It’s All About Value, Stupid!

It’s the “Unbearable Lightness of Being” all over again.

Having read a semi-sarcastic and justifiably fair assessment of the state of “professionalism” in the service industry and specifically the field of coaching, I thought back a few decades where a similar debate was going on. Several years later, and the issue of regulation in some service oriented fields has not been resolved.

Anyone can claim to be an expert in some fields where there is no scrutiny, no accountability, no regulation. But I am ambivalent on the issue. Can regulation and – I am specifically referring to state versus self-governance here, guarantee excellence and professionalism, responsibility, ethical conduct, and true value? Whether you are a public relations “professional,” a management consultant, an artist, a manager, a business coach or whatever – offering services to clients, giving advice, counsel and a piece of your brain and heart demands dedication, hard work, and solid foundations. Unlike lawyers, doctors or certified public accountants – to name just a few regulated fields – unregulated professions do not require licenses, minimum educational standards, continuing education and re-training and other prerequisites.

But, if education, certifications, licensing and all of the above worked in isolation and not in combination with many other attributes, we would not have to suffer bad teachers, incompetent architects, uncaring and greedy physicians or rule bending insatiable investment bankers who supposedly follow SEC regulations and take down global economies.

What makes a true professional? And can single elements work in isolation? Can you have just the education, only the passion, or rely solely on your experience? With no offense to the Ivy League schools, I have met my fair share of less than effective and competent Harvard/Yale and Stanford alums. It is the combination of many qualities including training, experience, dedication, commitment and personality match that attribute to professionalism. And in the end, it is an economic model of supply and demand. If clients feel they get value out of the service (whatever this may be) then the “expert” service provider will make it.

Plenty of “gurus” are followed by millions who believe in them almost in cult form.  Their personal charisma, business savvy and phenomenal sales apparatus with the army of sales people who try to squeeze every penny out of seminar inquiry and attendance, have propelled them to the top of “peak performance strategists,” sales and negotiation experts, counsels to the stars and leaders of the world, personal demigods close to those in power. Remember Nancy Reagan’s astrologer?

But, I can also argue the opposite point: Some great and charismatic ones hold no degrees, no certifications, and naturally no professional society memberships. While they are worshiped by thousands, quite a few academics and scholars abhor their techniques and accuse them of being “quacks.” In the end, such enlightened few get their power from the people who have been helped by them.

Real or not, perceived, imagined or “lived” it’s the clients’ experience that counts – as long as nobody gets hurt in the process – a condition that in some cases is difficult to gauge.

In a free society people will always have freedom of choice – some professionals will choose the solid route of education, training, supervision, hours of practice and conscientious study and research of methodology, applications and performance improvement. Others will self-proclaim whatever they may feel can earn them a quick buck and a living and surprisingly lots of them will more than survive.

So, live and let die. Let us leave people alone to experience what is good for them. And if a self-proclaimed “coach” who has sat through a 2 day seminar can offer his or her clients what they need – then let it be. The market will either rise the boat or sink it deep.

In the end that’s all that counts: value assessed by the recipients of the service, customers, clients – however you define them.  Simple, basic and fundamental.

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