What's New and the Cost of Coaching – Episode 327

In today's episode, John shares what's new, and explores the cost-benefit considerations of career coaching. This topic was triggered by a podcast listener's question. It is a common concern of those seeking a major career pivot, and are considering whether to hire a coach to help them navigate the process. 

He guides listeners on how to discern the right type of coach, considering multiple factors, including the cost. Before getting into that topic, he also provides an update regarding what's new with NewScript, the Nonclinical Career Academy, and former podcast guests.

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We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete. 

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to nonclinicalphysicians.com/physicianmba.

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Understanding the Value of Expertise in Coaching

John explains his perspective on using a coach to accelerate one's professional advancement. He challenges the perception that coaching should be priced solely based on the hours spent, asserting that it's about the value derived from the coach's expertise. He explains the importance of coaches committing to tangible results, drawing parallels to his experience as a CMO where outcomes were paramount.

Choosing the Right Coach for Your Goals

John discusses the importance of selecting a coach aligned with your objectives, emphasizing that experienced coaches, despite their higher fees, offer valuable expertise. He touches upon the price range, mentioning that fees can vary, from a few thousand dollars for shorter sessions to potentially higher amounts for longer-term coaching. He advises prospective clients to carefully assess a coach's approach and seek references before making a decision. 


The best coaches are well-trained, with years of practical experience. Many have expertise in specific industries and serve as mentors and consultants. The cost of hiring a coach can be significant. But in most cases, those costs are justified by the improved lifestyles, career advancement, and higher salaries the clients achieve as a result of their coaching. 

As explained during the episode, Dr. Debra Blaine has recently released her 4th novel. It is called The Meriki Effect and can be found at most large bookstores and here on Amazon (this is an Amazon affiliate link).

And Dr. Andrew Wilner is releasing the 100th episode of his popular podcast called The Art of Medicine on December 10th. It is an eclectic collection of interviews that will entertain and educate listeners like you. It can be found on all major podcast channels, including iTunes, Buzzsprout, and The Art of Medicine on YouTube.

And if you'd like to listen to Dr. Wilner's interview with Dr. Blaine from three years ago, that can be found RIGHT HERE on YouTube.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode. 

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Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 327

What's New in My World and Is Coaching Worth the Expense?

John: Okay, before I get into the actual topic for today, I'm going to tell you a little story, which obviously will relate to the question. There was a time in Russia when all religions were basically banned. Churches were closed. There were no gatherings allowed to pray, and they were being persecuted. It doesn't mean that all the activities stopped, of course, because you can't really keep people from worshiping if that's what they've been taught and what they grew up doing.

But anyway, after a while, things did loosen up and the brave believers could go back to church. There was a priest in a very small town who began to spend time every day in his church. And the mayor or magistrate of that town didn't like it. He was still against having those kinds of gatherings and allowing people to do that. He sent a soldier to stand at the front of the church every day at the front, at the door to intimidate the priest when he would go over there. When he tried to enter the church, the soldier was to demand the answer to questions. The questions were the following. Number one was, who are you? And the other was, why are you here? And so then the priest would have to take a moment and quietly and without being too aggressive, answer the questions. And then the soldier would begrudgingly let him in.

This went on every day. The priest was going every day. The soldier was there every day, rain or shine, snow, whatever. And week after week and month after month, this soldier would ask, "Who are you and why are you here?" And the priest would adjust his answers over time as he had more time to try and come up with answers. But finally things really loosened up. And the soldier informed the priest that day would be his last day because he was being reassigned and being no longer a soldier at the door.

The priest looked at him and he said, "Sir, when you finish your career as a soldier, I'd like you to come back here and resume your duties. Because you have no idea how much you've helped me by forcing me to answer those two questions each day for myself, who am I and why am I here?"

I like that story. And honestly, I heard that story from a bishop who was residing over a Catholic mass in Lourdes, France. You can imagine that the setting was kind of interesting, and I won't go into too much, but I had never heard that story before. And so, it has stuck with me.

