The significance of contracting in executive coaching

20th May by Lee Robertson

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In executive coaching, success hinges on trust, understanding and clear expectations between the coach, client and where appropriate, the client sponsor. At the core of this lies contracting – a crucial role that sets the stage for effective collaboration and growth. Here we explore its significance and why it is a fundamental element in working as a professional coach.

What is contracting?

If you are new to the coaching profession, then contracting might not be a term with which you are familiar. Contracting refers to the process of establishing a formal agreement between the coach, the client (the individual receiving the coaching) and if relevant, the client sponsor (typically the client’s employer or organisation). This agreement is crucial because it outlines the objectives, scope, roles, responsibilities, confidentiality agreements and expectations of all the parties involved in the coaching engagement.

Building trust and alignment

One of the primary reasons contracting is essential in executive and team coaching is its role in building trust and alignment from the outset. By opening, discussing and documenting expectations, goals and boundaries, the client, coachee and client sponsor establish a clear and mutual understanding of what success looks like and how it will be achieved through the coaching engagement. This transparency promotes trust and ensures that everyone is on the same page, laying a solid groundwork for productive collaboration.

Clarifying roles and responsibilities

In any coaching engagement, clarity regarding roles and responsibilities is paramount. Contracting provides a structured framework for delineating the specific roles each party will play throughout the coaching process. This includes defining the responsibilities of the coach in providing support and feedback as well as those responsibilities of the client in engaging fully with the coaching process and taking ownership of their development journey. Moreover, involving the client sponsor ensures that organisational objectives and expectations are aligned with the coaching goals and fosters synergy between the individual and organisational growth.

Managing expectations

Effective contracting also serves as a tool for managing expectations. By openly discussing what can and cannot be achieved through coaching, potential obstacles or challenges can be addressed proactively. This includes setting realistic timelines, defining the boundaries of confidentiality and establishing protocols for communication and feedback. When expectations are clearly defined and managed, it minimises the risk of misunderstandings or disappointment further down the line and helps cement a productive coaching relationship.

Enhancing accountability and commitment

Accountability is another hallmark of successful coaching engagements and contracting plays a vital role in enhancing it and commitment from all involved parties. By explicitly outlining the objectives and milestones to be achieved, as well as the measures for evaluating progress, the coaching contract holds both the client and the coach accountable for their respective roles in the process. This shared accountability also adds an extra layer of ownership and increases the likelihood of achieving meaningful outcomes.

So, if you are a new coach entering the profession or a professional looking to make the switch to working as a coach upon completing accredited coach training, it is vital to be mindful that all coaching engagements have a beginning, middle and end. Contracting at the beginning and throughout a coaching assignment lays the groundwork for a successful coaching relationship. It protects both the coach and the coachee and goes a long way to ensuring that the coach, coachee and their sponsor are getting the optimum out of their coaching journey from the very outset.