From Coaching to Expert Consulting

From Coaching to Expert Consulting
Author Tony Husted coach

Human Resource Management Term Paper
From Coaching to Expert Consulting

August 15, 2006

Coaching has become a buzzword recently in business. More and more job descriptions list Coaching as a primary responsibility for managers. The Noe and Mondy (2005) text, Human Resource Management, states that, “Coaching is considered the responsibility of the immediate boss.” (p. 211). Noe and Mondy also contend that, “the purposes of mentoring and coaching are similar in concept and in terms are often used interchangeably in the literature, we discuss them together.” (p. 210).

Coaching is not interchangeable with mentoring even if the purposes might be similar. Through an exploration of what Coaching, Mentoring, Managing, and Expert Consulting are, and the roles individuals play within these areas, the proper usage of each can be better understood, and indicate that the statements quoted above are in fact false.

A good understanding of the proper uses and distinctions of these four areas are essential for anyone who is responsible for managing human resources at any level.

There are circumstances where each of these four areas in fact cross over, but they should not be used interchangeably. They each have attributes and uses that make them distinct. Through an exploration of each in pure form, and considering how certain roles and responsibilities impact these relationships the uniqueness of each and the reasons they should not be used interchangeably will be apparent.

These four types of relationships cover a spectrum of relationships in business. Although all four areas can certainly cross over at certain times and under certain circumstances, understanding the nature and benefits of each in its true form allows for the proper use of each from a Human Resource Management perspective.

In pure form Coaching is question based and non-directive, involving a Coach and a Client. According to Marilyn Atkinson PhD. (2006), President of Erickson College International, “Most people don’t yet understand that coaching is truly an advice-free zone that assists people to regain their faith in life, turn on the flow of inner connection and creativity, and open wide to humor and life balance. People immediately reach out to the capacity to take leadership in their own lives.”

The International Coaching Federation, the largest organization in the world involved with the field of Coaching defines the role of a Coach: “Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches’ help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.” (2006)

One key distinction is this statement is the scope of Coaching stretches beyond the workplace into all aspects of the client’s life. This distinction can become problematic for a Manager, and will be explained later in this paper.

Jan Elfine PhD, a Master Certified Coach, Coach Trainer and Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming explains, “The major difference between masterful training, therapy, consulting or mentoring, and masterful coaching can be described quite simply. The coach does not have the answers. The coach does not provide expertise. A coach operates from the presuppositions that clients have all the resources they need, including the ability to discover and utilized resources. The coaching relationship moves the client toward an increased awareness of his/her choices. The coach encourages the client to develop more behavioral flexibility, to try the unfamiliar, to venture into new territory and his or her own pace. As clients expand their repertoire of behaviors, they are aware a deeper level that the effort is their own, that they have made the choices and taken the actions that led to their growth. “Credit” goes to the client, not the coach” (2002)

Robert Dilts an internationally known developer and author in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming wrote that, “Coaching emphasizes generative change, concentrating on defining and achieving specific goals. Coaching methodologies are outcome-oriented rather than problem-oriented. They tend to be highly solution focused, promoting the development of new strategies for thinking and acting, as opposed to trying to resolve problems and past conflicts. Problem solving, or remedial change, is more associated with counseling and therapy.” (Coach to Awakener)

Because Coaching holds the clients agenda, is advice-free, question based, and solution-focused in nature, Coaching in business needs to come from outside the organization. One way to do this is through the use of independent coaches. There are also specific applications where outside Coaching can be especially effective: at high levels within an organization a leader who struggle outside of the work setting with personal challenges might be hesitant to share intimate details of his life with his superiors, possibly the Board of Directors. This is especially true with CEO’s. Who can the CEO take his challenges, or even his own personal victories to in confidence?

What is the likelihood that he would take this challenge to a subordinate within his own human resources department? Now imagine a senior manager who is struggling to meet the work demands set forth by her manager. Who can she take this issue to? If she takes this issue to the boss’s boss, possibly the CEO of the company, it is sure to get back to her boss that she “complained” about him and could have negative consequences. On the positive side, she might have a great idea that she is developing, but would like to explore and develop more before taking it to others within the organization?

