Coaching and Consulting skills – Limiting beliefs, approaches to helping and marketing consultancy

At the start of February it was a full house of delegates from accountancy, law and consultancy firms (including from Hong Kong) at the PM Forum’s  “Coaching and Consulting skills for marketing and business development professionals”. Delegate views and poll results are shown below. Some key insights from the session: Coaching and Consulting skills – Limiting beliefs, different approaches to helping and marketing consultancy.

Manage limiting beliefs

During the coaching module, there was much discussion about limiting beliefs or limiting assumptions. These are described further here: Before your set your goals – check your limiting assumptions (

A first step is to identify or uncover what are often unconscious limiting assumptions. This requires you to listen carefully to what is being said and to observe non-verbal communication that might suggest that there is something else to consider.

A good example of a limiting belief comes from running. When people didn’t believe a person could run a mile in under four minutes – this became a limiting belief. And people didn’t attempt to break this goal until Roger Bannister did so What Breaking the 4-Minute Mile Taught Us About the Limits of Conventional Thinking (

There several ways to tackle limiting assumptions. One of most common is that of Socratic questioning which is used by counsellors and therapists in Cognitive-Based Therapy (CBT). In essence, it involves asking different types of questions:

  • Clarification questions
  • Source questions (its origins)
  • Exploring assumptions more deeply
  • Questions about reasons and evidence
  • Questions about situations which counter the assumption or belief
  • Implication and consequence questions
  • Viewpoint questions

A related approach is to help the person consider alternative views and contradictory evidence. So where they believe that something can’t be done – direct them to consider where others have managed to achieve something similar. By creating cognitive dissonance, they will need to adjust their own views to accommodate the information that challenges it.

A further option is to help people reframe the limited belief. This suggests that rather than focusing on weaknesses, you focus on strengths. So, for example, rather than thinking “I am no good at business development” think about how to see this more positively – such as “I am really good at forming relationships with clients and delivering great service”. And then consider then how to apply the strengths to the areas where they are seeking support.

This article may also help 6 Steps to Breaking Your Limiting Beliefs (

Know the difference between coaching and consulting

We explored various definitions of coaching, including how it has evolved from:

“Coaching is a process that helps and supports people manage their own learning in order to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be” to

“A facilitative or helping relationship with the purpose of achieving some type of change, learning or a new level of individual or organizational performance” (Helping people change: Coaching with compassion (

Coaching is primarily a process of asking questions in a specific order to help the person find the solution themselves. Whereas in consulting the helper initially asks questions but is more likely to contribute content and their own ideas. The danger of telling people what to do is that you are likely to create resistance  – unless you take them on the exploration journey to co-create a solution.

A simple way to consider the difference is that in coaching we are primarily asking questions but in consulting we are also suggesting possible solutions.

There were some interesting insights into the right sort of coaching environment – some suggested exploratory discussions might take place in a coffee shop (although there were concerns about confidentiality) and whilst walking (preferably in a natural setting). We also talked about creating psychological safety.

There was also discussion about at what stage of a relationship you might consider coaching and whether you should be explicit about what you are doing. Professional coaches (and consultants) are required to “contract” with people – to agree up front how the working relationship will develop and be maintained – the rules of engagement. However, all were agreed that we needed to learn more about the person and their particular views and challenges (i.e. build the relationship and trust) before embarking on a coaching or consulting process.

Develop marketing consultancy skills

There was considerable discussion about the changing nature of our roles in marketing and business development. Changes are being driven by fee-earner expectations, time challenges facing fee-earners, changing client requirements, increasing competition, data/digital transformation and more sophisticated M&BD programmes (see below).

Marketing consultancy (whether inhouse or an external consultant) requires a slightly different mix of skills to other types of consultancy. There is some useful information in the Level 6 Marketing Manager Apprenticeship  on marketing consultancy skills including:

  1. The consultancy proposition
    • Scoping the offering/Benefits/Messaging/STP/Communication
    • Engaging with clients and building networking opportunities
  2. Skills and competencies
  3. Personal brand
    • Soft skills – Communication, IT/technical literacy, interpersonal, adaptability, research, project management, process improvements, work ethic, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, persuasive writing and presentation skills etc
    • Organisation and relationship mapping (strategic selling)
    • Content and scenario development
    • Personal reputation as a figurehead (positioning and perceptual mapping)
    • T-shaped  and thought leadership
    • Developing a network of relationships
  4. Managing the relationship into the future
    • Corporate reputation

The 6 Essential Consulting Skills (Clients Want These) | Consulting Success (2022)

