Name the Game Part 2: Coaching or Consulting?

In 2008 published an article that business coaching was booming ( I read this article again today, and just came upon a blog post titled, “Are you doing OD, Training, Consulting, Coaching, all of these?” ( and I got to thinking; what’s in the name?

The distinctions are somewhat arbitrary, yet a recent search on Google returned over 3 million results for Business Coach, over 4 million for Organizational Develop Consultant, and over 24 million for Organizational Training. At the core, these functions are the same; they are based on awareness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for marketing and branding. I’m an MBA in marketing after all. I’ll make the case here for describing OD’s value to the client in an authentic way. The current system of differentiating based on fine distinctions is adding a complexity to the profession that is doing more to confuse than add clarity.

Merriam Webster defines “authentic” as “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.” In this case the fact that underlies training, OD consulting, and coaching is genuine awareness. The difference is not found in the stature of the profession, the results possible, or even the length of time or client relationship. The real difference is in the approach to reaching awareness and balance. Balance, then, can lead to results.

  • Training uses needs analysis to gain awareness into the knowledge gaps of employees and the company. Trainers then plan a program to close those gaps.
  • Coaches use a Socratic method to question and probe individuals to uncover areas for improvement and growth. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence reign in this approach and can lead to more dynamic leadership.
  • OD consultants use qualitative, quantitative, and process based approaches to identify “road blocks” within the organization. Although further removed than in coaching, the leadership team must be brought to an understanding, an awareness, of issues in the organization that are limiting success.

It’s not easy to face the deficiencies that may be stopping you, your group, or your organization from succeeding. There is plenty of advice on choosing a coach, a trainer, or a consultant, but at the core, I suggest you find one that can authentically bring awareness to you and your organization.

I invite your comments.