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This blog post forms the basis of a podcast on our new coaching model, which you can listen to here. 

Is It Necessary To Provide All Coaching Clients With A Contract?


The short answer to this question is a resounding ‘yes’. The majority of issues that coaches bring to supervision, could have been avoided had they contracted with client correctly.

But let’s look at it in more detail. In this article we will look at:

  • What do we mean by contracting?
  • Why should we contract?
  • How do we contract?
  • What should be included in a contract?

What Is Contracting In Coaching?

You might imagine that you have to provide a big, lengthy contracts with technical language. But it doesn’t have to be.

We don’t believe in bamboozling people. We want a very easy contract that they can be read and understand. And some of the elements of contracting can be a simple conversation.

What we want is for the coachee to leave the coaching relationship happy that some really good coaching has happened: they’ve worked towards their desired outcome, they might not have it, but hopefully they will have done some good work, and they are happy with the way that the relationship has run and there aren’t any reasons for them to complain. In order for this to happen, it is important to clarify some elements of the coaching agreement and process before we get started. That’s what contracting is. It can be all or in part in writing and some may be verbal.

Why Contract?

As with most formal arrangements, not having a contract isn’t a problem until it becomes a problem. And then you really wish you had a contract.

In our experience most coaching relationships go well and the client leaves happy, as is our intention. But we need to know that if something does go wrong, we have covered all bases and you can refer back to the contract to help explain the situation.

Contracting is about protecting yourself, but also it allows the coachee, to understand what coaching is and what’s actually going to happen in the coaching room, your expectations of them, what they can expect from you and just how the coaching is going to run.

What are the other benefits that contracting might offer?

Contracting well at the start minimises confusion and misunderstanding and, in turn, any frustration. So, if you have someone that really hasn’t understood what coaching is and they’re perhaps expecting you to mentor them, that leads to confusion.

If you’ve contracted verbally about coaching, they will know from the start what they’re getting involved in, and if it’s not what they thought, they can choose whether or not to continue with you.

If you’re going in to organisations as a coach, you will need to contract with that organisation and the individual coachee.

If you’re working within an organisation like the NHS or within a particular trust, hopefully they will have some form of formal contract that everyone signs up to. If that’s not the case, it probably should be and would be a useful suggestion to make to those who run the coaching initiative. Every time that you coach someone within an organisation the contract should be reviewed and agreed to before you start working together.

Contracting increases the buy-in from the coachee because they so have that understanding of what is expected. It increases the chances of the coaching process going more smoothly because much of the detail has been agreed on in advance.

In summary, establishing some important elements about your coaching engagement before you start working with a client helps:

  • the coaching process to be smooth
  • heads off any potential frustration and a complaint from the coachee
  • protects you as a coach
  • affirms your professionalism.
  • And is a requirement within the Association for Coaching and the Global Code of Ethics For Coaches, Mentors, and Supervisors

How Do We Contract?

We don’t necessarily need to put everything in writing. Some of this contract is going to be done verbally in our discussions prior to starting the coaching, perhaps in a discovery or chemistry call. This is when we’re talking to the coachee about what they want from coaching and we’re explaining how our coaching works and what the expectations we have, what expectations we have from them around the coaching and also what they can expect from us. And that conversation, or some of it, might happen again at the beginning of the first coaching session but it’s really important to have that conversation at the beginning.

What we choose to confirm in writing is going to be an individual choice. Some people will have a very extensive contract that covers every eventuality. But for the most part, it’s just useful to have something in writing so that the coachee understands it is a formal relationship and a formal agreement.


What needs to be included in a coaching contract?

As previously mentioned the contract would define coaching for the coachee and explains what it is so that they have an understanding of what to expect from you and what’s expected from them. It will also include how the coaching is delivered, fees, confidentiality, and cancellation policies.

To hear more about what’s included, you can listen to the podcast that this article is based on here:

And you can download our Coaching Contract Checklist here.