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Coach, Consultant, Or Advisor
What’s The Best Support For You?

I’m frequently asked the difference between working with a coach, consultant, or advisor. It’s important to understand the difference to help you decide which is the best for you.  So, let’s break this down.


Let’s start with a Coach. Coaches talk with you about your work, your life and often “spiritual” aspects. They help their clients with motivation, attitude and behavior change issues.  Their role is to facilitate and stimulate your learning.  That learning can reveal behavior patterns and the coach can help you change as you move forward. They are not subject matter experts in your job role, type of company or industry. Coaches can help you focus and gain clarity around your goals and help you uncover limitations that are holding you back. Coaches are great for providing accountability, regular check-ins and practice exercises to strengthen new behaviors. If you’re looking for someone to understand your goals, help you uncover the steps to achieve them, and provide you with the behaviors needed to accomplish those goals, then a coaching engagement is a good fit for you.


A Consultant is a subject matter expert in something you want done. They bring best practices, methodologies and provide hands-on services. You end up with deliverables.  As an example, you may want to create an organization change plan to implement changes in your organization’s performance. A consultant would discuss your needs, assess the current state, define the future state, and then create an organization change plan based on your discussions, that you will implement. A consulting arrangement is project-focused, and the consultant is the project leader including scheduling meetings with your staff. If you have a specific project where you’re looking for hands-on support to do the work and provide deliverables, then a consulting relationship is the right option.


An Advisor is also a subject matter expert but guides and provides recommendations. They do not do hands-on work. They provide insights and help you see your blind spots and root causes. They provide you with the recommendations you need for eliminating them. They help you see alternatives, consider new options and make good decisions. Calls with an advisor are very focused and granular, often starting with a best practices assessment or defined set of questions. You can expect the conversation to end with new insights and good options. A successful advising engagement would be with an individual with proven expertise in your area of need. An advisory role generally feels like guidance and is decision focused. The support is more structured and less exploratory than a coach would do, and doesn’t provide a deliverable, as a consultant would deliver.  Also, unlike consultants, they generally work behind the scenes, invisible to your staff. If you want to leverage expertise and don’t need hands on work, advisors provide a very good return for the time spent with them. 


How do you get started?


First, write down your goals - what outcomes will be achieved and what are your measures of success. Getting a clear understanding of what it is you’re hoping to gain from either engagement is key in selecting the right person. Then, reach out to some trusted colleagues or peers to get their recommendations. Your goals may be different from those of your colleagues, and therefore this list of referrals is just a jumping-off point. Vet each referral thoroughly for their availability, expertise, and understanding of your goals.


Especially look for these things:

·     Do they know your corporate world and have worked in this role or worked with similar people

·    Do they have a clear yet flexible support process that is complete enough and is right for you

·    Will you be comfortable working with them and trust their guidance and directness


Neil Love
Leader & Organization
Success Advisor

Neil's Bio

As a Leader & Organization Success Advisor, Neil has helped over 350 executives and managers at 90 companies improve their group's performance, leadership impact and career advancement.  Starting as a design engineer and customer engineer,  his career evolved to VP Leadership Development positions at GE and USF&G and Director Business Transformation positions at VMware, Amazon Lab126, and Cisco Systems. Neil has MBA and BS Electrical Engineering degrees and is a Certified Leadership Advisor.

Better Transitions | San Jose CA

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Leader Advisor and Career Advisor serving San Jose California, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Northern California and the surrounding areas.