A Consultant or a Leadership Coach: What’s The Difference?

In my mission to unlock an organization’s potential and optimize employee performance, I provide consulting and leadership coaching in addition to leadership training.  I often get asked what the difference is between a leadership coach and a consultant. What would bring someone to hire one or the other or both?  In this article I clarify some of those differences and similarities so that you can decide whether either one of those roles can help you fulfill your organization’s mission.

A consultant provides  professional advice and/ or performs a task on your behalf.  A consultant is hired to solve problems for you.  They may help facilitate a new project or process or give advice on how to go about instituting changes.  Sometimes organizations are going through transitions and they don’t want to use their limited human resources on an important project.  A consultant can be that “extra hand” during these times without incurring the costs associated with in-house staff (such as benefits and overtime).  A consultant also offers valuable expert advice, as they are aware of best practices and have experience successfully addressing similar problems.  Good consultants are aware of evolving information and current research in the area for which they are hired.

Common goals when hiring a consultant include the following:

  • Design an organizational structure that puts the organization in a better strategic position.
  • Develop processes to decrease costs.
  • Develop new policies and procedures.
  • Develop training programs that increase employee competencies and decrease costs.
  • Provide guidance to leaders during organizational changes.
  • Decrease potential litigation risks.
  • Increase employee morale.

 A leadership coach focuses on achieving your future goals as an equal partner.  Much research demonstrates the value and return on investment of hiring a leadership coach for your organization.  A coach provides a very objective, non-judgmental perspective with regard to actions that one can take to achieve their goals.   If you sponsor a coaching relationship for an employee, you are showing that employee that you believe in them enough to invest in their professional development.  Coaching is action oriented and “future” oriented.  Coaching is often accompanied by objective feedback given by subordinates, supervisors and colleagues and allows for high potential leaders to reach optimal effectiveness through an increased self-awareness.  A coach gives the motivated employee accountability to their own standards and unlocks their potential.

 Common goals when hiring a coach are the following:

  •     Increase interpersonal communications and team effectiveness
  •     Practice using new skills in the workplace
  •      Identify and address barriers to optimal organizational performacne (ie. inaccurate    preconceived notions, systemic issues, etc.)
  •     Increase time management and organizational skills
  •     Advance career goals

In my practice, Five Steps make up the Mission Accomplished Leadership Coaching Process (SM) that I developed.  This process marries technical management skills to softer, people skills associated with emotional intelligence.  These steps may occur simultaneously and not necessarily the following order.

Mission I:

  • The employee defines their desired professional legacy and mission.
  • Mission Accomplished Consulting LLC developed an assessment often used in the phase, referred to as the “Cultural Pulse Inventory”.

Mission II:

  • Define a plan to bring the desired legacy and mission to fruition.  This Development Action Plan will be  developed based on the employee’s vision and takes into account the sponsoring organization’s strategic goals.
  • This phase may entail using assessments to determine “where the employee is” so that they can develop a plan to figure out “where they want to be”.  Sometimes feedback from colleagues, subordinates and other people may be obtained to increase self-awareness.
  • During this very active phase, assignments are given that may include reading supportive resources, using skills in various situations, and other assignments.
  • Depending on the employee’s phase in their career and current skills and abilities, they will gain access to case studies and resources exposing them to various management and leadership theories.

Mission III:

  • The employee will learn and practice new management strategies.  As they do, they will evaluate the outcomes and make changes as needed.  Core management abilities scientifically associated with effective management will be continually reinforced.
  • Each coaching session includes a review of progress and obstacles identified since the last coaching session.  New methods of overcoming those obstacles is explored and employed.

Mission IV:

  • Relationships will be developed so that support for learning from colleagues is obtained.

Mission V:

  • A plan for continuous improvement, beyond the life of the coaching relationship, will be developed and implemented.  The coach will follow up in a per-determined number of months to provide additional guidance and validation as needed.

Unlimited e-mail support is provided throughout the Mission Accomplished Coaching Process (SM).  In addition, feedback is also provided to the sponsoring organization, although only in accordance with predetermined boundaries of confidentiality.  I adhere to the ICF Code Of Ethics, as trust if very important and is the foundation of making the coaching relationship work.

The outcomes of leadership coaching and consulting are very similar.  They are both means of increasing employee engagement, decreasing costs, increasing retention, increasing efficiency and capitalizing on the strengths of the organizations resources! ©Copyright Denise Scotti-Smith 2013.  All Rights Reserved.



Denise Scotti-Smith, MS, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Founder and President of  “Mission Accomplished” Consulting, LLC.  With more than 20 years of leadership experience, she specializes in strategic planning, leadership & employee development, organizational development, change management, operations management,  employee relations, and  HR  law. For more information, go to http://www.missionllc.org.



About Mission Accomplished Consulting LLC

Denise Scotti-Smith PHR, SHRM-CP is the Founder and President of Mission Accomplished Consulting, LLC. As a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, she provides coaching, risk management services, consulting, outsourcing and on-site management training. With a Master's in Organizational & Human Resource Management and more than 20 years of leadership experience, she specializes in risk management, organizational development, strategic planning, leadership & employee development, change management, operations management, employee relations, and HR law. For more information, go to http://www.missionllc.org.
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