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Distinguishing Between Coaching And Consulting – Exclusive Interview With Patrick Jinks

As President of The Jinks Perspective, Dr. Patrick Jinks coaches, facilitates, and trains nonprofit leaders. He is a multi-bestselling author, a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and a teaching member of The Right Question Institute. He is a Board Certified Coach and a Certified Influencer Trainer through Vital Smarts — the collaborative that brought us Crucial Conversations. His speaking stages range from TEDx to The United Nations. His podcast, The Leadership Window is a FeedSpot® Global Top 10 show in nonprofit leadership.

Patrick Jinks, Executive Leadership and Strategy Coach


Let's start by getting your definition of coaching. You are adamant about distinguishing yourself as a coach rather than a consultant. From your perspective, what is the difference?


First, I'm always careful to clarify that I am not saying one is better than the other. We obviously need consultants. I simply play a better coach than I do a consultant! Basically, I consider a consultant to be an expert in a specific field who comes to the table with recommendations and answers. A coach is a facilitative thought partner who comes to the table with the right questions. My job is not to bring you my best thinking. Of course, I always try to bring my best thinking. But my real job is to draw out and elevate the best thinking of the leaders I'm coaching. I have also described coaching as a forced pause. Too often, we don't take the time to think and be intentional about our leadership behaviors and growth because we are too consumed with the tasks on our plates.


So, do you do any consulting, or do you limit yourself to being a coach?


I don't know that it is as much an issue of being limited as it is simply knowing which situation calls for which role. There are times when it is appropriate for me to play the consultant role. Most of the time, this is manifested in a training scenario. I teach managers the tenets of employee engagement. I teach program directors the principles of outcome measurement. I teach groups how to generate their own meaningful questions. In these training activities, I consider myself to be more on the consultant side. On the flip side, when I am helping boards of directors identify and articulate their strategic intentions, I am coaching. When I am holding space for an executive leader to think deeply about their current behaviors and the results those behaviors are producing, I am coaching.


Leadership and strategy are critical in any sector. Why are you specifically focused on nonprofits?


I get asked that a lot. There is certainly more money to be made in the corporate sector! And the truth is, I do have a few business clients. Leadership is leadership regardless of the sector, but there are some nuances and unique challenges that leaders face in social sector organizations. My own two decades of experience in nonprofit organizational leadership are an asset to the organizations I coach, and because I have lived it, I have a deep appreciation for the necessity and the value of social sector coaching. So again, I wouldn't say that I am limiting myself to the nonprofit sector, But I would say that it is a mission priority.


As you coach nonprofit leaders, what are some of the most common challenges you find them facing?


There are four or five dynamics that appear frequently. Stress and burnout might be at the top of the list. Leading change in the social sector happens at a much slower pace because so many different stakeholder groups have to get on the same page in order to advance. This leads to much frustration. In fact, it was one of the things I found to be most challenging when I was in nonprofit executive leadership. Entrepreneurial leaders who like to move fast and thrive on innovation can find the nonprofit space to be excruciating.


This is very much related to a second common challenge nonprofit leaders face – board engagement. Volunteers from across sectors comprise nonprofit boards. Rarely do they fully understand their role and responsibility as members of their organizations’ governing bodies. They almost always mean well, but they usually have only a surface view and understanding of the organization’s inner workings. The degree of commitment varies dramatically, and they often bring their own professional, reputational, and social agendas to the boardroom. Many of them serve on multiple boards, diluting and fragmenting their commitment even more. One of the biggest and most difficult jobs a nonprofit CEO has is to effectively engage their board as both a single entity and a set of individual stakeholders.


Other challenges I frequently see include conflict aversion and reluctance to practice assertive leadership. Servant and steward leadership styles are prevalent in the sector. This is appropriate and necessary, but it can also contribute to the lack of speed and progress. For example, allowing underperforming employees to continue in mediocrity Is often driven by either empathy or conflict aversion. But failing to address such issues leads to distrust among the high performers, and consumes organizational bandwidth that could be better spent elsewhere.


For leaders who have never had an executive coach, how would you describe the experience and the process? What should leaders expect from an engagement with an executive coach?


I like to say that a leadership coach does for a leader’s mind what a physical trainer does for an athlete's body. The idea is to develop and strengthen leadership muscle. Just like the athlete is the one actually doing the reps and the heavy lifting, the coaching process requires the leader to do the heavy thinking, exploring, and problem-solving. I am not there to give advice on how to run their organizations. I am there to be a safe accountability partner who can help them assess themselves, challenge them to think more deeply, and support them by helping them explore new ideas and solutions.


Certified coaches take confidentiality as seriously as counselors, attorneys, and physicians. So, leaders can feel safe to open up, be vulnerable, and expand their comfort zones. The practical logistics of the process can vary, but it generally consists of a series of conversations over a period of six months to a year that are intended to develop new and improved leadership behaviors that will take leaders to the next level. In my practice, these conversations are usually about three weeks apart. This keeps the work top-of-mind while still providing time between sessions to work on the behaviors committed to in the leader plan. We start with a series of assessments, move quickly to goal setting, and then begin the process of identifying, articulating, and committing to the leadership behaviors necessary to advance toward the leader’s goals.


You facilitate a lot of strategic planning for nonprofits. How do you apply the coaching model to that process?


The model is the same – assess, challenge, and support, all through the use of powerful questions. In the boardroom, I facilitate conversations that lead to committed action. Instead of leading board members through conventional statement-building exercises, I ask questions, listen to the conversations, synthesize the themes, and reflect them back in a way that brings clarity. I am not an expert in running an early childhood development center, a homelessness advocacy organization, or a charity health clinic. They are the experts. My expertise lies in drawing out their expertise in a way that leads them toward their aspirations.


What is the story behind the company name, The Jinks Perspective?


Well, the timing of that question is interesting because we are working on a refresh of the brand later this year. But the original and current name of the company is based on my work as an award-winning professional photographer. Effective strategy requires the ability to view the business landscape through multiple lenses. Effective leaders see the big picture through wide-angle lenses, but they are also comfortable putting on the telephoto lens and focusing more intently on a specific element of the environment. I have found that coaching is one of the most powerful tools for helping people see things from multiple perspectives. Our rebrand later this year will emphasize that we are a coaching company. But I won't give any more away on that right now!


So, besides a refresh of the brand, what is next for The Jinks Perspective?


We will continue to support nonprofits with strategic planning and leadership development, but with longer-term engagements. We are moving away from being a one-off resource, toward deeper partnerships with organizations. We are increasingly functioning as a talent and strategy system for nonprofits who need ongoing support, but who can’t afford the full-time staff to deliver it.


We are also focusing more on the C-Suite. In the nonprofit sector, there is a significant exodus of baby boomer CEOs on the horizon, and the next level of leaders needs to be prepared to assume the reigns.


Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and visit my website for more info!




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