Podcast EP 112 | Coach vs Consultant – Which is right for you?

Coaches and consultants perform different roles in different situations for businesses. It’s important to understand in what situations you should use a coach, and when you should use a consultant.

In this episode of The Growth Whisperers podcast, Kevin Lawrence and Brad Giles talk about the results and output you should expect from both a coach or a consultant. They discuss the relationship and time frame you should expect from each, and then dig into how accountability works both in consulting and coaching.




Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Brad Giles  00:13

Welcome to the Growth whisperers where everything we talk about is building enduring great companies. My name is Brad Giles, and I’m joined today as always by my co pilot, Kevin Lawrence. Hello, Kevin. How you doing today?

Kevin Lawrence  00:26

Great Brad. Love sharing new stuff on this podcast. I get a kick out of doing it, grateful that we get to put a show together every week. It’s awesome.

Brad Giles  00:39

We always like to start with a word or phrase of the day what might be your word or phrase today.

Kevin Lawrence  00:50

Proactive. I’ve been focusing more on trying to get farther ahead of things. And I know as a leader, our job is to be farther ahead and farther into the future. But sometimes we get sucked into the present and what’s going on? So I’m just trying to be more proactive, is my intent and my progress.

Brad Giles  01:13

Very good. Mine is retention. I’ve been doing a lot of work on a book about onboarding, as you will know, onboarding new employees. And the cost of retention in the data is just amazing. So yeah, yeah.

Kevin Lawrence  01:33

I can sew this one together, Brad. Active retention. That’s it’s almost too easy. That’s been proactive about retention. I mean, being proactive about anything is good. Right. That’s why we planning and pushing ahead and kind of takes us into the theme of the show today to Brad That’s just a beautiful segue. I’ll set it right up there for you on a platter.

Brad Giles  01:56

So today, we’re talking about the difference between a coach and a consultant. Now, gee, you know, Kevin, you and I have been mates for I guess, 10 years, give or take. And, you know, through that journey, a lot of the people that we know have had a bit of a challenge around the definition of a coach or a consultant, and what role they play and how the market might miss might perceive if they’re a coach, or if they’re a consultant, or what happens. But you just kind of got to own it. Right? So today, we’re talking about Coach versus consultant, and which is right for you.

Kevin Lawrence  02:42

You know, what’s interesting, years ago, I actually stopped calling myself a coach, I used to go by coach Kevin, I stopped calling myself a coach. Because there’s always people call themselves coaches that are like, not even close to the definition of a coach, in my mind. They’re like retired executives, who are mentors or advisors or consultants calling himself a coach, I felt that kind of dirty the term and because a coach is something very specific in my mind. Right, and, and we’re gonna dig into that a little bit here today. So the distinction that I learned early in my career going back almost 30 years ago, is, you know, basically a coach is somebody. Now, I don’t make it clear. I’m not a pure coach, I coach, and I consult. But really, when I do my best work, it’s a blend, but in the purest form. A coach believes that you have the answers, and asks you questions to help discover it and flush it out. But they believe that the intelligence sits within you, and they’re trying to help you find your way. And in the purest form I had actually, who was called a mentor early in my life, a man by the name of Jeff Corona, brilliant man, he had a him and his brother, I believe, founded a company called Karo Design in Vancouver, they were very successful, great, great guy. But every time I’d asked him a question, he asked me another question. And then he would always draw me a little model of three boxes, four boxes, two circles, he’d always have models for everything. He was like a master coach, I don’t think he ever answered one of my questions. So he helped me to find my way. And so that is a coach, whereas a consultant is someone who helps you to find the answer, and you generally bring them on because they’re good at finding the answer. And they’ve often done a lot of times so consultant gives you the answer. The coach draws the answer out of you is at a macro level in their purest forms. And I know there are lots of different ones in between, but in their purest forms, that’s, you know, that’s my take on it anyways.

