I have heard the story of the artist Picasso and his ‘pen sketch on a napkin’ told in several ways and like many such stories I remain unsure if it was true or a convenient and amusing way to highlight a worthy point. With all that said, let me repeat a version of it here with which I am familiar:
The artist Picasso was in a bar in Paris when an admirer of his approached him and asked if he would kindly draw a sketch on her napkin as a keepsake. Picasso agreed and quickly drew several lines and created a finished picture. He hands it to his admirer and says “That will be $10,000″. Shocked the woman replies, “But how can you think of charging so much when you only took a couple of minutes to draw this?” Picasso, straight to the point, replied, “You are mistaken madam. It has taken me 40 years to get to the stage where I can draw a picture of such art and worth in so little time”.
The story revolves around the perception of value. Can something done so seemingly effortlessly really be of such value? And what of coaching? Can a simple conversation we have about the challenges you face at work, or elsewhere, be worth the premium? In truth, that depends on several key variables which include:
- Knowledge of the coach
- Experience of the coach
- Results the coach helps you achieve
- Lasting effects of the coaching
Let’s take a brief look at each in turn:
Knowledge of the coach
The coach does not need to know the detail of your line of work. Some background may be helpful in terms of the context in which you work but they do not need to be or ever have been a technical expert in your field. Indeed, in some ways any such experience can get in the way. A great coach does need to know about coaching and also about how human beings learn, develop and perform at their best. The coach also needs to know how to use the knowledge that they have for the best results of their clients.
It matters not where such knowledge comes from – e.g. books vs formal study – but the quality of such knowledge and the extent to which it has been reflected on, I believe, is important. You’re familiar with the phrase “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” right?
Experience of the coach
Once again, it is not important that the coach has experience in “your world”. However, it is important that they have experience with a wide range of clients over an extended period in order to provide the greatest value to you. My point here is not that they must have ‘served their time’ for the sake of it; much more important is that coaches who are able to provide real value to you will have used each coaching session they have ever had, to learn about and improve their craft. Therefore, it makes sense that the longer they have been doing their job, the greater the value the best coaches can bring.
A result could be helping you to help yourself redesign the structure of the team that you lead. It could be helping you become more confident as a leader. The important point here is that the coaching value comes from helping you decide what results you want and then helping you plan for, stay on track to achieve , and ultimately reaching or exceeding your desired outcomes. Coaching sessions should be outcomes-focused because it is in those successful outcomes that businesses can off-set the fees. (Let’s not be bashful about it, this is business after all!).
If the woman in the Picasso story accidentally wiped up spilled coffee with her napkin, the value of the sketch would have decreased to almost nothing. If you and your coach finish your allotted time together and the changes you have made to you only exist when the coach is present, there is no long-term value to the coaching you have received. The coach shouldn’t be a long-term crutch. Build your capability, reflect on the growth you have made and embed the changes so you can sustain this new level of high performance in the long-run. You may need the coach again when you encounter different challenges e.g. a promotion or new job but that’s because the context isn’t the same (or is it when you peel away the wrapper?).
A Note to Coaches
This is my take on some of the key factors of adding value to your clients. What are the implications for you? Well if you are new to coaching or can’t put your hand on your heart and say you can fulfil all of the criteria above, a) your fee structure needs to reflect that b) get yourself some development and a great coaching supervisor or mentor and work on it until you can.
A Note to Clients
Thinking about hiring: Do you know that coaches you are going to hire are able to fulfil all the criteria we have discussed in this post? If not then I would strongly recommend that you check out their track record, challenge their claims and backgrounds and ensure you are going to get every penny of value you and your organisation deserve.
Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.