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What is the difference between coaching and consulting?

What is the difference between coaching and consulting and where does ADAPTOVATE sit?

At Adaptovate – we are often asked about the difference between Agile Coaching and Consulting.   Quite often our new recruits ask the question – and at Adaptovate we do both.

Exploring Versus Providing Possibilities

In a Forbes article from last year, one of Adaptovate’s newest team members, Alan Trivedi,  from Los Angles said,

“When you coach, you explore possibilities. When you consult, you provide possibilities. Knowing the difference enables you to provide the greatest value to your customer. When you’re are coaching, you help them explore possibilities for themselves that they might not see. When you consult, you take those possibilities and provide them with options based on your knowledge and experience.”

We’d thought we’d share with you our insights between the Coaching and Consulting.  So we asked a few more of our Adaptovate team to share their thoughts.      First up, coaching.


Mina Gurgis is one of Adaptovate’s consultants from Sydney.  He says “Coaching is when one helps people come to the answer themselves.   They are not the subject matter expert in the area, but he/she is an expert in coaching people to work together and ask thought provoking questions. ”


“Coaching is an very human activity” says Steve Walton – our consultant in the New York office. “It has a focus on personal skills, development of an individual’s competencies.  Additionally there are often discussions about feelings and motivations.”

Steve continues, “The focus tends to be about how to help people be their best.”

Tiong Yeow Tan, an Agile Consultant for Adaptovate in Singapore , says “Coaching is more about framing and enabling the people to solve the challenge themselves.”

Brigitte Odgers-Jewell recently joined Adaptovate in Singapore as our Project Lead and consultant.  She tells this story, “A couple of weeks ago I was brooding over this exact topic! Having spent the better part of 10 years in the company of coaches (mostly Agile but also Career and Executive coaches) I now find myself in the company of consultants.

Prior to joining Adaptovate the mention of bringing a consultant in would leave me cold. This was mostly due to a cognitive bias. But I am now an Agile consultant – an oxymoron in itself.”


Brigitte continues, “Here is where I see similarities. Both coach and consultant will deliver results since both are experts in their field. They are both highly skilled and able to share best practice knowledge in areas of organisational transformation, software development and change etc.

They work across all areas of the organisation from c-suite to team. Both are well versed in organisational design and the pros and cons of transformation options.

The way in which coach and consultant arrive at the outcome is where I see the main difference.

Brigitte explains 5 ways coaching is different to consulting.


  1. The coach will ask many probing questions in order to solicit unique and creative solutions to problem solving.
  2. The coach will work with the team/s to construct a plan that is owned mostly by the team and delivered by the team/s with the coach supporting them with reminders of guiding principles and making space for experimentation and learning.
  3. The coach will encourage course correction and facilitate negotiations to change a plan based on data and team input.
  4. The coach uses techniques to call out blind spots that support team collaboration and self-awareness. All of which is done in a transparent manner.
  5. The coach is equipped with a tools to encourage creation of new habits and mindset shift to take on a changing environment.


Our Adaptovate team are enthusiastic about the role of the consultant.

Steve says “Consulting is a broader, more organisational or systems view.


This practice is about solving a problem, building a strategy or some other type of advice to move forward.” he continues.

“Consulting is when a person is a subject matter expert in a topic and provides his/her solutions/recommendations to others.”  Mina explains.

Tiong Yeow Tan thinks,  “Consulting is about providing advice to solve a particular challenge”.

Caitilin Studdert, a Project Lead at Adaptovate in Sydney, shared her view that “Coaching is about supporting and guiding either a team or an individual. I see consulting as very similar.

There’s often a perception that consulting is sitting in a backroom and devising a strategy without any connection to the company or those working within it.” Caitlin says.

“ADAPTOVATE has been created specifically to offer an entirely different approach. We work alongside our clients as consultants in the same way we do as coaches.” explains Caitlin.

Brigitte Odgers-Jewell now explains how consultants differ from coaches, “The consultant will provide answers and solutions to the particular situation that they have been engaged to address.

This usually comes in the form of a beautifully (time consuming) presented power point presentation.”

“Meticulously structured in a way that presents the problem, the solution, the timeline action plan and usually some metrics on how success should be measured (I have found that these metrics are usually focused on financial gain and ticking off milestones).” she continues.

“The plan is usually an artefact that gets signed off and is from that point set in stone and the consultant will walk across hot coals to achieve the agreed outcome.


The interaction at a team level is only to gather insights to help with the plan and not usually to support overall engagement.”

Brigitte shares this insight “Consultants are usually put in a place that is out of site and their work secretive and confidential. Where I see the 2 roles coming together at Adaptovate is not black and white because I think there is a place for both.

What I have recognised over the past 3 months is that keeping an open mind and learning from each other can make a formidable difference to clients that we are working with.

Providing structure and clarity in the form of a well thought out, experience-based plan balanced with a strong dose of Agile principles.   There must be adherence to the Agile values and building strong relationships and the desire to bring out the best in people.” Brigitte concludes.

Finally, we want to leave you with this to have a think about – it’s from the Forbes article Coaching And Consulting (And How To Decide What Your Business Needs)  “Knowing when to employ the services of a coach or a consultant can be crucial for your business, either by helping you further develop your leadership skills or by helping you solve a problem head-on.”   

At ADAPTOVATE, we play both roles. We coach our clients to think of solutions themselves and we use our expertise in Agile ways of working (consulting) to help them deliver the best solutions.

We’re hiring!

If you (or you know someone) who is interested in a step change in your career and want to work with Adaptovate – we have openings at Adaptovate across the world.    

If you are interested please visit our Jobs page on LinkedIn and get in touch for a chat.    PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR NETWORK – You never know who may be ready for a new challenge.

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