But it relates to coaches, because for some coaching, that's kind of the crux of their coaching. "Why am I here? Who am I? What do I stand for? Who am I? Why am I here? What are my goals? What are my plans?" Things like that.

The question that I was asked earlier this week was pretty straightforward. Basically, described what he wanted, what his situation was, why he was looking to find a new career. And he had contacted several coaches with the information and had told him what he wanted, what he needed.

And one of the coaches said, "Well, she was going to provide three hours of coaching, split up three separate hours, and it was going to address the three issues that he really had asked her to address." And she was going to charge somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 to do that. And so, the follower or the listener from the podcast that emailed me said that to him that sounded kind of "steep", it sounded kind of expensive particularly since it was going to be limited to three hours. Maybe he did the math, I don't know, but he was maybe expecting a lower number. I provided my answer, and what I'm going to do now is sort of doing an extended version of the answer that I provided to him.

Thinking about my answer to this and this issue, brings up another story, actually. We can call it a parable, but I think this one is actually real. But there was a factory, actually, a publisher owned a multimillion dollar offset press that it used to print weekly tabloids. And one day the press came to a screeching halt. It just died. It made a really loud noise, stopped running, and that was it. The people working at the print shop, they were working on this massive press, tried everything they knew to get it running again. The operators, the maintenance staff, they even had mechanical engineers at the plant, and they were unable to get that machine to run again. They were out of business temporarily until they either replaced the machine or got it fixed. The operations VP called around to all of her colleagues to try to identify someone who might know how to solve this problem, recounting everything that they had tried so far.

And there was one name that came up several times during those calls. The VP reached out and contacted this consultant, made arrangements to come by the next day. Now, I said the word consultant, and when I'm talking about consultants and coaches, there's a lot of overlap. Sometimes I'll use those terms interchangeably because when we're talking about career coaching, a lot of that is consulting too, because you're not just doing the generic things that a coach would do, which are very similar to what a therapist would do, but you get into a lot of specifics when you're doing career coaching as to how to apply, where to apply and that kind of thing.

This consultant spoke to everybody who ran the press, everybody who tried to repair it. He looked at the machine for about 30 minutes, made a few adjustments, and he was able to get that press running a few minutes after doing all of that. The thing was, the VP was pretty upset when the consultant handed her a bill for $15,000 for repairing the machine. And she asked him how he could justify $15,000 for about one hour's worth of work. And what the consultant told him was, "Look, you didn't hire me as an hourly employee telling me what to do. You needed my expertise. No one else could have solved this problem. I spent the last 30 years acquiring unique experience and knowledge to be able to fix this particular problem."

And so, that wasn't what the $15,000 for. It wasn't his time there, his ability to remove a piece of the equipment or whatever it was. Knowing what to do, having seen that kind of problem before, reaching into their mental toolbox and figuring out, "Okay, this is what's going to solve this problem."

And I'm sure the other part of the argument was, "Look, if I hadn't come today and solved this problem, you would probably at best be able to get the manufacturer to come out here in two or three days and maybe solve the problem within the next few days or even a week. And by that time, you would be way beyond $15,000 worth of lost revenue, not to mention a lot of unhappy customers."

I use that again as an example of what we're talking about in coaching and consulting. So, you have to change the way you look at this. First of all, what I know is that the most experienced and effective coaches will probably charge the most for their time. And if you're thinking about it, let's say you're applying for a job as a physician or a clinician, let's say an APN, PA or whatever, pharmacist, you're going to be making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

If you're a physician, it could be $300,000, $400,000 a year and whatever job you're going into, whether it's clinical or nonclinical. And to expect to hire an effective coach for $100 an hour or $200 an hour for you to land a job that's going to stop a lot of your problems, make you happier or make you less stressed, uses your skills. There's a lot that goes into that. You should expect to be paying that person just doing the job you would be applying for can make $200 or $300 an hour. So why would they devote time and sharing their expertise with someone for less than that at least.

