Management consulting and coaching are of- ten paired in a consulting engagement, along with mentoring. Many consultants say they
are coaching the client, when in fact they are mentoring him. Mentoring involves telling and disseminating
new information. Coaching involves asking questions,
primarily. Mentoring imparts new information. Coaching draws out existing information and motivation the
client already possesses—but may be dormant or below the client’s conscious awareness.
Mentoring is consultant focused and aims to move the
client to the place where the consultant wants him to be,
or possibly where he thinks the client wants. Coaching
is client focused and aims to move the client to the place
where the client wants to be, confirming this during the
coaching conversation. Both mentoring and coaching are
appropriate when consulting, but at certain times the consultant should move into a pure coaching mode. The word
‘coach’ originates from the transportation field where a
stage coach brings a person from one place to another
place more desirable. This sums up the role of coaching
in management consulting: helping a client move from
where he is to where he wants to be in his business.
Coaching where the consultant tells more than asks
and listens, is poor, sordid coaching. Coaching typified
by the coach telling and cheerleading more than asking
is poor. Coaching that does not actively listen is deficient. Poor coaching does not conclude with clear action
steps. In fact, a conversation that is characterized by the
above is really not coaching at all.
Coaching with a clear objective / goal specified by
the client is good, solid coaching. Coaching characterized by asking provoking and penetrating questions on
many levels is good. Coaching that prompts the client to
think deeply about and answer varying levels of questions is effective. Good coaching is where the coach primarily listens and the client primarily talks. Finally, an
excellent coaching conversation always ends with specific, measurable action steps that are agreed upon, and
of which the client takes ownership.
WHEN TO COACH
The best time to coach a client is when it becomes
clear he lacks clarity on what to do, why to do it and / or
how to do it. He may also lack motivation. Specifically,
in the opening meeting with a client, coaching is critical.
Consultants need to draw out the client’s goals, objectives and desires so he is motivated to move forward
with the consulting engagement with full commitment.
The client needs to be reminded that we are helping him
reach his goals, not ours. We are not putting pressure on
him but are drawing him out and calling him to something higher, possibly even something he has not yet
thought of himself. This results in self-motivation and
an internal energy to fully engage and move forward.
Another time to coach is during the ‘blood wall’ session where the client is asked to verbalize and write
down where his company is ‘bleeding.’ This also involves documenting, in large print on a white board or
large Post-it® Wall Pad sheet, the proposed solution
and estimating the benefit in dollars. It’s a great time
to put on your coaching hat and ask questions beyond
what is written in order to solidify the client’s commitment and conviction regarding the specific deliverables and value the consultant is offering.
The end of the consulting engagement, sometime
during the last week, is almost always optimal for
coaching. This coaching conversation can dovetail into
getting the client onboard for providing the written and
video testimony, finalizing dates for engaging in the life
cycle management plans and so the client is motivated