13 – Discussing the Coaching Agreement

discuss agreement

“There are only two options regarding commitment. You're either IN or you're OUT. There's no such thing as life in-between.”  Pat Riley

Setting the terms for the relationship in some detail at an initial face-to-face meeting will make the relationship stronger and more productive. However, agreeing on the terms of the relationship is not merely about drawing up a formal agreement. At the initial meeting there should be an honest and open discussion of backgrounds and experience which will help with building trust and rapport.

Both partners should come to an understanding of why they will be working together, what they want to accomplish and how they are going to reach the desired outcomes.

Here is a checklist of the issues to be discussed at the first meeting. A coaching agreement template is included in this field guide. This agreement can be easily adapted to suit the specifics of any coaching relationship.
  • How, when and where meetings and communications will occur
    • Lack of time is the reason cited most often for the failure of a coaching relationship. Both coach and coachee need to understand that embarking on a coaching relationship requires a commitment of time. Any concerns should be addressed at this stage and parameters should be set very clearly so as to avoid any disappointments.
  • The expectations of both coachee and coach
    • A coaching relationship is a two-way relationship; therefore expectations on both sides should be stated and verified at regular intervals.
  • Logistics of the relationship
    • How, when and where meetings and communications will occur.
  • How to deal with confidential information
    • Because of the very nature of the relationship, confidentiality and conflicts of interest can be sensitive and complex issues to deal with. This is why it is important to recognize and agree what is to be confidential at the start of any mentoring relationship.
  • Which topics or issues are outside the scope of the relationship
    • Professional issues arising in a coaching relationship could include anything from strategy to marketing and networking; from ethical to moral concerns as well as other, more practical issues. Personal issues are often openly disclosed although some companies may discourage this practice. Ultimately, it is up to the coach and coachee to agree what is in and out-of-bounds.
  • How obstacles or problems between the pair are to be dealt with
    • A mismatch may occur and problems may arise during the course of the relationship. In an open and honest relationship these issues could be ironed out, however the pair may agree to refer to the programme co-ordinator for help if this is arranged by your organisation. Typical issues that tend to arise are:
      • Coachees wanting too much time
      • Coachees being too needy
      • Coachees seeking help on issues that are outside the agreed boundaries
      • Total lack of chemistry between the pair
    • Having two individuals with matching chemistries is not always easy. Coaches and coachees will have to adjust as they find their own coaching styles and preferences. However, they can get a reasonably good idea of how they will get along at the first meeting.
  • How and when to end the relationship
    • Within a structured coaching programme, there is invariably a beginning and an end. However, some couples may decide to end the relationship ahead of the formal closure when the objectives have been reached or when the relationship has run out of steam or when it needs to be terminated due to unforeseen circumstances. Some relationships on the other hand continue even after the programme has ended. Once again it is up to coach / coachee to agree on this.
  • What happens during each coaching session
    • Each coach will most likely use a structured framework or ‘coaching model’ during their sessions. These vary in length and structure and it will help you to know how they approach each session.

Download and review the example Coaching Agreement Template here