Brad Giles  04:57

Yeah, I’m similar. I had a mentor for some time a chap called John Schaefer very successful local businessman here. And, and he wouldn’t ask any questions to my recollection, it was always telling me what to do, which is fine that that serves a purpose. And I got some amazing learnings from that over the, over the period, and he helped me no end. But there is a difference and understanding what that difference is, before you step into a relationship is quite important. Only the other day, a person came to our firm looking to do some work. And they said, Yeah, we need an we need a consultant, and they were talking about the big consultancy firms, but they weren’t a good fit for them. Because they were they were simply too small. And so we kind of dug into it, and he didn’t need a consultant he needed a coach. And, and it’s so it’s really quite important to understand what do they do? How do they help? And how are they different? So I guess your distinction, coaches ask questions expecting you to have the answer. And consultants are hired to give you the answer. So I kind of have this, this vision or this, this, this image of the they come in, they understand what they they they learn about the problem that you’ve got consultants, they work on it, they write you a big report. And then there’s this massive fight as the report hits the desk. And this is the answer. Now that may be a bit, you know, unfair, but that’s the thinking that I have, it’s about the report and the answer and what they do there. The coach, on the other hand, is there for a bit of a perhaps longer journey, they’re there to help you to answer the questions that you don’t even know that you need to answer.

Kevin Lawrence  07:03

Another way of thinking about it is that a coach is working with you on improving your performance and the performance of your team, if that’s what they’re engaged for. It could be one or the other, over a long period, like it’s almost like they’re there through for you through the through it all the chapters of your growth, where consultants are generally just in for a Chapter. Yeah, if you got to do a turnaround, you got to do a pivot, you got to open a new market, you’ve got to get a product approval, you’ve got to do something notably different consultants are there for a chapter where a coach is almost there as part of your ecosystem and your operating system over time. And again, this is not good or bad. I love consultants, consultants are amazing. I push for clients to get them because they help you to get shortcuts to an answer. Like I had breakfast with a CEO. Friday morning last week that I that I know, well, we caught up. And he was telling me about when he wanted to expand into another country, he spent 250 grand for someone to go tell him how his product would fit or not fit in that country. Now he did go over with them to that country and do a trip. But I said, you know, was it worth it, he goes well, it was a lot of money. He goes, one of my team probably could have done it for the equivalent of $30,000 of cost. But they didn’t have the time, they didn’t have the expertise. And it would have been their first time doing it. So the result would have been mediocre. The consultants write these reports nonstop. So in his mind, and even if his numbers were wrong, he was able to get a detailed answer with a lot of data that no one has the capability to do because they’re too busy running the business. So like I love consultants, when they are used well, in businesses, I have a whole thing about how to use consultants well, because, you know, through the clients I’ve worked with, there’s been spends of millions and millions of dollars. And there’s a great way to engage and there’s also not great way, and I can thank my clients for teaching this to me. But they’re both super valuable, but in very different ways.

Brad Giles  09:09

The really important point that you made there is that the coach is part of the ongoing operating system. And this is what you and I do, right? So I mean, the average tenure that I might work with a team for is five or 10 years, or maybe even more. And I know it’s the same for you. Yeah, we are a part of the leadership team and a part of the operating system is a great, a great way to put it. A good analogy that I’ve been thinking about it lately is imagine a sports team. So you may have a consultant if you’ve got your favorite football team consultant would come in and they would tell you how to execute a particular move or do a particular thing with either your head or your body. Okay, it could be something about the Mind Body to help you to perform better. And then they would go, but the coach is there all the time, the coaches they’re working on your mind and your body as well through that journey, and you know that they’re going to be there through the highs and the lows looking into the future.

Kevin Lawrence  10:19

So in a conversation I had with a CEO today, they were sharing a challenge they had with an acquisition, as they’re walking me through the challenge. And then I just start Okay, asking a bunch of questions. And, and at some point, they go, Oh, my, it’s so obvious, isn’t it, and I go what it was, well, this is the same thing I would do if it was one of my direct reports. I just shouldn’t be doing it with the acquisition, and they got lost in a bunch of weirdness and blah, blah, blah, and they’re like, Okay, I just need to treat them like a direct report, when something hasn’t gone well. And follow the I gotta tell them to tell me the root causes. What do they propose to do to solve the root causes? What’s the action plan, and we discuss it for 90 minutes. And then they come back and see me once a week for half an hour to tell me how to do it. And then we will, but they’re just like, but they’re in the middle of it. And then the chaos and the blah, blah, blah. And as they were talking, it’s just like, it was so damn clear. Yeah. And the distinction I will share, though, I have learned pure coaching, you have no opinion, no agenda, you only ask questions, pure consulting, you know, you dig mind data, go to sources and come back with a solution or report. Some of the best consultants do a little bit of coaching. And some of the best coaches do a little bit of consulting, I would say that in my work with CO CEOs, if you just sit and ask questions the whole time going to drive him bonkers, yeah, they want answers. Sometimes they want opinions, sometimes they just don’t want them all the time. So in my world, I am probably somewhere between 60 and 70%, coach, depending. And then the rest is consultant because I have a lot of been there done that because I’m in the boardroom all the time. The difference is when I’m going to switch gears and go from coach to consultant saying, Hey, want me to share with another client did? Hey, do you want me to share my perspective? Hey, do you want me to role play how to communicate or articulate this? You’re like, it’s like I asked, because I’m coaching, I asked permission to shift gears. So now I’m gonna go into advice mode.

