The second Core Competency that ICF puts forth is “Establishing the Coaching Agreement”. Many of us, during our formal training on the road to becoming certified coaches, learned about the importance of having a written agreement, discussed the various components that should be included in that agreement, and in fact, created our own Coaching Contract as one of the assignments in our courses.
The need for a clear contract is extremely important and can go a long way in defining, in writing, the many important aspects that bring clarity and objectivity to the scope of the engagement, as well as eliminating possible misunderstandings in the future, as the coaching relationship develops. However, it by no means completes this competency.
In addition to a written Coaching Contract, some coaches use an “Intake Sheet” or have a checklist of the key things that need to be covered with the coachee. This helps to ensure that all aspects are covered and understood in greater detail before formal coaching begins and that includes what is being presented in the Coaching Contract.
The key to this competency is that it is an ongoing one. It does not end with a signature on your contract, with the first meeting or the first coaching session. Coaching is a dynamic process. Therefore, as coaches, we need to revisit, validate and possibly expand certain elements in the coaching agreement in conjunction with, and in full co-operation and agreement, from our coachees.
Sometimes issues come up during the course of coaching which need to be addressed. For example, what is the role of the coachee when he or she feels the coaching is not working.
If we think in broad terms about this competency, it embraces and overlaps with many of the other core competencies. For example, in order to establish and respect the Coaching Agreement, one must meet the ICF Ethical Guidelines & Professional Standards, Establish Trust, Be Present, Listen Actively, Ask Powerful Questions, Use Direct Communication, Create Awareness, etc.
The following is a partial list of many of the important components to be considered:
- What coaching is and what it is not e.g. therapy
- Outline of the coaching program
- Objectives, needs assessment, individual objectives, group objectives (if you are working with teams or groups),organizational objectives
- Duration of the Coaching and the length of sessions
- Location of coaching – in person (where), telephone, internet-based
- When the coaching will start
- Who contacts who
- Fees & payment policy
- Any additional costs such as long distance fees or travelling expenses
- Responsibilities of the coachee and the coach
- What is included and what is not included (e.g. emails or calls between sessions)
- A statement about following the ICF Code of Ethics
- Terms for terminating the agreement, including notice period
- A statement about confidentiality
- Legal disclaimer about liability and the importance of seeking the advice of other professionals such as qualified medical, legal, financial, business, spiritual consultants, as the case may be. Coaching is NOT a substitute for consulting with other professionals who are qualified to deal with specific issues.
- A statement about permission to use information for professional purposes e.g. credentialing, testimonials, marketing materials etc.
The above list is by no means complete, nor does it reflect what every coach puts into his or her own agreement or discusses with every client or coachee during an intake session.
Whether you are a personal, business, executive or other specific coach, you need to think about ALL the potential issues that may affect your category and address them in your written and verbal agreements with your clients. If you are dealing with corporate clients, your agreements might be more comprehensive and longer than if you are dealing with individuals. It is suggested that you seek legal counsel for reviewing your contracts. It is money well spent.
If you log into the ICF International website as a member of ICF, you can search for ‘’Establishing the Coaching Agreement’’ and you will find sample contracts for personal coaching, coaching in general and even a free webinar on the subject of Establishing the Coaching Agreement (2010)
My own thoughts are based on my experience as a coach, project manager and businessman. What I have learned is that if you set the expectations up front, there is far less chance that there will be misunderstandings as one proceeds through the coaching process.
Many of you may have additional topics that you cover in your coaching agreements and intake sessions. I invite you to share them with the members of ICF Quebec. I would be happy to receive your feedback: email@example.com