How Should I Budget for an Executive Coach?

As a healthcare executive, you have a track record of strong performance and career success — it’s what brought you where you are today. You were likely promoted because your contributions brought such value to your organization that your leaders wanted to replicate those successes on a greater scale.

Why would high-performing leaders like you consider executive coaching?

Many of the healthcare leaders we work with are in the same boat, with a strong track record and reputation behind them. A few reasons why they seek out MEDI Leadership include the following:

  • Though they aren’t new leaders, they’re new to their role or organization. The skills that made them a rockstar performer in the past simply aren’t sufficient or adequate for the challenges they must conquer next.
  • They need to shift perceptions and how others experience or view them in the organization.
  • Though they lead great teams, even great teams struggle sometimes. Teams are never static. Rather, they go through specific stages, and dynamics can slow progress when conditions shift like new roles, participants, or structures.
  • They’re chronically stressed and anxious about their ability to sustain a strong performance and decision-making.
  • They’re lonely in their role, craving a safe space to share their thoughts and bounce ideas, away from their peers’ judgment, biases or agendas.

Though it’s not a comprehensive list, the trend we see is that most healthcare leaders seeking executive coaching aren’t weak or underperforming. On the contrary, they tend to be rising stars, much like professional athletes seek out a next-level coach to achieve next-level results.

What’s a fair price for an executive coach?

As will all things, your budget depends on what you’re buying. A short-lived engagement, conference or training will produce very different results from true executive coaching. In either case, the price tag will reflect results.

Variables like the coaching firm you select, type and duration of the engagement, the depth/frequency/consistency of personal guidance all impact coaching rates. As you can guess, rates can vary wildly depending on who you ask, or what the coaching relationship looks like.

Truly, there’s no such thing as industry standard rates, especially if the coaching arrangement is customized to your needs and goals (as it should be). 

With that in mind, we offer key considerations to help you gauge whether the rates you’ve been quoted are a fair investment in what you’ll gain in return.

Discerning a high-value partner for a high-return investment

When choosing an executive coaching firm, you’re trusting that partner to build you or your leaders into high performers who can drive lasting, meaningful transformation in your organization. This isn’t something you can judge from a standard RFP or resumé, so do take time to consider the following criteria for a choice you won’t regret.

▷ Experience and Expertise

Your executive coach should have a rich, proven record of success, expertise in healthcare, and a strong cadre of satisfied customers among your peers.

It’s also vital that your chosen coaching firm has a strong pool of coaches, versus one or two “stars” who carry the firm’s reputation on their backs. Understand their process for selecting coaches to join their team, whether employed or contracted professionals.

What credentials do they bring to the table? Have they been in your shoes before? What’s their experience in healthcare?

You’ll want coaches with considerable training, experience and accreditations behind them.

▷ Modern Insights, Leadership Competencies

These are turbulent times in healthcare. Today’s leaders need an expanded set of competencies to manage growing ambiguity, uncertainty, and risk. That means many approaches deemed “best practices” in the past can actually hurt your organization in today’s environment.

Your chosen coaching partner should understand the leadership competencies that are critical for driving transformation in 2023 and beyond. They should also understand the dynamics of highly matrixed organizations and the full spectrum of healthcare delivery components: clinical quality, patient safety, patient experience, consumer/physician/employee engagement, and more.

▷ Your Coach-Client Relationship

Your executive coaches should feel like an extension of yourself and your team. Their external viewpoint enables deeper, confidential discussions that you typically can’t have with people in your organization. 

It’s vital for leaders like you to feel safe to confide in a trusted partner who isn’t in charge of their compensation or career trajectory. We often hear from senior ladders that this is a key benefit to engaging an external coach while staying in alignment with the goals of the organization.

The coaching relationship is a confidential and safe space between client and coach, and specific details of coaching conversations are not shared with the sponsor or boss. However, a successful coaching engagement will include sponsor/coachee goal alignment meetings, and often stakeholder or “360” feedback.

Keep in mind an executive coach is not an advisor. Rather, your coach will support, challenge and hold the client accountable as they grow their leadership muscle and resourcefulness.

Finally, how’s the chemistry with the coach you’re considering? Is this someone you naturally gravitate to, and would enjoy spending time with? Save yourself from a frustrated investment: Don’t invest in a coach who might seem perfect “on paper” while neglecting the chemistry aspect! Often, firms will have a coach sourcing process to help you select the best coach for you.

▷ Needs/Goals Assessment & Customization

Each leader’s needs, goals, habits and challenges are unique. It wouldn’t make sense to apply a one-size-fits-all method to every client. 

Ask your potential coaching partner to describe their process to assess, identify goals, the best tools and path for each client. The goals of the coaching process should align with the client’s performance goals and responsibilities. In all, the goal is to make you more effective in driving the results you’re responsible for.

▷ Length of Engagement

You wouldn’t hit the gym for three months and expect to walk out as a weightlifting champ. Similarly, transactional leaders don’t become transformational leaders after a short stint. It takes time to alter behaviors, establish new thinking patterns, and shed bad habits. 

Though it might sound counterintuitive, longer coaching engagements are your best chance of accelerating lasting growth. Keep in mind the necessary investment and duration of the coaching engagement might be greater than you expect today in order to achieve (and sustain) the transformation you desire.

What level of 1:1 access and support will your coach provide along the way? How often will you connect to ensure progress and discuss new challenges as they arise? Will your coach be available at a moment’s notice if you need to bounce ideas as new crises or opportunities emerge? (MEDI’s pricing does include those ad hocs.)

Whose decision is it?

I’m often asked who makes decisions when it comes to executive coaching, so let’s clarify that. In my experience, the Chief Executive Officer makes decisions about 90% of the time when it comes to senior executive coaching, often in collaboration with the CHRO.

While CEOs often hold decision power, the strongest partnerships tend to be between the CHRO or CEO and Coach, ensuring all coaching is well aligned to advance strategic and cultural imperatives throughout the organization. This partnership creates significant value to the organization as the coach aligns his or her approach to the culture and strategic goals of the organization.

Narrowing your options

Once you’ve clarified the factors outlined above and what you want out of the coaching relationship, you’re ready to discuss a budget. A fair price tag is one that reflects the depth and longevity of the transformation you want to see in your career and organization.

One way to think about the depth of the program is by how many in-person sessions and coaching calls you’ll have for the duration of the program. Typically, an in-depth coaching engagement lasts at least nine months. More likely, it’s an investment of a year to create the sustained behavioral change needed for newly acquired leadership competencies.

Will you be taking assessments to grow your self-awareness? What about feedback from key stakeholders? Will you have ad hoc access to your coach for issues that come up between scheduled times together?

Finally, the question as you weigh an investment in executive coaching comes down to this: What’s at risk if you don’t invest in growing your leadership competencies? What do you stand to lose if you delay or fail to build stronger, transformational leadership skills in yourself or your team?

Coaching can accelerate your desired outcomes. Given the growing complexities and turbulence in healthcare, there’s no time to waste. Strong, transformational leaders are needed now.

About the author

A certified executive coach, Deena Fischer leads business development and operations for MEDI Leadership.
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