Brad Giles  12:30

Yeah, yeah. And so what makes a great coach, you and I have got, this is what I found. The you and I have got a very specific definition of coaching as we see it. And it might be very different to other people. But I reckon that one of the things, given everything that you’ve just said that makes a great, great coach is that they can run to the fire when they see a situation. You know, that’s an analogy for, for a fire man, fire person, someone who’s a fighter. But they will have no fear when it comes to conflict, and getting into that knowing the outcomes can be quite positive. Whereas some people, they just haven’t got that in their heart, they don’t have the heart to run to the fire. And if they don’t have that courage, that kind of can be one of the things that can separate good and great coaches.

Kevin Lawrence  13:37

Yes, they have the confidence in the faith that things will work out if you march towards what needs to be dealt with. Yeah, and won’t let that stuff slide. I mean, in many ways, and that’s the part of us where we hold people accountable. And that’s where our fourth point here is that we hold people accountable. If someone has to let someone go, we’ll make a tough decision. I make a note and I follow up with them to make sure it gets done. I hold that CEO or that executive accountable, mostly CEOs, because it’s hard. We’re human beings, we got feelings. It’s hard, it’s hard to do. The other thing that makes a great coach is just fit. It’s someone that’s in sync with you at the end of the day, like my coach, her name’s Nan, she’s dead Atlanta, she is amazing for me, she helps she just She’s amazing. Because she’s got a little bit of soft and a lot of direct, hard hitting, and that’s what I need. As a coach, it’s the fit is a really big thing. The final thing I’ll say about a coach this difference, and I just thought about this now, Brad, is that they work with you to drive towards your long term goals. You know, a good coach. I spoke to a bunch of coaches last week and you know, shared some stuff with him. But what I’ve also seen is that there’s coaches who just coach you on whatever comes up. Yeah, but I believe the best coaches are tapped into where you want to be long term in terms of your work and for yourself and your life. And they’re helping you to get there and not get lost in the noise marching towards your goal. was marching towards your goals because you get lost and distracted. And not just the pain of the day or the opportunity of the day.

Brad Giles  15:07

Yeah, I agree. And that that’s kind of multi layered that what you said they are at a personal and a business level. The only other point I’d throw in there taking your lead and going off agenda is tools. I think that consultants tend to rely a lot on tools. Whereas coaches have tools in their kit, but it’s not the everything, it’s that, you know, they, they’re often going on instinct and looking for the answers a lot more. So based on, you know, experience of many, many years.

Kevin Lawrence  15:47

Great. Well, let’s quickly wrap up. So that’s consultants versus coaches. First thing when it comes to answers, consultants generally give it to you coaches ask you to find it yourself. Relationship coaches are generally ongoing and a long term part of your operating system. Consultants are more project based or for different chapters of your journey. You know, coaches, you know, you’ll often work with one coach or a coach on a certain area, but many consultants different times as you need them. Number four is accountability coach holds you accountable. Generally, you hold consultants accountable. And then we kind of threw in their stuff like, you know, both will use tools. With a coach, the fit is critical and a consultant to but if you’re gonna work with someone long term, there has to be a really, really good fit. Yeah. And oh, the last one that I mentioned here was goals is that the coach should drive you to towards long term goals.

Brad Giles  16:49

So we hope you’ve enjoyed the episode. You can find me Brad at evolution partners dot Com. You and I’ve got a newsletter each week that you may find interesting. Kevin, equally has an interesting newsletter. And you can find Kevin at Lawrence and co.com Hope you’ve enjoyed the episode coaches versus consultants, enjoy your week. Look forward to chatting to you again next week on the growth whisperers.