How to Create Effective Coaching Contracts?

Jan 29, 2018

This post is part of the Mastery in Coaching series.

“You know, every single thing that people have said about their purpose is not my purpose is to become rich, become wealthy, become clever, be good at this, be good at that; no, every single person who have answered that have said to contribute to humanity in different ways; they have their choice of which way they can contribute but it is always to help other people.”

– Living Legends – Conversation with Masters – Sir John Whitmore – Life Story

In his Coaching for Performance, Sir John talks about 4 levels of goals in coaching:

  1. Process: Sub goals in the session
  2. Performance: Desired outcome in the session
  3. End: Desired outcome in a coaching journey of multiple sessions
  4. Dream: Longer term visionary goal client aspires to

A coaching contract, at the very minimum, covers the following factors between coach, client, and the paying sponsor (if relevant, as a formal agreement), especially in the case of an organizational coaching contract that outlines:

  • What is being offered and contracted for coaching: The issue, process and model being followed, how the multiple session journey will be structured, chemistry sessions, number of sessions, stakeholder feedback sessions, duration, evidencing metrics, reports if any, psychometric assessments from the client etc.
  • Commercial payment terms, logistics such as venue & times, cancellation policy etc.
  • Confidentiality in line with codes of conduct and local laws
  • Boundaries, what the coach will do and not do

For instance, the coaching contract may be for a 12-session journey of one hour each, and may start with a free chemistry session for coach and client to relate to each other and clarify coaching objectives, (joined often by the line manager and/or HR partner). Some of the sessions, perhaps 2 or 3, in the journey may be scheduled part time as stakeholder feedback and feed forward sessions with the same, or other sponsor representatives. 360 feedback and psychometrics are preferred to support and refine client outcome aspirations.

What is often missing in a coaching contract and highly recommended is how outcome definitions would be evidenced in quantitative and qualitative terms.

The most basic rule of engagement in coaching is that it is a client centric, client driven process win which the coach is a value adding partner. This philosophy needs to underpin the coaching contract.

The most basic rule of engagement in coaching is that it is a client centric, client driven process win which the coach is a value adding partner. This philosophy needs to underpin the coaching contract.

Credentialing bodies such as ICF and EMCC lay down frameworks and  guidelines to measure a coach’s performance in a coaching session as core competencies. In relation to the coaching contract or agreement, these require the coach to elicit from the client the following as defined by PCC markers.

  • What does the client look for as outcome/s at the end of the sessionThis should be clear, specific and unambiguous.
  • How would this client-stated outcome serve the client now? Why is it important? What value would it add? Why does it motivate the client?
  • How would the client see this outcome as having been achieved in that session?
  • What is in the way of the client reaching this outcome with own resources from the current situation?  What blocks the client?
  • Monitoring progress through the session towards this outcome, unless client decides to change.

Let us consider a simple life issue of the client wishing to lose weight. It is unlikely for the client to lose weight in the hour spent with the coach. Coach’s inquiry needs to be on what is the value the client can derive from that session leading to the weight loss outcome. Coach’s question may elicit client response that the desired weight loss is for health reasons. The problem that the client may see is lack of control in eating or being too lazy to exercise.

Client needs to be comfortable with the desired outcome and committed to it.  Only then can the coach inquire into what is blocking the client reaching the outcome from current reality and finally, how the client would see the session as a successful one. This is just the beginning. Only after the stage is set with clarity in establishing the outcome in several perspectives can a meaningful exploration begin.

A good coach would use this first step to cover a number of additional core competencies such as establishing a relationship, displaying presence, listening, questioning and communicating.

Creating the contractual coaching agreement itself can be a minor dance within a major one of exploration leading to insights and action.

Questions for the Coach:

  • During this process of contracting are you able to establish what in this situation can the client control, and what client can influence in factor that are not within control?
  • What would happen if the client is unable to define measures that would indicate a successful outcome?
  • What would not happen even if client reaches the outcome? What would not happen if client is unable to reach the outcome?
  • Can the client sensorily experience the outcome? Can you?
Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

Read Next