There is one question I get asked every single time I have a conversation with a prospective coaching client or purchaser of executive coaching services.
“What does executive coaching cost?”
While it’s easy for me to tell them what we charge, that’s not sufficient for the purchaser to have any perspective on whether our fee is high or low or “worth it” – however they assess that.
So – in the spirit of dispelling at least some of the confusion in the still-murky field of executive coaching, here are a few things to consider when it comes to how much you can – and should – expect to pay for the services of a coach.
- Is the coach trained and/or certified? A coach who has invested time, effort and money in learning the distinct skills of coaching (and who agrees that there ARE distinct skills in coaching) will not only be more effective than someone who hasn’t made that same commitment, but they’ll be mindful of recouping their investment (both in fees and in sticking with the profession over time). And yes, I’m biased, and yes, there are good coaches who haven’t taken a course – but in my view they’re rare, and I think it still comes back to commitment and an openness to learning.
- Does the coach have business experience? A coach who has functioned at the executive level has a body of work experience they can draw on that gives them the ability to relate to an executive level clientele. And if they have functioned at the executive level they understand the money/value relationship and likely aren’t in practice unless they know they can earn a living at it.
- How long has the coach been practising? The more time in practice, the more confident the coach is in setting their fees based on the value they know the client receives. And the longer they’ve been in practice the busier they probably are, so they’re not setting fees artificially low in order to attract business.
- Does the coach have an engagement model – and can they explain why they have designed it that way? If a coach really knows how to engage with a client – and, in the specific case of executive coaching, with that client’s organization – they’ll have a clear process and structure for what they do and how and why they do it.
- Does the coach charge by the hour or the engagement? Another indicator of experience and effectiveness is a coach’s clarity around the way value is derived from their services. A great coach can be a catalyst for change in one well-crafted question, in one astute observation, or in one challenging between-session assignment. Which means that oftentimes a client will achieve what they need in a session in a relatively short period of time. And on other occasions the client will need a different kind of conversation and a session might go quite long. The value of coaching is rarely a direct function of the time spent.
- Can the coach offer relevant references? Qualifications, background and “fit” are all critical criteria, but an experienced coach will have several references immediately available for a prospective client to contact. And not only do they have the references, they will be able to direct you to references who can substantiate the coach’s effectiveness in the particular area of focus or interest.
- Does the coach work alone, or are they part of a big consulting organization? Overhead costs money, and that cost gets reflected in the fees. There are some professions where the clout, resources and reputation of a big firm add a lot of value. Coaching, in my opinion, is not one of them. There are many excellent coaches operating independently, and still more who have opted to be part of small “boutique” firms (like ours) where there is scalability and collaboration as well as independence and flexibility.
- Is the coach willing to say no if the engagement isn’t right for them? A coach who is experienced and self-aware will be very clear when they are the right choice for an engagement and when they’re not. And if they’re not, they’ll be not only happy but eager to make a recommendation to another coach who might be a better fit. Great coaches know great coaches and are happy to make a referral such that a client gets served as well as possible.
There are other factors that play a role in fee-setting, but the above covers some of the big ones. Coaching is very much “you get what you pay for” so before you ask for price-matching or opt to go with the lowest priced provider, give some thought to what you really need and what outcomes you want to achieve. An excellent coach is an excellent investment.