is a game-changer for your company and most importantly, the people within.



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