And the thing is, if you need specific information, this is where I'm talking about the expertise of a really focused consultant or coach. Let's say you want to get a particular job in a particular industry that's going to pay very well, and that means the coach has probably had that job or has hired someone to that job, knows the job description, knows what the must haves and the nice to have skills or experiences needed to land that job would be, then it's going to be worth a multiple of that $200 to $300 an hour.

And again, if you're talking about just general life coaching, it's going to be on the lower end because there's just general principles that can be applied. But if you also want to get in, I need specifics of how to write my resume, how to send out a cover letter, where do I apply? What's the quickest? There's some things that you have no idea.

For example, for some jobs in pharma, let's say, you really should apply to a CRO rather to a pharmaceutical company. And a good coach that is let's say addressing pharmaceutical jobs in the pharmaceutical industry will have that kind of knowledge. Someone in hospital health systems, they're going to have specific knowledge as to what the CFO, the CEO and the CMO are looking for in hiring a medical director or even a VP for somebody in that facility.

Another way to look at it is to consider what is your goal when you're thinking about engaging a coach? And maybe this will help make it even more clear. Is it a simple task or a complex task? That's a big differential. If we're talking about, okay, I want to learn how to plant the tree, I want to learn how to fix a tech problem, or let's say repair my bicycle. Well, to learn that, to get coaching for that, it's pretty simple. You can go online, you can Google it, you can go on YouTube and within five minutes they'll walk you through a process. You can answer those questions.

But if we think about some other more complex sorts of goals like landing a new job, starting a successful business, I can imagine even winning your first election, I've never tried that, but I'm assuming that they're experts and coaches and consultants that help you do that. And they're not going to be cheap.

Even this is a good one that I talked to a podcast guest about, and that was gaining admission to a top tier medical school. Now, there are dozens and dozens of things that you should do. Now we think we know how we're going to do that, obviously get the best grades we can and write a good letter of introduction and do the application properly. But there are people that are paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars per hour because they're thinking, "Okay, I want to get into this residency in this specialty." You name it, whatever, gastroenterology or otolaryngology. And I have my eye on two or three fellowships and two or three residency programs and maybe a really top tier medical school for whatever reason. That's not how I did it. I just want to get into med school so I can be a doctor.

But there are coaches who specialize in starting with the undergrads, how to get it in the best med school, the best residency, the best fellowship they pay. They're paid hundreds and thousands of dollars to teach them how to do that because there's only a few people that have done it. And besides just being an excellent student and having a good work ethic, there are a lot of little tips and tricks that if you don't know them, you're never going to get into Harvard.

As we get into these more complex and maybe even time-wise, more longitudinal, the cost is going to go up because the number of people with the expertise is going down. Now there are caveats because just because someone says they can do this, shouldn't be you're going to plunk down $5,000, $10,000, whatever, and believe that they can do it. So, there are caveats.

One is what is the deliverable that you want to get from this coaching? Is it just you need an accountability partner who can do basic coaching once a month, once every two weeks to accelerate your progress? Pretty much any good coach, general life coach or business coach can do that, can maybe take you from something you would've done on your own in a year and get it down to six months or two years down to nine months, something like that. And that doesn't require necessarily specific special expertise.

But if you're looking more towards a deliverable that is an outcome, it's like in the hospital setting when we were talking about quality improvement and patient safety. You've got some outcomes. Well, they're not really outcomes, they're processes. I put in place a good quality improvement process, so that means I have good quality, right? No, that doesn't ensure that at all. It just means you have a process which may or may not be delivered appropriately and effectively. The real proof is the outcomes, the patient care outcomes. That's the end point.

