As a change practitioner, your clients look to you for answers.

But is that really the best way to serve them?

It’s likely that you have a “change toolkit” that you carry with you every day as you manage and lead change.

It may include a methodology – whether it be Kotter’s 8-Step Process, Lewin’s Change Management Model, McKinsey’s 7 Ss Model, the Satir Change Model, Agile, or some combination of these or many others.

In addition, you probably have assessment instruments and interview guides to deploy at any given time.

Perhaps you have white papers, research reports, articles, and even videos.

Not only that, you may have a certification, such as the CCMP, Prosci, PMP, PHR, or some combination of these.

That said, the one skill most change practitioners don’t have is coaching skills.

Coaching, when done well, results in your client owning the answer, and knowing that they do.

In order to achieve this, though, we must understand what coaching really is.

We can begin to understand the difference when we define our terms and distinguish between consulting and coaching.

Because we tend to use these words interchangeably, they lose their meaning.

So let’s define them so we can get a better understanding of what change management coaching really is.


Consultants are called upon to “fix” something – an organization (or part of an organization), not a person per se.

This is because different ways of thinking and behaving are believed to be able to better serve the organization and its objectives.

Methodologies and processes, like those listed above, serve as primary tools for many consultants because consultants operate like subject matter experts.

Clients rely on consultants to provide and own the solutions.

As we will discuss further, whereas consultants provide solutions and expertise, coaches provide a facilitative process where the client themself solves the problem.


Coaching, as defined by the International Coach Federation, is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Powerful questions – including questions about “who the client needs to be” – are among the change coach’s tools.

In addition, creating the environment to hold space, use silence, and ask powerful questions makes the impact of the change professional “stick” by better increasing the involvement of the client in solving the problem they currently face.

Professional coaches require special training and licensure; some clients may also require some form of coach certification in order to hire a coach.

Change management professionals deploy coaching expertise in the day-to-day work of doing organizational transformation and do not engage in formal coaching. They incorporate coaching techniques and mindset into their work to increase their consulting impact.

Change management professionals do not need to be certified in coaching, they just need a solid foundation in the coaching mindset and skillset to bring their clients a more open collaborative and interactive experience.

All that said, one thing really distinguishes change coaches from change consultants:

Change Management Coaches Have Questions, Not Answers

Steering your client to the answer you want them to reach isn’t coaching.

When consulting you will often find yourself working harder than your client because you’re there to “fix” something by providing expertise, which lets the client off the hook of being involved in creating the solution.

However, when you are coaching, your client does the hard work.

As a consultant, you will bring your change expertise to bear in support of the client’s success.

But as a coach, you will guide the client to find the answers they need to own, and the actions to take to implement those answers.

That said, there is an intricate “dance” between the roles that makes using the Coach Approach an art rather than a science.

If the client is contracted with upfront to understand that the change management consulting can wear two hats, then the change management practitioner can say “I’m moving into the coaching role here to help us further explore this issue” and then the consultant is able to do both roles.

We invite you to enroll in one of our next Consulting Skills for Change Management Professionals Certificate Program to learn more about the intricacies of incorporating coaching skills into your change management work.

Many of our students have exclaimed that their impact with their sponsors and stakeholders has highly increased due to the way that their client interaction has improved.

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