Now imagine that her company has an outside coach available to her. A Coach can work with her to examine the environment where she works, her behaviors, capabilities, beliefs, values, and identity to identify potential solutions, actions plans, obstacles, and motivation to improve the situation.

The field of true Coaching is based on the work of Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis. The underlying concept behind what Gallwey taught is the ability of the unconscious mind to learn and create naturally by occupying the conscious mind and allowing the unconscious mind to then take over the task. Gallwey would not tell you how to swing a forehand he would literally have you pay attention to something, like the spin on the ball coming toward you, or singing a simple lyric like “toss-and-a-swing” to “teach” you how to serve, with the understanding that the unconscious mind can handle many more “chunks” of attention and the conscious mind can.

This basic concept has taken a step further in Life, or Business Coaching. Coaching presupposes that the client is completely resourceful and through questioning and exploring their own environment, actions, capabilities, beliefs, values, and spirituality the client comes to profound answers that are their own. More than likely you’ll have experienced pure coaching in your life. You have probably seen someone who wanted to make a change in their life for example to lose weight, or to quit smoking for a long time. Their friends, family, and maybe even their boss all had ideas of why, when, and what they should do to accomplish their goal. However when it came down to them actually achieving that goal, it was their own internal decision of why, when and how they should do it that empower them to make the change. That type of decision can often come in response to someone asking a profound question that changes the way the person perceived their world. Coaches assist clients to reach the why, when, and how through a free flowing relationship that can create change in a rapid manner.

Some coaches do more then pure coaching. One of the major online organizations providing coach training and ongoing educational opportunities for coaches is Dave Buck, one of the founders of Coachville, in his Coaching Manifesto, believes the whole conversation of what coaches do and don’t do, “is completely useless. Mostly because the people who matter- the players – REALLY DON’T CARE. Whether or not coaches give advice, or only ask questions or get involved or don’t get involved or have an agenda or don’t have an agenda – FORGET IT! This is what coaches do: whatever it takes within the context of fair play to help the player win the game.”

The biggest gap between being a Manager and being a Coach is agenda. A Manager’s primary responsibility is to the corporation. Milton Freidman, (1970) Nobel Prize winning economist, wrote that, “In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.”

A conflict can arise when a manager must make a decision that is in the corporation’s best interest but not in the employee’s best interest. At that moment the manager violates one of the International Coaching Federations Core Competencies, “Attends to the client and the client’s agenda, and not the coach’s agenda for the client.”

“Coaching, often considered a responsibility of the immediate boss, provides assistance ship such as a mentor. The coach has greater experience or expertise than the protégé and is in the position to offer wise advice.” (211) A Coach might have greater experience or expertise than the client and could give wise advice, but this is much more in line with a mentor a model. Mondy and Noe’s description of Coaching violates one of the basic tenets of Coaching, that the client is the expert in their own life and that they have unlimited resources and potential within them.

Comparing traditional sports coaching with the type of Coaching introduced by Timothy Gallwey is a good representation of this difference as well. A traditional sports coach has an agenda; maybe it could be described as a method. The traditional sports coach looks at the behavior and tells the athlete how to change their actions to improve performance. Timothy Gallwey’s believes that if the conscious mind is occupied and a learning space is present, the athlete’s unconscious mind will learn through the natural process of doing the activity. Gallwey never assumed that he knew how an athlete should do a forehand in tennis.

Mentoring in pure form involves a Mentor and Protégé relationship. The Mentor is considered to have knowledge and experience that the Protégé needs or wants. In a metaphorical sense the Mentor has walked the path that the Protégé is about to embark on. The Mentor advises the Protégé what to expect, what pitfalls to watch out for, and what resources will be needed for the journey.

Chip Bell (2002) in his book Manager as Mentor proposes an updated definition for what Mentoring is: “Bottom line, a mentor is simply some one who helps someone else learn something that would have been otherwise learned less well, more slowly, or not at all. Notice the power-free nature of this definition; mentors are not power figures.” (p. 5)

The above description is much broader than how Bell describes an older narrow idea of what Mentoring is: “The traditional use of the word ‘mentor’ denotes of person outside one’s usual chain of command – from the junior’s point of view, someone who ‘helps me understand the informal system and offers guidance on how to be successful in this crazy organization.’ Not all mentors are supervisors, the most effective supervisors act as mentors. Mentor is typically focused on one person; group mentoring is training or teaching.” (p. 5)

Mentoring can also be viewed on a wide scale, and many Mentors do Coach. Bell reflects upon how being a supervisor can have a negative impact on the relationship between Mentor and Protégé.

