This piece on contracting is relevant to any relationship between two people where the expectations of the relationship must be clear. Managing expectations at the outset ensures that each person understands the expectations of the other of them in the relationship.
What is contracting?
Contracting is where two parties entering into a relationship make a joint agreement on their expectations of the relationship.
The sample contents of an executive coaching contract or agreement, could include
- Coachee / client details
- Coaching overview
- Coach commitment and ethics
- Coachee / client commitment to the process
- Confidentiality and record keeping
- Terms and conditions with the coachee and / or their sponsor (client)
I use the terms client and coachee differently although they may be one and the same person where the person you are coaching is both the client and the coachee. The other situation is where the client may be a company or the coachee’s employer.
Why have a contract?
Well, because it helps to ensure the success of your executive coaching relationship, which in turn will help ensure the success of the process for the client.
Let’s look at an example:
Let’s say you need 24 hours notice of cancellation to run your coaching business, and you’ve not made this clear to your client at the outset. You’ve had other potential clients calling you requesting to meet, and you’ve had to move them to the following week as you’re fully booked. Your executive coaching client thinks it is acceptable in the context of the coaching relationship for them to cancel their appointment with you just two hours out from your agreed meeting time. They have essentially decided to prioritise something else in their life at that point in time over their coaching appointment.
The result of this situation, where expectations are not clear with the client at the outset, is that your other potential clients have lost out on meeting with you. You now have a gap in your schedule which is not generating you income, and you’ve not been able to use it effectively as part of your schedule. You may have a client whose commitment to themselves and the value they see in their coaching process is questionable.
This example can be applied to almost any aspect of the coaching process which is underpinned by a commitment to responsibility and accountability. It’s important to note that the coach must also equally follow through on their commitments to their clients.
Some tips for contracting
- Clarify your expectations of your clients for yourself as a coach in your relationships and write them down.
- Decide what the commitment is that you will make to your clients and are prepared to invest in the relationship in terms of your time, expertise and resources.
- Decide on the “ground rules” for yourself that you need to run your coaching business and write them down for clarity.
- Advise your clients what they can expect of you as their coach in your coaching relationship at the outset, and ask them if these details are agreeable to them.
- Advise your clients what you expect of them as a client in the coaching relationship, and ask them if these details are agreeable to them.
- Resolve any points of contention, based on a “win-win or no deal” basis, to a successful conclusion so both client and coach are in agreement on the nature and expectations of the coaching relationship.
- Make a written contract to formalise the process and ask your client to read and discuss the contents. Make it clear to your client that you and your client signing this contract indicates their agreement to the content, the coaching process with you and the agreed behavioural expectations.
We must also remember that contracting will not mean that arrangements will go to plan 100% of the time. Our family and work lives are open to unexpected happenings outside of our control that will require our attention. We must be sensitive to this for our clients, and our clients for us as coaches, but contracting will ensure this situation will be the exception rather than the rule.
Best wishes to you clients reading this. You will ensure accountability and responsibility to yourself and your coach by completing this initial contracting. Contracting will also ensure the success of the coaching process for your benefit.
Likewise, executive coaches, we all need to be mindful of this. We have a professional obligation to our clients and to manage the coaching process in such a way as to maximise the likelihood of success for client benefit. Email me if you’d like a MS Word .doc copy of a basic sample contract that you could adapt for your own requirements.
If you would like to comment below and share your thoughts on this piece, please do! There’s always something we can learn from one another.