From time to time I’ve debated the differences between being an external coach/consultant and being an internal coach for an organization over a beer with friends. The way I see it, the outsider has the following advantages:
Surprise: nobody knows you. They don’t see you coming.
No organizational baggage.
Outsiders are perceived as “experts” – after all we pay them more than employees…
Outsiders typically have broader experience across different domains.
Outsiders can and usually will leave.
Not a bad set of advantages to walk into an organization with. Now lets look at the strengths at the internal coach:
Everybody knows the internal coach
The internal coach knows the domain, the terminology, etc.
The internal coach lives with the consequences of their advice
The internal coach knows the players
The internal coach won’t leave.
I’m coming to appreciate the fact that both kinds of coach/consultant can be incredibly valuable to an organization. Often I think organizations benefit from both. An outside consultant can bring a fresh perspective and bring insights that have surprising impact. This can really help to introduce needed change to an organization. An internal coach can serve to support the lasting change that organizations need in order to sustain and improve the work introduced by outside consultants. Together they provide critical support to organizations that are serious about improvement.