Effective organizational leaders are forward-thinking and constantly looking for opportunities to improve. As they seek to strengthen their organizations, teams, and themselves, they understand that external experts can help accelerate the work and maximize results. Should you bring in a coach or a consultant? The differences may seem nuanced, but they are extremely important.

An executive coach works to develop professional skills and reshape underlying behaviors to improve leadership capabilities, communication, and performance.

“For real change to take place in any aspect of life, you need to understand and evaluate your patterns of thinking before you can commit to a new course of action,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. Coaches help their clients identify the underlying reasons and engrained habits that are responsible for their current performance, and work with leaders to change behaviors that once stood in their way. Learn more about “What Happens in an Executive Coaching Engagement?”

But a coach does not tell you what you should do. They equip people to communicate, lead, and make their own decisions.

If coaches are catalysts, consultants are fixers. Consultants work on specific business problems and organizational situations. They assess, analyze, and recommend. Consultants provide advice and propose solutions — often specializing in a functional area, like sales or finance, or an industry, such as healthcare. In essence, consultants are paid to come up with answers.

A consultant works on today’s “fish” to address a specific need.  A coach is giving you “fishing” — working with you to shift behaviors and thinking over a longer period, and creating the means to “fish” for yourself. Sometimes your need requires the advice of an expert consultant, and sometimes you need to focus on growth and development with a coach.

“It’s critical to understand that executive coaching is a partnership,” added Perry. “Those being coached must be motivated to change. Executive coaches can’t force someone who is unwilling to improve their skills or modify their thinking and behavioral patterns.” For more, read Arden Coaching’s article, “Executive Coaching is Not ‘Training.’ You Must Be Coachable!”

Importantly, a consultant may be brought in whether people like it or not. A consultant does not require a partnership with those consulted to recommend or implement change.

Your best choice depends on your needs. If you work to be clear about what you are trying to accomplish — are you seeking to change a behavior or communicate better, or are you looking to make accounts payable more efficient or select and implement a new CRM — the best path will become clear.

To learn more about executive coaching and leadership development, contact us at admin@ardencoaching.com or 646.844.2233.