  1. Communication skills
  2. Observation skills
  3. Problem-solving skills
  4. People skills
  5. Organisation and time management skills
  6. Objectivity and independence skills

Ready To Hire A Marketing Consultant? Here’s 10 Things To Look For. (

  1. Why are you hiring a marketing consultant?
  2. What timeframe do you have for your marketing consultant’s success?
  3. What do you expect your marketing consultant to be able to do?
  4. Besides talking about content, websites and SEO, can you have actual business conversations with your marketing consultant too?
  5. Is the marketing consultant experienced in talking to customers and drawing insights from interviews?
  6. How much do you value strategy in the equation? Are you committed to seeing a strategy fully through before engaging in new tactics?
  7. What is the marketing consultant’s approach from the first meeting?
  8. Are you open to a strategic brand audit/assessment?
  9. Who else has the marketing consultant worked with?
  10. Are they certified as marketing experts? Are they trained on the latest marketing techniques, tools and technologies on a monthly basis?

Delegate views

Delegate aims for the session 

  • To be able to better consult/advise our fee earners rather than just doing what is given/told
  • Transitioning from doing to consulting/advising
  • Being more proactive rather than reactive.
  • To better influence senior stakeholders and also support junior levels coming through

How are M&BD roles changing? 

  • More data (and digital) focused
  • Our relationship building skills are being acknowledged
  • Expectation of our ability to generate new business
  • Client expectations are higher, based more on relationships
  • We’re expected to bring in new ideas more often, not just following the past
  • Becoming more innovative with ideas, promoting the personable touch to an adviser over AI
  • Client experience focus
  • Expectations are higher
  • Expected to be sector or service line experts
  • MBD needs to be proactive, having expert knowledge in what they do and be responsive
  • More client facing roles
  • And all with higher workloads!

What do fee-earners expect from M&BD?

  • Need to help senior stakeholders understand how communicating with clients and profiling themselves on digital platforms is different from what they’re used to
  • Know things they don’t, have the answers, understand commercial pressures
  • Experts and forward thinking
  • Strong relationships with them and the skills to develop these, invest time in getting to know the fee-earner and how they like to work
  • Know what our competitors are doing, comparisons.
  • Need to have experience and expertise
  • Experts who think out of the box
  • If sector specific advice/team, they expect us to know that sector and the target audience.
  • Actively learning ourselves and managing time effectively.
  • Experience, innovative, strategic
  • Be able to back up what we’re saying does and does not work (data, or some sort of reporting)
  • Keep up with industry trends, communicate regularly
  • Marketing qualifications/knowledge
  • Insight into current marketing trends etc
  • Need to have a deep understanding of their clients / markets / competitors
  • Need to have a brief understanding of their practices, strategic, understanding of their work/time, thought leaders, commercial thinking
  • Reactive, experts in our field, an extension of their team – our Lawyers are our Clients
  • Broad knowledge of the wider firm
  • They think we can do it all and deliver it all with minimum input from them as possible as they are time poor

Delegate views on what is coaching 

  • Asking open questions
  • Encouraging people to find their own solutions
  • Helping people get to the right answer they are looking for
  • Helping someone achieve their goals
  • Coaching: sharing your knowledge in a way effective enough for the other party to truly understand and apply their knowledge practically
  • Understanding/advising/challenging
  • Helping people get where they want to – guiding / advising
  • Sharing your knowledge side by side
  • Listening and then advising
  • Supporting someone to achieve their goals by educating them
  • Help someone understand what’s in the way of their goals
  • A good communicator and listener to have a discussion rather than one way advice

(See some definitions above)

Combined solution to a coaching scenario

After break out groups, a combined solution covered:

  • Learn about the person (to build trust and the relationship)
    • Understand the individual’s profile, reputation, department dynamics and environment.
    • His/her background and previous roles and networks
    • Explore the context
      • The firm’s strategic goals and budget
      • What might happen if the goals were not achieved (link to motivation)
  • Their aims or goals
    • Gain a deeper understanding of what he/she wants to achieve
    • The source of the goals (line manager support?) and whether they are realistic
    • The extent to which he/she is committed to the goals
    • Set feasible, tangible goals within a set timeframe
    • The necessary milestones to get there (Focus on 1st goal first)
  • Possible options and actions for them
    • Opportunities identified for growth
    • How much time he/she has available
    • What information and research might be needed
    • Who he/she identifies as a role model or source of advice and assistance
    • Whether he/she has the right skills and resources (learning resources)
    • Possible strategies and alternatives and obstacles
  • Their motivation
    • What will he/she do before the next session?
    • Who he/she might work with to progress?
    • What he/she will do if issues are encountered?

