Footballers have big ones, we want the best ones for our mobile phones and lawyers can’t get enough of them.
That’s right. We’re talking contracts.
When you’re looking to get clear on what you want out of life, achieve that all-important goal or simply have a deep learning experience why would you need a contract? It’s a conversation after all.
It wasn’t until I completed my own training that I realised how fundamental it is to a great coaching relationship; however, on mentioning the ‘c’ word to a new ‘coachee’ they sometimes question what place it has in a coaching relationship.
You can understand why.
What do you think of when you hear the word contract?
The written contract
When we think of contracts we often think of the written form. The online tick the box T&C’s. A finance agreement with a bank and maybe the 10-metre long comedy roman scroll used in cartoons. It’s normally a list of clauses.
They’re often drafted for us and more often than not, we don’t really read them. Signed and done.
Then we have the contract that is not physically written. They’re verbal and don’t need our beautifully-crafted signature.
The verbal contract
With our friends, we might say ‘please don’t tell anyone’. Planning a night out ‘I’ll see you at the station at 8’
‘If you get Daddy the remote control, you can stay up a bit later.’
And what about those that aren’t communicated at all?
The psychological contract
Often referred to in a work environment. No one will tell you not sit all day in the canteen drinking coffee. You expect your employer to provide a safe working environment. At the beginning of a relationship, we don’t say ‘I won’t cheat on you and you won’t cheat on me’.
It’s a given (I believe) – it has been a while.
So whilst we might not always use the word, we can agree that we make contracts everywhere and all the time. You agree to do this and I agree to do that. Deal.
What is a coaching contract?
A coaching contract is essentially all of these. It is agreed through conversation. Like the grand designs of a dream home. They are drawn up before the action begins. It may change along the way but this is the reference point we come back to in the coaching relationship.
How is a coaching contract created?
A coach will be trained in facilitating a contracting conversation. This will happen at the start of the process, usually during an introductory session. The experience is informal. A chat about how you both want to continue and what you want to achieve. The main goal is to understand if there is enough chemistry that you want to work together. This is why it is sometimes called a ‘chemistry’ session. The coach will normally take notes. If at this point you agree that you want to work together, then the coach will put these into a written format and share them with you.
So what kind of things are in it. In a basic contract, you’d expect to see (in no particular order).
What to expect from the coaching experience
An overview of their coaching methodology. How and when they might apply models and tools
The what, where, when & how…
What you would like to achieve from the coaching programme.
Where do you want to be by the end of the programme?
When you will meet for coaching sessions and when you’ll have contact (if any) in between.
How many sessions, how each will be delivered (online, face to face) and duration they’ll last for.
Who does what?
What each part the relationship of you are responsible for e.g. taking action (spoiler– that’s you by the way)
The really important stuff like confidentiality between you both.The notice required to cancel a session. Boundaries. Are there any areas you do not want to talk about? The difference between coaching & counselling. Ethically, coaches should not enter into conversations that have a counselling focus.
The cost of the sessions and how they will be paid. (another spoiler – this is usually before any coaching commences)
Both of you add your paw print. The reason that it is paws and not blood is because some elements are not set in stone.Confidentiality. Boundaries. Yes, absolutely.
But areas like the programme objective can change. It is normal that a couple of sessions in you realise that what you thought you were looking to do is completely different. These are the little design changes that come up along the way.
That’s it! You’re set. Bags are packed and you’re off on your journey. As contracts go, this is a collaborative one.
It will have the shiny excitement of starting something new and will provide real structure to both your coaching experience and the relationship with your coach.
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