Why is a contract necessary when engaging an executive coach for the first time?
The simple answer: for your protection.
It may sound formal and unnecessary but a coaching contract not only covers you against the worst (as per most contracts) it also helps you get the most from your sessions.
Helps me…but how?
Coaching currently is unregulated, and therefore open to misinterpretation, to charlatans…..indeed, it has the potential to house many dangers. Before you engage any coach, you should ensure they’re a member of a professional coaching body. This in itself shows they’re serious, capable people who work to set standards within the industry. On top of that, you should also check the potential coach’s qualifications. There are more informal outlets in existence that issue ‘coaching’ certificates after just a few hours spent studying the subject; I assure you, this isn’t enough time to even scratch the surface when it comes to being a professional executive coach and understanding industry best practice.
I’m one of only a few coaches in the U.K. qualified to Senior Practitioner level, and I still have a supervisor to ensure the advice, support and help I give meets the highest quality. Having spent years learning my craft and after coaching a multitude of clients from all walks of life, with varying issues, I know just how much goes into being a credible coach – and it’s certainly not something one could learn in a weekend.
As an executive coach, I particularly work with those moving towards the top of an organisation, who sometimes don’t see coaching as a service they need. However, these people are usually the ones under the most stress yet they often have few objective confidantes to consult with on an equal standing than more junior colleagues. Coaching is more than just a tool to help the coachee – it’s often an investment into the organisation they run, because the whole entity will see the results. As with any investment, the coaching contract spells out what the executive coach will deliver and the outcomes that will be achieved, so that the results of the sessions can be measured.
So, now I’ve found an appropriately qualified and recommended executive coach – what else does the contract do for me?
The coaching contract covers the essential aspects involved with the coaching sessions, such as when they’ll take place, how long they’ll last, any ground rules, the cost of the sessions and any extra fees that could become payable, the obligations of both coach and coachee, and the safeguards in place for the protection of both parties, amongst other things – so that the coachee always knows what to expect.
For example, I make it clear that confidentiality is of the utmost importance; I don’t even identify clients to my supervisor when discussing cases, and any notes I take within sessions are destroyed when the client’s coaching is complete.
The contract also spells out responsibilities. Confidentiality is assured, except for legal and safeguarding issues. Again, my responsibilities and the conditions relating to the coaching I offer are clearly documented in the coaching contract – safety is paramount, and the coaching contract supports this.
A more informal coaching agreement lays itself open to confusion and misinterpretation. Though personal situations are discussed, it’s important that I retain objectivity. Though this may sound as if trust is harder to gain, having a contract in place actually helps clients feel they can trust me. With the coaching contract in place they know they’re always safe, that they’re in capable hands, and that there won’t be any surprises further down the line.
Some elements are, yes, such as confidentiality, save for legal and safeguarding issues. If you’re asking whether the contract is inflexible, the answer is ‘no’. A good coach works with their client initially to mutually decide deliverables and the coaching schedule, for example. The parts that are not under discussion are the ones that could threaten the safety of either party, or those that undermine the credibility of the coaching – these should always be non-negotiable.
Though it’s rare it’s ever needed, the contract also describes the termination process and relevant conditions, from both coach and coachee standpoints. Disputes and disagreements are actually less likely to happen when a coaching contract is in place, as there’s no room for confusion, and expectations are realistic from the off.
As you can see, a contract helps the coaching process, not hinders it. Watch my short video about the coaching contract.
If you’d like to work with me, or if you’d like to hear more about my qualifications and the professional bodies I’m part of, do not hesitate to contact me on 01302 220021, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Top image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net