Executive Coaching Contracting

August 03, 2011  |   Executive Coaching Blog   |     |   0 Comment

What Is Executive Coaching Contracting?

This is the first formal stage of the executive coaching process. Getting this stage right is fundamental to the rest of the coaching engagement. This article covers important aspects of the executive coaching contract from the perspectives of the sponsoring organisation, the Client and the Executive Coach. In the contracting phase the objectives for the coaching are agreed as well as the arrangements for coaching and the terms and conditions.


What Can Go Wrong?

If this stage is not completed in the way described here there are potentially many issues. Based on my experience and mistakes along the way here are some of the key ones:

  • An executive coaching Client who does not agree with the coaching objectives set by the organisation
  • A Client who has coaching because the organisation suggests it, but is not really committed to the objectives
  • Sponsors who tell the Executive Coach that the topic for executive coaching is one thing, but tell the client it is something else
  • Dissatisfied sponsors who at the progress reviews do not believe the executive coaching has achieved what they wanted

You can immediately see that any of the problems above stands a very good chance of totally derailing the executive coaching process.


Who is Involved with Contracting?

From my experience there are three parties that are critical. The first is the Line Manager of the potential coaching Client. This is also often the person that is paying for the coaching. It is equally important that the Client and Executive Coach are involved. Occasionally the organisation also wants someone from HR involved.


So How Should it be Done?

Having tried talking to the key parties separately and having taken written briefs from the organisation I am now firmly of the view that there are three stages to contracting in executive coaching. Where I have used this approach it provides a great foundation for the executive coaching assignment. The three stages should take place on the same day and may last for 2-3 hours in total. They are as follows:


  • Sponsor Meeting; to meet the Line Manager of the prospective coaching Client to understand what he or she wants the executive coaching to achieve. The sponsor can also give information on the organisational context for the coaching. At this stage it’s important as the coach to make sure that the desired objectives are achievable. So for example one Line Manager I worked with wanted the coaching to ensure that a Regional Manager hit his annual sales target. This is unlikely to be achieved as a direct result of coaching. There are too many other variables involved. However the coaching could address certain specifics that contribute to the achievement of sales target, such as, staff motivation.

It is also appropriate at this stage to agree; the executive coaching fee structure, what else will be covered by the fee and any additional expenses. Finally (and importantly) it is essential to agree with the Line Manager that the content of the coaching sessions will be confidential, unless the Client wishes to discuss them. The Line Manager will however be involved in the review of progress against the objectives (i.e. the outputs of the executive coaching). There should be a review built into the contract at the half way stage and at the end of coaching.


  • Three Way Meeting; it is at this stage that the Line Manager, Client and Executive Coach agree the objectives, and other key contractual arrangements. I prefer to let the Line Manager and Client to discuss the specific objectives (having made sure they will be achievable at the first meeting). This process ensures transparency and ensures that the Client does not feel there is any hidden agenda. As far as possible it is preferable to have objectives that are measurable. So avoid objectives like ‘He will feel more confident’. Add a measure such as ‘and this will be seen by an increased contribution at meetings as judged by the other attendees’.


  • Once the objectives have been agreed the Executive Coach should confirm the period of coaching being provided, what is covered in the executive coaching contract such as telephone coaching or assessment and cancellation arrangements. Finally the coach should confirm the confidentially arrangements agreed with the Line Manager. This ensures the Client knows that it is possible to be open and free to raise concerns during the executive coaching sessions.


  • Client Meeting; I will have spoken to the prospective Client prior to these more formal meetings to check that the ‘chemistry’ between us feels right for an effective executive coaching relationship. This may sometimes be the first time we have met face to face. The most important thing at this meeting is to assess the Client’s reaction to the three way meeting. This will determine the approach in the early coaching sessions. The early sessions may for instance be different if the client totally accepts the coaching objectives, versus where the client is not totally convinced about the need for coaching. This is also the opportunity for the client to ask for other items to be picked up as part of the coaching. However these need to be resolved within the overall executive coaching timeframe without detracting from the sponsor’s objectives.


By following this approach to the executive coaching contract the Executive Coach is providing the best chance for success for both the Sponsor and the Client.



Tony Goddard



Key words; Executive Coaching, Executive Coaching Contract, Contracting in Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching Provider, Executive Coaching Service, Executive Coaching Company

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