Coaching, Sparring or Consulting?

What is Sparring?

The term „sparring“ is well known from boxing. Training with a sparring partner simulates the real competition. A sparring partner in management meets you at eye level, because of his or her high level management skills and experiences. A sparring partner knows what you are talking about when it comes to leading a division, organization and people. Challenges during change processes of every kind, finding the right strategies based on company’s values, decision-making and getting everybody on board has always been a bumpy road. A sparring partner supports you to see things from different perspectives in order to make better decisions. The goal is to improve strategies or communication, efficiency or team spirit, leadership skills or to find solutions for challenging situations while leading employees. With a sparring partner, you will expand your skills in dealing with issues, topics and your scope for decision-making and tailormade actions. 

Tasks of a Sparring Partner

An experienced sparring partner combines management know-how with technical and methodological knowledge of a consultant and the coaching techniques of a coach. For example, a sparring partner takes a critical stance on a solution approach that you may prefer. Or, for example, if you exclude an option for action, a sparring partner takes over a different perspective and offers new opportunities to think about. If you would like to, a sparring partner also can take on the role of an "Advocatus Diaboli", i.e. challenging your concept. Offering suggestions, alternative options for action, feedback and ideas is explicitly expected from a sparring partner.

Sparring topics such as leadership, national/international leadership culture, communication, organizational structure, strategy development or strategy reflection are my expertise. Regular sessions take place for a certain period of time for 1.5 to 3 hours each.

What is Coaching?

An essential characteristic of a coach is that he or she does not interfere, does not give advice on possible solutions, does not answer questions, but only asks questions. A coach will focus on your resources, experience and knowledge based on the assumption that a client who has fully understood the wide scope of  a problem will also find new solutions to the problem. In a coaching process you will also discover skills and resources that were previously not obvious or present to you. A coach will support you using question techniques and methods during different project phases to unfold your ideas and solutions. Active listening and impulses will be given to experience new points of view. No matter what kind of challenges you are facing: a coach never judges and never rates anything as good or bad. An experienced coach always acts with a  neutral mindset. As with a sparring partner, coaching sessions take place regularly for a certain period of time, for 1.5 to 3 hours each.

What is Consulting?

A consultant, on the other hand, does all the work for you. A consultant is expected to identify the causes of a management problem and with specific know-how propose appropriate solutions. First, a consultant analyzes the challenges of the management team or department in all details and after a detailed briefing session. Furthermore, a consultant obtains additional information from team members of the organization. Analysis and results are supplemented by DeskResearch and, if necessary, workshops. Afterwards, concrete proposals for solving the issues and its implementation into the organization will be presented and decided. The consultant suggests next steps and key performance indicators to achieve (partial) goals.

The consulting project involves concentrated work on the analysis of the challenge and solution concepts which must be prepared within a limited period of time. The client and employees are responsible for executing the new strategy plan.

Conclusion

Sparring and coaching is an intense process of working together "face to face". With a sparring partner, challenges can be approached with greater certainty and assuredness about the consequences. In a safe sparring or coaching environment, managers develop specific, tailor-made approaches and skills. During the process, they revise their strategies and tactics, and also obtain advice and feedback from the sparring partner. The sparring work is integrated into the work rhythm in such a way that a high process speed is guaranteed. It’s an important advantage that is very much appreciated by executives and managers due to their time constraints.