Combined solution to a consulting scenario

After break out groups, a combined solution for exploration and interventions covered:

  • Before any meetings:
    • Obtain information and research on the aims, issues and options identified
    • Consider completing a marketing audit Marketing basics – Marketing audits with onions and pestles (
    • External environment (trends and competitors and clients)
    • Internal environment (financial and human resources)
    • Conduct interviews with major clients
    • Explore perceptions amongst high quality referrers
    • Liaise with the various teams to obtain different perspectives and ideas (and produce a stakeholder map)
  • Clarify the aims
    • Short term revenue aspirations vs long term profit aims
    • Assess the impact of the firm’s culture (including senior management support)
    • Check the scope of the project (and expectations)
  • Unite the team
    • Find common areas of agreement and consensus
    • Agree priorities
    • Establish the strongest sales proposition and align the brand/reputation
    • Identify juniors and assistants who can assist in preparation, research and follow up tasks
    • Agree further exploration activities
  • Develop solutions
    • Reminder of goals (expectations), costs and risks
    • Clarify the priority segments and targets
    • Evaluate the various options and assess views on which to pursue
    • Consider messages and channels in an integrated plan
    • Establish monitoring and measurement systems
    • Start small with a pilot team/project
  • Develop agile plans to implement further interventions
    • Monitor results and adjust the programmes

Many consultants would break down the consulting process into a number of stages – with regular meetings and workshops throughout the process. This guides people through the process – allowing them to examine the data and evidence at each stage. Involvement and collaboration throughout the process will build greater buy in and commitment.

Delegate key points of interest and takeaways

Delegate polls

Delegates like to benchmark their responses against those of their peers

What sector are you from:

  • Legal 65% (11)
  • Accountancy 29% (5)
  • Consultancy 6% (1)

How would you rate your relationships with fee-earners?

  • Average 29% (5)
  • Good 71% (12)

The area I most need to develop to start coaching and consulting:

  • How I am perceived 18% (3)
  • Technical skills 18% (3)
  • Attributes
  • Knowledge 35% (6)
  • Soft skills/behaviour 24% (4)
  • Something else 6% (1) “Managerial and project management skills”

At what stage in the relationship can you start to coach and consult?

  • Acknowledgement 12% (2)
  • Understanding 18% (3)
  • Acceptance 18% (3)
  • Respect 24% (4)
  • Trust 29% (5)
  • Bond 0%

What is the biggest challenge when developing relationships with and helping fee-earners?

Which area of the coaching process presents the biggest challenge for M&BD?

  • Identify challenges, vision and goals 18% (3)
  • Explore the situation (may involve assessments) 0%
  • Develop and consider different strategies and options 24% (4)
  • Agree short and medium term plans 0%
  • Signpost and provide relevant learning resources 0%
  • Ensure there is motivation and ability to undertake chosen activities 53% (9)
  • Assess and support progress 6% (1)

Which do you think is the MOST important coaching skill

How would you assess psychological safety in your firm A general law of interpersonal relationships? (

  • Excellent 12% (2)
  • Good 47% (8)
  • OK 41% (7)

Which consulting skill do you most need to develop

Which part of the consulting process do you think will be most challenging?

  • Entry 12% (2)
  • Contracting 6% (1)
  • Diagnosis 12% (2)
  • Intervention 59% (10) “Finding the sources for new ideas / solutions is another obstacle”
  • Implementation 6% (1)
  • Evaluation 6% (1)

When presenting ideas and solutions, what is the biggest challenge

  • Achieving consensus/buy in 19% (3)
  • Managing disagreement between partners/teams 19% (3)
  • Dealing with fixed views 31% (5)
  • Managing involvement/impact from other functions/teams 6% (1)
  • Being confident of the outcome/results 19% (3)
  • Justifying the investment 6% (1)
  • Cultural and structural issues 0%
  • Discussing implementation and evaluation criteria 0%

A delegate asked about this issue What do you do when a male colleague doesn’t like women? (gender bias) (

Related Articles

Don’t jump to conclusions – Coaching and Consulting skills ( 

Coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop (November 2021) (

coaching and mentoring skills (

Coaching skills – the power of questions (

Emotional contagion, delegation, coaching and team meetings (

Soft skills: Introduction to coaching – Three frameworks (

Book review: Coaching skills: A handbook by Jenny Rogers (

Coaching models – book review of Stephen Gibson’s book (

Helping people change: Coaching with compassion (

Consulting skills 1 – Book review: The Art of Consultancy (

Consulting skills 2 – Book review: Flawless Consulting by Peter Block (

Consulting skills 3 – Book review: Humble Consulting by Edgar h Schein (