Contracting with clients 

Whether as a professional coach, or a line manager taking a coaching approach with your team, setting the ground rules is essential for an effective coaching relationship. In this video, Jeremy explains why this is important, some of the key points to cover in the initial coaching conversation (‘Chemistry’ session) and in the ‘contract’ / agreement with your coaching clients.

Transcript of the video

Modified slightly for readability (the way I speak is somewhat less formal than the way I write!)

Hi, I'm Jeremy Lazarus, and I would like to talk to you about 'contracting'. What do I mean by 'contracting'

If you are a professional coach, typically you would have a ‘contract’ or an agreement (the terms are used interchangeably here) with your client. We'll cover the details later, but first I want to talk about ‘why is it useful?’

Why is it useful for YOU as a coach to have a 'contract' with your client?

This applies not just for professional coaches, but also if you are a manager who is taking a coaching approach with your team. 

Firstly, like with any interaction between people, it sets the ground rules, so you both know what is expected and how the process is going to work. You will know what to do if by some chance, things don't go the way you plan, so if you or the client wants to finish the coaching prematurely, you will at least have the agreement about how you go about doing that. 

In regards to other reasons why contracting could be really useful, firstly it is best practice. Just about every effective professional coach will have some form of contract or agreement upfront. Additionally, because you've got ground rules, it gives you a really good chance as the coach, to work effectively with your clients, so that he or she will get the best resultsand the kind of results that they want. 

The initial conversation

In terms of what could be included in the contract, before we get into that detail, I would like to talk briefly about how an initial conversation with your client or prospect may go. It is sometimes referred to as a 'chemistry' session (In other words, is there coaching chemistry between you and your prospective client)? 

The sort of things that you want to be clear on at the end of the chemistry session are:

  • Do you both want to work together?
  • Is coaching appropriate? Do they need coaching or is it perhaps counselling or psychotherapy or other forms of help that is required? If the latter, unless you are qualified to do it, you would refer them on to someone suitably qualified.
  • Do they want to be coached? 

These are some of the key things you would want to find out in the initial chemistry session. 

What could / should be included?

Let us move on now to what is it that you would typically cover in a 'contract' or during the 'contracting'. This is going to be an overview. If you want more information about this, scroll down, you will see information that will link to my website where you can download a free PDF about this, which goes into more detail.

In summary though, the sort of things you would want to cover are logistics, such as:

  • Fees (how much you are going to charge)
  • How long is the coaching going to last? Is it three sessions, is it six sessions, is it a year?
  • How long is each session, is it one hour, two hours?
  • Is it face to face or video or phone?
  • What location? Is it the client’s office, is it a neutral venue, is it your office?

You would also want to be clear about

  • what the client actually wants from the coaching, and probably include that in the chemistry session as well. 
  • whether you feel that you are suitable or experienced enough as the coach to be able to help them, 
  • whether the goal / the things they want are suitable topics for coaching.

Other topics to include in the 'contract' would be 

  • cancellation terms. What happens if the client wants to end? Perhaps you have agreed six sessions, and then you or the client wants to finish after three sessions, what happens then?
  • the review process. If you are coaching just an individual and he or she is paying for themselves, typically you would want to have a formal review after maybe three sessions or halfway through the block of coaching, just so that you and the client can be clear whether you are on track and how the client is finding it. (As an aside, I personally check in with my clients almost every session, just to make sure that they are getting what they want, certainly from that particular session.) 
  • Line manager involvement. If you are doing organisational coaching (coaching in an organisation), and perhaps the organisation is paying for it, then often you would have the line manager involved initially with the coachee or the client, to agree what the outcomes are. So, it is important that the three of you agree what the outcomes are, and the review process, so do all three get together after let’s say three sessions, or six sessions, or at the end of the first session? All of these sorts of things need to be agreed.
  • Confidentiality. It is really, really important as a coach that what your client tells you is confidential, and of course there may be situations where you as the coach would need to breach confidentiality. For example, if you were legally obliged to.
  • Some ‘what ifs?’ For example, what happens if you as the coach feel that your client is not coachable? What happens if after, let's say, two sessions, you (or the client) thinke “ I can't work with this person any more”, how are you going to deal with that? Are you going to go back to the line manager and tell them? Are you going to tell them why? Again, I don't think there's a specific, right answer. I think these sorts of issues need to be addressed before you begin the coaching, so that you and the coachee, (i.e. the individual being coached), and the organisation if appropriate, all three of you know exactly where you stand.

So, I would strongly recommend that you cover these sorts of topics in the contracting with your clients. 

To download the free pdf "Contracting with clients and chemistry sessions" simply fill in the form below and it will be emailed to you.

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