The other day I was visiting the website of a coach who is very well-known in the field of leadership. I respect his work very much and have learned a lot from him over the years. In fact, we both belong to a select group of speakers, authors and thought leaders that meet a couple times a year to exchange ideas and experiences about what’s working and what’s not, in today’s ever-changing and challenging market.
On one of the articles on his site he referenced a client who brought up the point that, “As a coach, you should realize that success with your clients isn’t about you. It’s about the people who choose to work with you.”
He then says, “That’s why I don’t hold myself up as ‘coach as expert.’ I’m much more ‘coach as facilitator.’ Most of what my clients learn about themselves comes not from me but from their friends, their colleagues, and their family members. I just try to provide help when needed and assist them in not wandering too far off the course that they have chosen. I cannot make the successful people I work with change. I don’t try.
“Too many people think that a coach — especially an accomplished one — will solve their problems. That’s like thinking that you’ll get in shape by hiring the world’s best trainer and not by working out yourself. Truly great leaders recognize how sill it is to think about the coach. Long-term success is created by the people doing the work – not just the one person who has the privilege of being at the top.”
I read these words with great interest. They may — in his mind — be sound as they pertain to the “coaching” industry, but when it comes to “consulting” those things will fall painfully short. Here’s what I mean…
I will agree that the “people who choose to work with you” have a lot to do with your success as a consultant. But your “success with your clients” is, in large part, your responsibility. As a consultant, you must choose your clients carefully. That means you have systems in place that will help you ferret out only those who…
Once you find those clients, it’s incumbent on you as a consultant, to make sure the right solutions are put in place, that the right people are assigned to carry them out, and that there’s accountability for each person and task to make sure that they’re completed right, on target, and on time. So in a big way, your success as a consultant is about you. About your clients? Of course. They must carry out the assignments you give them, but it’s up to you to make sure the systems are in place for them to do so.
The article says that the author doesn’t hold himself up as “coach as expert,” but more as “coach as facilitator.” As a consultant, you’d better be both an expert AND facilitator. An expert, because your client has hired you to solve a problem that they couldn’t solve themselves — that’s why you’re there in the first place. And a facilitator, because you’re not there to do the work, but to come up with solutions, assign others to carry out the tasks, and hold accountability meetings to make sure the assignments are completed.
The author mentions that “most of what my clients learn about themselves comes not from me but from their friends, their colleagues, and their family members.” I understand that — as it pertains to what they “learn about themselves.” But don’t you dare let that concept apply to what they know about their business, their market, or their company. Unfortunately, that is exactly where a lot of business owners get their information — from people who know nothing about their business, their market, their competition, or their clients… and that’s exactly why they’re in the trouble they’re in and why they’re looking for your help.
The fact is, if they continue doing things the same way they did them even a year ago, they’re missing the mark. Things have changed dramatically in recent months. Customers are more sophisticated, more knowledgable, and more educated about what they want and the terms they’re will to do business under than they’ve ever been. And competiton? It’s more abundant, more aggressive, and even t than ever before. If a business owner isn’t willing to keep up on the changes in his or her marketplace, the can very easily and very quickly find themselves going out of business.
A coach may not be able to solve their problems, as the author of the article says, but a consultant better be able to. That’s why they hired you — not to “assist them in not wandering too far off the course,” but to effect a turn-around in their business. To give them a breakthrough. To help them get a transformation from where they are now to where they have the potential to be.
How do you do that? By showing them what it’s costing them to stay where they are versus using you and employing your problem-solving skills. It’s a very easy sale if you can quantifiably demonstrate how much they will gain by solving their biggest and most challenging problems, versus how much it will cost them if they don’t solve them. If the difference between what they’ll gain and what you’re charging them is greater, the sale is a no-brainer.
One of the reasons TopLine Business Consultants have such great success, is because they use the tools and scripts they get in their training workshops, and the support they get following training.
There is a big difference between “coaching” and “consulting” — both in the kinds of clients you work with, and the way you work with them. Both disciplines have their place, and both can coexist and compliment each other. In fact, several TopLine consultants use consulting with their coaching clients, and vice versa. And they get paid for each… pretty nice arrangement if you can work it out.
I hope this has been helpful, and I’m very interested in your comments. Please let me know what I can do to help you succeed in your consulting practice.
Martin Howey, CEO
TopLine Business Solutions
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