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Coaching and consulting:  Corporate “C” words?

Coaching and consulting: Corporate “C” words?

by Moyra Mackie on July 8, 2013

Have you or your company ever used management consultants?

Every year in the US alone, more than $396bn is spent  on management and IT consulting, so the chances are there is a consultant somewhere near you, right now.

Spending on consultants is now back to pre-credit crunch levels, yet the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business is only one of many to point out that:

“disenchantment with the value delivered by consultants has grown.”

So companies are spending a fortune on consultants with unclear ROI


No wonder that consultant is a “c-word” in many organizations that have witnessed the arrival of a team of super smart 26 year olds who spend a few months observing processes and then produce a report and a slide deck on which bits of the company need “right sizing” or “down-sizing” or “off-shoring.”

Why do organizations call in consultants?

At the root of all consultancy engagements is the company’s desire to change.  To be more profitable, to be more competitive, to be more successful. 

I’ve been working with teams who want to achieve change for over 15 years, and one of the most repeated phrases I hear about the benefits of consultancy firms is that, “They really understand our business and our market.”

And that’s when I’m forced to declare:

“I don’t think there’s a multi-million dollar management consultancy practice on the planet that understands your business like you do. You are the experts.”

But even experts need help

I empathize with all those senior management teams who want and need to drive change. I agree that most organizations could become vastly more efficient.

I just don’t believe that the answer lies in reducing headcount or increasing salaries.  It doesn’t lie in restructuring or relocating.

Trust is the source of effectiveness and efficiency

I believe the secret to efficient organisations lies in reducing FEAR and increasing TRUST; in improved leadership and open, constructive conversations.

In tough economic times, fear increases and trust goes down. At the same time the need for effective leadership increases.  Those in leadership positions instinctively understand that they need help in trying to do things differently.

Coaches specialize in helping leaders to think and act differently

Yet the same companies who spent close to $400bn on consultants spent “only” $1bn on coaches, according to the Harvard Business Review. Despite the fact there are multiple studies to show the ROI of coaching:

“Coaching produced intangible and monetary benefits for seven out of eight business impact areas; and ROI of $3,268,325 (689 percent)”

So there is a huge disconnect between the proven impact of coaching and the choices organisations make when choosing a change strategy.

Coaching is proven to help individuals, teams and companies achieve lasting change

Coaches don’t write expensive change proposals or re-draw the way an organisation looks.

Changing reporting lines, streamlining processes, shuffling the seats at the top table MAY make it easier for people to have open, constructive dialogue, but it won’t change the majority of communication habits.

It won’t help to build trust.  It won’t miraculously result in people giving open feedback to each other. It won’t make people more decisive or more creative.

Most of what passes for change in organizations is actually disruption

Organizations want a quick fix that doesn’t exist. Initiatives that achieve genuine change are the ones where the management are fully informed about what lies ahead for the organization and are prepared to put in the time and effort to stick at it and make it succeed.

“Thirty years of research by leadership guru Dr. John Kotter have proven that 70% of all major change efforts in organizations fail. Why do they fail? Because organizations often do not take the holistic approach required to see the change through.”

The truth about change is that it gets worse before it gets better

It takes courageous leaders to keep going through the part where it gets worse.  It’s hardly surprising that they do back down – they are not only driving change, they are also experiencing change. As Michael Maginn writes in “Managing in Times of Change”:

“To be a successful leader of change, a manager has to first understand the dynamics of change and how uncertainty affects them and others.  The change leader has to recognize how ambiguity can be used to adapt to changes, how improvisation forces work units to make the best of their situations and how change ratchets up the need for clear, crisp communications”

Change lies within you and the people you work with

Coaches can change the way you, your team or your organization works. Coaches help you to become more effective and more fulfilled.

The C-word is change

Both consultants and coaches can help clients achieve change.

I am a coach AND a consultant.  My consulting skills help me with the WHAT of change, the coaching skills help me with the HOW.

And I know it is not the big stuff – the expensive restructurings – that make a real difference. It’s the small everyday decisions we make, recognition we give, passion we display, that lead to noticeable and lasting change.

So next time you or your manager really, really want to change, look up a decent coach who will work with you to help you achieve real results.

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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