Coaching and Consultancy are extremely colorful terms. Trainers in football and other sports, tutors in scientific training, and finally business managers and project managers are referred to as coaches. Or they see themselves as such. There are also consultants for almost every discipline. But coaching and advice are by no means the same. In practice, this varies enormously from people who see themselves and are referred to as one or the other.
Business coaching and consulting are different! Coaching is primarily about the development of solutions guided by questions (on the part of the coach) and the self-directed further development of a client (“coachee”). Goals can be the accomplishment of complex individual tasks, professional development (“career”) or the development of personal skills. On the other hand, professional advice offers tips or further information on the same topics. This also goes as far as the use of scientifically based methods and findings.
- Open questions aim to gain a lot of information: “Who, where, what, how, with what, for what purpose …?”
- Scaling questions determine the importance of a question: “On a scale from one to five, how important …”
- On the one hand, hypothetical questions test possibilities: “Could it be that …?”
- Resource-oriented questions, on the other hand, draw attention to experiences, successes, skills: “How have you already managed …?”
- “Angel questions” instead help to develop goals and wishes: “If a fairy came …?”
- Meanwhile, “devil’s questions” direct our attention to wrong and, conversely, correct steps. “What could you do to make the situation worse?” – The best answer I ever got to this question was “Carry on like this.”
- “Circular” questions open the view for other participants: “What would … say?”
In addition, there are special exercises and procedures to reflect on certain topics further and deeper. For example, the representation of the structure of relationships, “life line” for processing questions about one’s career, the MBTI for clarifying one’s own preferences, a diagnostic tool for reflecting on your work-life balance …
Typical coaching topics are:
- First and foremost, the creation of personal relationships, also with employees, superiors, customers …
- Furthermore the planning and decision of next steps in one’s career,
- also practicing new behavior and acquiring new knowledge as well as ways of learning,
- and finally the reflection of one’s own convictions.
Coaching as a procedure: In a (not excessively long) sequence of personal conversations of 90 to 120 minutes each, the topics introduced by the coachee are dealt with. Questions by the coach are the fundamental method here. Of course, “He (she) who asks, leads” also applies here – but this questioning is not done with a leading intention. Rather, the client’s answers are taken up and further explored through follow-up questions; Here the use of Systemic Questions has evolved into a methodology of its own.
In principle, the coaching conversation in business can meander in all possible directions. But the GROW model does represent a certain sequence: Goal – Roadblocks – Opportunities – Will to implement.
First, goal names the topic, expressed as a goal. Mostly the term contract is used for this. The more clearly I succeed in working it out in the introduction, the more creative and also the shorter the conversation will be. But be careful: sometimes the client cannot express his central question, and it only becomes clear as the process progresses. Then the goal changes, and I may have to jump back to this point from a later phase.
Second, the reality of the coachee must first be worked out. Even gaining insight (Kurt Lewin) is possible here. Roadblocks is, however, the more precise expression here: What stands in the way of achieving the goal? For example, I ask: Why don’t you just do that? In contrast, understanding past causes is less important to me!
As a coach, however, it may be appropriate to express understanding, because this gives the coachee a break. I like to say: “Isee..” or even “I know that too.”
Now the point for creative ideas has been reached! After all, the client is looking for approaches to solving his or her questions, almost like in brainstorming. It is particularly important to me that the coachee develops suggestions him- or herself. And not me as coach. This makes implementation easier for her or him.
Finally, I like to summarize or show the bandwidth of solutions that are on the table.
Only when enough approaches to the solution have been developed do I move on to the fourth phase. For this purpose, I lead to the will of the counterpart to implement. What matters to me is concrete actions. And not on new attitudes, “good intentions” or general behavior. Or the actions of others …
- “Contract” (the core element of Goal), the agreement on the mandate in the beginning: what is this all about, who’s responsible for what?”
- Wide variety and flexibility of methods: Personal preferences and well-founded intentions of the coach have to take a back seat to current requirements.
- It’s not about elegant hypothesies or glorious “action”, but patience – and practicability for the client!
I like to use the Life-Line for this. On the one hand already in training, where at least small groups are available as further questions and advisors, and also in coaching sessions. To do this, I let the client (“coachee”) walk along a straight line that symbolizes his previous (professional) life. (In eCoaching this is just as possible: the client walks just as well in their home office or living room – he or she just has to be careful not to walk out of the zoom angle.) I send questions to them as often as possible the choices made to make patterns clear. These can show strengths or initiate reflection on alternatives.
Meanwhile, the principle and methodological core of coaching is the great reluctance of the coach. He or she advises, explains, supports, intervenes, helps, yet does not train! Rather, the focus is on (self-) reflection, understanding, developing practical action and alternatives on the basis of existing competencies by the client. Then, what is the benefit if all of this is left to him or her? The psychodrama, for example, has a brashly formulated explanation here: the “situational stupidity when it comes to oneself”! – and how to overcome this is the issue!
On the other hand, managers, specialists, internal and external consultants sometimes have a head start in terms of knowledge or experience. Even then it can be his or her job to “get this out” of your clients by asking questions. And this can apparently follow the same pattern as a coaching conversation. However, counselling will pursue its own goal and content. But if the client comes up with the solution her- or himself, the chance of implementation is much better. On the other hand, that can also have a manipulative effect: You decipher the underlying intention and feel betrayed.
Sometimes more is needed: a technical talk, formal instruction or lecture, possibly even a lesson. The further the ldifference to the client’s competencies, the more likely the consultant will want or have to share her or his knowledge.
- Determining the corporate or functional strategy,
- the further development of your own business,
- Streamlining of the organization (structure of organization, processes …),
Introduction of new, agile methods
- Career outlook (universities or business schools recommendations, hints at job vacancies …)
- specific questions and projects, also for preparation of decisions.
Topics can “fit” both to coaching or advice. So it is extremely important to clarify that before you start. Conversely, it may be necessary to shift the focus in the course of the dialogue. But it is up to the coach or consultant to make this clear for both. Otherwise advice may sound authoritative, and not only sound …
Coaching and consulting must currently take place under COVID and in home offices. However, I found out in coaching that it’s not as bad as previously thought. And – I am a certified eCoach! I go into more detail via the link. The modules were about the new setting, but also about building relationships and trust, as well as demonstrating methods and scenes virtually.
But when it comes to advice, things are different: observe on site, collect key figures, understand the whole scene – that’s hardly possible from the home office! However, evaluating the numbers, drawing conclusions, developing an idea, pouring the idea into a presentation: this is also possible from home office. Thinking together with colleagues – that’s possible too! A dilemma: if it is true that companies, especially plants that are extremely well managed are coping well with the topic of COVID, it is also true the other way around! And what is there to advise on in extremely well-managed companies?