How to create a strategic growth plan (and the difference between a coach and a consultant)

Discover how the three tiers of growth investments, including the most critical: professional growth catalyst partners. We'll also be discussing the three main categories of these partners: educators, consultants and facilitators. We'll explore the importance of each category, how they can work synergistically to help you grow in different areas of your life, and how to strategically weave all of this into a transformational growth plan.

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In order to grow effectively, you need to have a structured strategy for doing so. This includes knowing how much to invest in your growth in each area you want to grow in. However, there’s a huge range of scales for growth, investment, everything from casually browsing YouTube videos, to investing tens of thousands of dollars into a whole suite of experts who are invested in working full time to help you train and optimize your performance. The ideal solution is one that allows you to calibrate your investment for each area of growth in such a way that you don’t waste excessive effort on goals that are misaligned with your overall narrative, and which empowers you to direct your resources towards those areas of growth which give you maximum impact and success. But how do you do that?

It all comes down to awareness – strategically structured awareness. As a career performance coach, I’ve optimized my growth strategies to support my passion for reconciling humanity and technology. I’ve focused on studying and practising communication and connection skills, and calibrated nearly everything I do to synergize around that area. This has allowed me to say no to a ton of distractions that would have been fun, even good. But by saying “No” to them, I’ve empowered a vastly stronger “Yes” to my purpose.

Here’s how you can do the same.

Step One: list all your areas of strength, interest, and experience. All of them – small, large, everything. Brain dump it all at once into one spot.

Step Two: categorize those based on your values and look for patterns. You can then nest or group these patterns together in a way to assist you later in categorizing and choosing.

Step Three: organize them into levels of investment that you’re going to choose to put into each category. The three levels of investment that I recommend are casual polymathy, support skills, and deep focus.

Casual polymathy

These are just all the things that you enjoy learning and playing with for relaxation, and which give you a unique colour and texture to who you are as a person. Investment of time and money here should be budgeted like a luxury expense like eating out. This will help you avoid undermining your ability to invest in the higher priority areas. If golfing is not something that advances what you’re wanting to do as the main thing, don’t spend thousands of dollars on golf clubs.

Support skills

These are all the things you invest in because they synergize with your primary focus and create a unique value offering that distinguishes you from other people in your area. Significant time and financial investment are fully justified here, particularly when you’re in a collaborative study opportunity where you can work with other people to learn in groups that maximise your growth.

Deep focus

This is the most important category. These skills are your core, the heart of your value offering, and become a part of your identity. They are your competitive advantage and the areas that you should prioritize the most investment in. Substantial investment is absolutely critical here, not just of timing and finances, but also trust and relationship, calibrating your inner circle around you. Professional growth catalysts who act like a trainer for your area of expertise are an example of an appropriate investment for your area of deep focus. Having people around you who are calibrated for your primary focus should be a given if you want to succeed in it. We are not designed to grow alone.

As an entrepreneur, for example, I have a business coach who has been invaluable in helping me develop the skills and strategies necessary to survive the leap from a freelance web developer to my own professional coaching business. I also invest in books and courses that help me study digital wellness, burnout, and other relevant topics. I designed learning strategies around these as well so I can maximize my learning. But I avoid spending hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours a month studying historical court attire, even though it definitely pops up in my YouTube recommendations regularly.

But not all professional growth catalysts are the same!

There are a lot of different ways that people can help you with your area of deep focus. And there are a lot of people out there in the coaching and coaching-adjacent industries that use a lot of very similar words almost interchangeably. That can lead to a lot of confusion for someone who might be trying to hire somebody in order to invest in some of the most important parts of their lives.

If you don’t know what the services are that are out there, how they’re different from each other, and how they actually serve you, it’s really hard for you to clarify with someone who’s using ambiguous language to figure out exactly whether they’re providing what you want.

So I’m going to clarify by introducing a system of terminology that I personally think is practical and useful, as well as true to the state of the industry. Other people may use other terms, but this might give you a framework for you to be able to ask questions and clarify that you’re getting what you actually want to get.

There are three categories I’m going to introduce: there are educators, there are consultants, and there are facilitators. These are three fundamental, overarching categories of growth catalysts helping you accelerate your growth process.

Educators

First, we have education. Educators are the people who help you to learn and gain knowledge; they’re fundamentally additive in the service they’re providing. They help you gain and develop skills, gain knowledge, or develop better knowledge retention. Sometimes, in the context of a mentor, they provide personal experience to help accelerate that learning process. This is an incredibly important service that is absolutely necessary for any beginner, intermediate, or advanced learner in any capacity. We should always be learning and gaining input from educators.

Consultants

The second category is consulting. These are experienced experts who come in, analyze a situation, diagnose a problem, and prescribe a solution. They aren’t training you to help you become an expert, they are being an expert on your behalf so that you don’t have to fully specialize in their given area. This includes people like financial advisors, therapists, doctors, and spiritual counselors. These are all people who have particular specialized skills or knowledge that you need to help you overcome a particular blind spot or a challenge. This is an incredibly critical service because we can’t learn everything and we can’t be everything. Therefore we need to outsource certain aspects of troubleshooting to people who know what they’re talking about.

Facilitators

The third category – and this is the one that I tend to focus on primarily in my profession – is facilitation. Facilitation is not about helping you increase your expertise, or about being an expert on your behalf, but rather about helping you apply your expertise more effectively. This can take the form of a meeting facilitator helping a conversation flow more productively, or a good project manager coordinating a team to work together more effectively. It can also take the form of coaching.

Coaching is all about the implementation of action. We often know what we should do, but then don’t. We might think that all we really need is some motivation or accountability, but a coach does much more than act as a cheerleader or nag. A coach helps you gain clarity.

And clarity is magic.

See, one of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to growth is getting started. It requires a huge amount of motivation to get you moving if you don’t know exactly what the first step is and how to do it. But if you have extreme clarity on what you will do, when you will do it, and how you will overcome obstacles as they arise, you don’t require hardly any motivation at all. It just happens! This is what coaching provides, among other kinds of increased awareness.

This is why coaching acts like a force multiplier for all the other elements of a solid growth strategy, and why I’m passionate about it. But I don’t limit myself to it. These different growth catalyst skills synergize with each other, and my clients often need a mixture of all three at different times.

So, we’ve talked about the three different types of growth catalysts – educators, consultants, and facilitators. We’ve explored the importance of each one and how they can work synergistically to help you grow in different areas of your life. If you’re looking for a strategic growth plan that will help you achieve your goals, it’s important to weave all of these together in a way that makes sense for you.

What growth catalysts do you currently have in your life? How can you add more to help you achieve your goals? Contact me and let me know!

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