Why is Contracting important in Coaching Cultures?

The importance of Contracting in Coaching Cultures was a topic in this week’s Supervision Group so I thought it might be worth sharing a few thoughts with you today.

Contracting is the foundation of good Coaching, it sets boundaries and agreements about how the Coaching Relationship will progress. For Inhouse Coaches there are added complexities and challenges.

There are two major challenges that need addressing in order to keep Coaching in organisations effective, ethical and positive.

The first challenge is for the Coaches themselves. How many different “hats” do you wear within the organisation. For example, for the Coach who is also an HR Professional and a Manager you could be faced with dilemmas while coaching. What if a “client” reveals an issue that legally cannot be ignored from an HR perspective?

If the potential for such dilemmas are included in Contracting and a process to handle such clashes then the solution is simple. The “client” will already understand the process and why it is there. If the Coach has an understanding of what to do at the point a dilemma is uncovered there is no damage to the Coaching Relationship or the Coaching Culture.

Where this problem has not been included in the Contract the fall out can include loss of trust and respect for individual Coaches and perhaps the whole Coaching Culture. It can create a major sabotage on the whole process.

The second challenge is the nature of what is known as Three (or more) Cornered Contracts. This refers to all the stake holders in a Coaching Relationship. In addition to the Coach and Client there may also be Managers and Coaching Sponsors. Sometimes Managers and Coaching Sponsors can create pressure on Coaches to break confidentiality or to perhaps address issues with the client covertly.

For example, the Coach may be told to fix a behavioural issue in the client by the Manager or Sponsor. The Coaches among you will already have noticed the word “fix” which of course is not appropriate to Coaching anyway. Often the client has no idea the Coach has been given an agenda by a Sponsor or Manager.

 This dynamic can go in a number of directions. If the Coach complies and the client works it out trust and respect are broken. If the Coach tries to insist on boundaries they may experience even more pressure and even criticism particularly if there is lack of back up from the organisation.

The introduction of a bigger picture Contract as part of the Coaching Culture can remove this challenge. Those responsible for setting up the Coaching Culture create rules and boundaries for how Coaching is conducted. You will need to ensure there is top level buy-in to these rules and boundaries if the Coaching Culture is to succeed.

These are just two of the challenges faced when introducing a Coaching Culture and something we often help with when consulting in Organisations.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
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