Executive Coaching on the Next Level – Part 1/3

Apr, 6, 2020

There is an exhaustive proliferation of ordinary executive coaches

  • This leads to a commoditization of coaching in the lower to mid price segments
  • Coaches who are able to coach on the ‘Next Level’ and who are not only effective but also efficient continue to create a lot more value than what they charge for even if their rates are premium

“Charlie, thanks for your proposal. I’m a bit confused though regarding to what you offered. Compared with the other 2 proposals I got, yours is slightly lower than the others, but you offer only about 50-70% of coaching hours compared to the others. So your hourly rate seems quite a bit higher than theirs. Can you explain?” Jackie asked me with a somewhat puzzled look.

“Sure, I can”, I responded. “I’d like to ask you a question, though: what are the 2-3 most important factors to decide which of the three proposals to accept?”

“First, I need to believe that my coach is competent and that I feel comfortable with him.”

“Is that the case with me?”

“Yes, sure, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking.” Jackie responded with a smile.

“Second, the program has to fit within the budget that the company provided.”

“Is that the case?” I repeated.

“Yeah, it fits in, we’re good on that front.”

“Third, and perhaps most importantly, I need to believe that the coaching program will help me achieve what I want to achieve – and that’s what I’m not sure about given the lower number of coaching hours.”

“Understand. Can I share a short story with you?”

“Of course”, Jackie responded with a curious look.

“Apparently, there was a business person meeting the famous painter Pablo Picasso asking him to paint a portrait of him. Picasso did as requested and created a portrait in less than 10 minutes. Before handing over the painting, Picasso said: ‘This will be 10,000 Francs’. The business man was outraged and responded: ’10,000 Francs??? This is ridiculous! You want to charge 10,000 Francs for 10 minutes of work?’ Picasso calmly responded: ‘No, it’s 10,000 Francs for a lifetime of work.’ – Now, I’m not Picasso and therefore I don’t charge you 10,000 for 10 mins. But I guess you get my point: I’m very confident that we can achieve what we set out to achieve in the hours we have quoted and needing less hours to achieve the same is actually a benefit for you also. Because you spend less time on being coached and have therefore more time doing other work. And I believe your time is perhaps even more valuable than mine. So it’s a win-win.”

Now you could say, what makes me believe that I can achieve the same as other more ‘ordinary’ coaches in 30-50% less time? That brings us to the question what does ‘Coaching on the Next Level’ really mean?

I have broken it down into 7 key aspects:

  1. Deep Level of Self-Awareness including ability to Self-Observe during Coaching
  2. Quick Contextual Understanding
  3. Effective Use of Intuition
  4. Efficient and Effective Application of ‘Methodologies’ beyond Regular Coaching
  5. Fierce Courage to Challenge Appropriately
  6. Resourcefulness & Knowing when to Break the Rules of Coaching
  7. Ability to Bring in the Best of ‘YOU’

1)   Self-Awareness & Self-Observation during Coaching

Most coaches I talk to would say that they have a high level of self-awareness. As we assess coaches in more detail, we realize that this self-perception is a mixed bag. For some of them it gets confirmed and for others there is a lack of self-awareness about their self-awareness. But why does it matter so much?

Lack of self-awareness can undermine the coaching effectiveness through projection (we tend to project what we repress in ourselves onto the coachee) and/or transference/counter-transference (we respond to a coachee’s transference of emotions to us in an untypical manner to accommodate the coachee). Equally important, and connected with self-awareness is the ability to self-observe during a coaching session. Because we can only ‘manage’ what we’re aware of.

Let me give you a real-life example: I was coaching Martin, a senior executive who got bored with his current career. He liked the power he had and the income he got, but felt it became too easy, didn’t feel challenged anymore. At one point he considered leaving the corporate world and start his own business. He even had an idea that appeared viable and feasible. But he strongly hesitated due to the financial risks involved in starting a new business which was a bit puzzling to me. From what he shared with me, he could continue to live at current living standards for over 3 years without earning a dime. If he would slightly reduce his living standards, it could be extended to 4-5 years. Also, his new business idea didn’t require any substantial pre-investment. For my taste, the risk seemed minimal.

Well, exactly, for MY taste… I’m aware that I have a pretty high risk-tolerance. I used to be even impulsive but learnt the hard way that this can be quite dangerous and adopted over the years more mindful risk-taking. But a case like Martin’s appeared to me like a no-brainer. Being aware of my own high risk appetite and knowing that this high level is not ‘mainstream’ at all, and taking that risk might not be right for Martin, I have to be conscious to ask and challenge Martin in a manner that he’s not pushed to a conclusion I would already have for myself.

Also, sometimes we don’t immediately realize that we might be projecting or counter-transferring, therefore, self-observation is key. For most new coaches this is a ‘new’ skill to be learnt – the ability to be fully present with the coachee while at the same time observing oneself. For example, by observing myself, I might notice in the conversation with Tom that I feel a certain impatience in the discussion about potentially starting a business. Noticing this impatience can then serve as a reminder of my higher risk appetite and therefore I can more consciously ask questions that are 100% non-judgmental and allow the coachee to come to the conclusion that works for him (rather than the one that would work for me).

To be continued… Read in Part 2 about Quick Contextual Understanding, Effective Use of Intuition and Efficient & Effective Application of ‘Methodologies’ beyond Regular Coaching.


Charlie Lang
Charlie Lang
Founder and Chief Content Architect
Founder and Chief Content Architect – Charlie Lang is a C-Suite coach and a pioneer in the coaching industry in Asia Pacific.


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