Creating Coaching Contracts – Part five

The importance of multi-cornered contracts

What is a multi-cornered contract?

The clue is in the name, most coaching contracts are not just between two people. The obvious parties to a contract are the Coach and the Client however there are often other stake holders.

In simplest terms ethical professional Coaches have a Supervisor and although the Supervisor does not have a direct relationship with the client they are in the contract.

As a Coach it is important you explain how Supervision works  to your Client and what boundaries are involved. This will be in particular about confidentiality. Your relationship with your Supervisor needs to be transparent for the Client. This is vital if you want to maintain trust.

I guide the Coaches I supervise to make sure they present cases anonymously and to give only as much content as needed for the supervision. As a Supervisor I will keep anything presented to me confidential particularly in cases where the client’s identity may be obvious for some reason. (most often where one student is coaching another between training modules).

The Client also needs to understand the purpose of supervision and the scope. As I also run Supervision Groups it is important that Coaches joining such groups also maintain confidentiality.

There are a number of other parties or stake holders that may need to be part of the contract. If the client is being sponsored by a family member you need to be particularly careful about defining boundaries. In such situations it might be useful to have a meeting with both Sponsor and Client to agree boundaries and how the Coaching will work. Well-meaning family members often try to push the boundaries and if you have not been clear you may end up with a mess.

Corporate Coaching also usually has additional stake holders and can become quite complex. The Client may not be directly responsible for payment so the Finance Department may become part of the contract on a practical level. Often the Learning and Development Department commission the coaching. As with the example of family above you need to clarify boundaries and requirements. This can include outcomes, scope of topics (e.g. personal life or not?), is the Client willingly signing up, what are the definitions of Coaching in the organisation, what agreements have been made with the line manager etc.

To give an example, I was commissioned by an organisation a number of years ago to work with a front-line member of staff. The scope was to help them manage emotions better. The Client was willing. Some weeks into the relationship the line manager rang me and asked me to give a report on the Client. Luckily I had been very clear in the Contracting phase with the Commissioning officer (L&D). I was able to stay firm with regard to confidentiality and refer them back to the main stake holder.

If I had not done this I could have ended up having to manage conflict and it could have damaged my reputation. The early work on cleaning up the multi-cornered contract is worth the time and it will save you a lot of heart-ache.

There are many other aspects to the multi-cornered contract and I hope this article has given you some food for thought.

As Julie Hay, one of my mentors always used to say the work is in the Contract!

What has been your experience of working with multi-cornered contracts?

Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
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