There are many definitions and distinctions for consulting and coaching. Here is how I distinguish between them:
Coaching = A dialogue where the coach facilitates the client to think deeply and perhaps differently about a situation, coming up with one or more alternatives on how to proceed.
Consulting = A presentation of subject-matter expertise from the consultant to a client who has relatively less subject matter knowledge and experience.
In almost every coaching conversation I slide between coaching and consulting. If my experience or knowledge is relevant, I do not withhold it out of a belief that all solutions must derive from the client. On the other hand, much of the coaching dialogue is involved with understanding the client’s interpretations of a situation, including the contributing factors, criteria for decisions, and their own view on possible alternatives. Over the course of a coaching-consulting dialogue, clients should arrive at broader insights and a wider array of options than if they tried to solve the problem alone.
There are situations when clients have asked for my help in areas where I have relatively strong expertise,e.g. marketing, sales, management, communications and leadership. In these cases, I will generate a proposal for a consulting engagement that usually has three phases. The first phase is information-gathering involving surveys and interviews that provide insights to the current state and form the basis for a recommended plan of action. Phase two is the implementation of those recommendations using strong project management skills. Phase three is an assessment of how the Phase Two work has impacted the organization, and what further improvements and practices might be warranted. Clients are kept apprised of progress at every step of the process so there are no surprises.