So, it's not always easy to get a coach to commit to an end point because so much of what you accomplish when you're being coached is the commitment that you have and the time and the coachability that you have. I like to think of myself as coachable, but it's hard when you have a strong personality. If you might be a little OCD like me or whatever it might be, you might always think that you know how to do things. And so, if you're going to get a coach, you want to be coachable, particularly if you're trying to get an outcome, because most of the time the coach won't take you unless you agree to follow what they do. Otherwise, they can't guarantee the outcome.

I remember this applied too when I was working as a CMO of the hospital. When we had a consultant come in, we always wanted to know what the outcome was. In other words, we didn't want someone to come in and say, "Look, I am going to do some lectures and I'm going to teach your staff all about how to be doing utilization management and reduce your denials. And so, you're going to pay me $1,000 for every lecture. I'm going to do 10 lectures, I get $10,000, and that's how I'm going to address your utilization management and length of stay program."

As opposed to someone who said, "No, we're going to come in, we're going to have a team, and we're going to start by educating everybody. And then once you implement these new things that we're teaching you, we're going to be there side by side watching and coaching your staff how to respond to questions, how to talk to patients, how to talk to physicians, what kind of checklist to use, and really get down into the nitty gritty. And we will guarantee that you're uncollectible revenue because of denials or other metrics that represent that we'll guarantee at least a 20% improvement in that. And generally we shoot for a 50% improvement."

Now you're talking about outcomes. You have to get to that point if you want to really make sure that an expensive coach is worth it. If you're saying, "Well, I want to find a part-time remote job in either utilization management or clinical documentation improvement", and then you try and pin down the coach, "Okay, so you're going to teach me specific ways to accomplish this, and in your estimation, I should be able to land that new job within what period of time." So you might not get an actual guarantee, but you'll might get something like, "Well, if you follow everything that we tell you, come to your meetings, don't blow us off and pay us on time, then yes, we will refund part of your money if that doesn't happen." That's almost like a guarantee.

The way to do that, two things. One is you definitely have to interview your coach, and most coaches have a so-called discovery call, which actually has value because they will give you advice right on that discovery call. But the main purpose of the discovery call really is to have a 30 minute conversation, let's say with the coach, and just hear their voice, tell them to explain why they think they can help you, what would be entailed, do they have a certain way to approach this problem? And really, if at all possible, get some testimonials for sure, although those are usually provided directly by the coach or consultant. But getting references, if you could talk to two or three people that can concretely answer your question, how long were you using this coach? How often did you meet? What were your sessions like? And was there other supporting material? Did they have intellectual property they were sharing with you like checklists and, and resource lists and things that they only share with their coachees? And did they live up to their promise and did you get the job that you thought you were going to get at the end of that coaching?

Sometimes there's coaches that won't do that, but really a few thousand dollars for a few hours with a career coach for a physician is quite reasonable. I know though there are others that go as high as $5,000 or $10,000 over we're talking a year or so because career transition can take a long time. And if you think about it, there are people that spend tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to be in let's say a monthly meeting with Tony Robbins or some really high powered motivational expert.

The bottom line on the answer to the question that I had earlier this week from that physician was, look, something between t$2,000 and $3,000, if you can make it crystal clear what you're looking for and your expectation is that you should be able to be in a position to really identify the job and apply for the job by the end of your coaching. And if the coach will agree to that, not guaranteeing that you get the job, but really sharing all that knowledge, information and advice and even encouragement, then I would say definitely.

I've paid two people in the past for a year's worth of coaching, which is basically monthly meetings for $8,000 for each, for two totally different reasons. I'm a believer and I think it was worth it. And just like I think it's worth it to pay my fitness coach and work out with him two times a week. And when you add up all the payments that I've done every week for the last few years, it's added up to more than a few thousand dollars and I'm in a lot better health.

And just to be crystal clear, I was saying that the $2,000 to $3,000 for three sessions plus whatever ansley information that the coachee would get was worth it. Now if you're talking about something that goes six months or a year, it's probably going to be much more than that. And I still think that's a good investment.

All right, that's all I have for today. Thank you very much for being here.


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