“Mentoring works best when implemented in the spirit of partnership. In the Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge talks about another’s ‘fellowship’ as a key support for learning but I think ‘family’ is a better ‘f’ word to capture the spirit of partnership. Fellowship could be simply an association, but ‘family’ implies a much deeper relationship. Learning requires risk taking and experimentation. In necessitates error and mistake. It is uniquely difficult for a mentor to carry out an insight goal (fostering discovery) from and in charge (I’m the boss) role, simply being an ‘expert’ creates the potential of unequal power. Applied to mentor and protégé, ‘family’ implies a closer relationship, not a parent child relationship. The goal is partnership. (p. 13)

This idea of partnership clearly moves the relationship towards the left end of the continuum. Senge’s (1990) idea of partnership with equal power raises the agenda issue. A corporate executive clearly cannot maintain a relationship of equal power with employees.

In their textbook Management a Practical Introduction, Kinicki and Williams (2006) define Management as, “the pursuit of organizational goals efficiently and effectively by integrating the work of people through planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the organization’s resources.”

There is one core reason why a manager cannot be primarily responsible for Coaching: agenda. A Manager’s primary responsibility is not to the employee but to the corporation. Milton Freidman (1970), a Nobel Prize winning economist, stated that, “In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.”

A conflict can arise when a manager must make a decision that is in the corporation’s best interest but not in the employee’s best interest. At that moment the manager violates one of the International Coaching Federations Core Competencies, “Attends to the client and the client’s agenda, and not the coach’s agenda for the client.”
Expert Consulting

Expert Consulting is in many ways the opposite of coaching. The first big differences in the name, the use of the word expert implies that the consultant has specific knowledge and experience beyond that of the client. In some ways consulting is limited by the simple fact that the consultant must have experience with the specific areas the client needs assistance with. Expert consulting might also be in conflict with this tenant if the consultant believes that the areas the client wants to work on are different than what the consultant identifies opportunities or problems.

Even within the field of expert consulting there are varying ideas on what a consultant’s does. One example, a form that some consider a method of group or organizational coaching is Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a change management tool developed by David Cooperrider, PhD in the 1980’s. The main thrust of AI is appreciation of what works and is going well in an organization or individual.

Through holding a focus on the positive aspects of a business or an individual’s life, these strengths develop and manifest to a greater level. This is in stark contrast to societal habits focusing on what is wrong, broken, or not going well. AI, like Coaching holds a belief that there is power in process. Simply by having someone from the outside ask questions about the workings and dynamics of the organization, group or individual, there is learning and change that takes place. The AI consultant may gather information together and facilitate processes for the client, but often does not offer advice or expertise in regards to making changes within the organization.

Although many the outcomes and purposes of Coaching, Mentoring, Managing, and Expert Consulting might overlap, they are each unique in their pure form. With this knowledge a manager of human resources can be more effective in choosing the correct type of relationship for the growth and development of individuals within the organization. Being aware of the conflicting agendas between these four areas, the human resource manager can better address “the utilization of individuals to achieve organizational objectives. (Noe and Mondy. 2006. p. 4)


Atkinson, M. (2006, Summer). Who Else Wants To Play The World Game? Erickson College Newsletter, p1

Bell, C. R. (2002). Managers as Mentors. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Buck, D. (2006, August 12). Coaching Manifesto.

“Coaching Core Competencies.” (2006, August 8).

Dilts, R. (2003). From Coach to Awakener. Capitola, CA: Meta Publications.

Friedman, M. (1970, 13 September). The New York Times Magazine.

Kinicki, A. & Williams, B.K. (2003). Management A Practical Introduction. NY, NY: McGraw Hill/Irwin

“Mentor.” Pennsylvania State University. (2006, 9 August).

Senge, P. (1990). The Fifth Discipline. NY, NY: Doubleday/Currency.

“What is Coaching?” International Coach Federation. (2006, 14 August).

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