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The Dos and Don'ts of Executive Coaching (Part 4: Contracting)

June 24, 2011

This is the fourth post in our four-part series from Linkage Master Coach Richard Gauthier. Read on to learn about a critical phase in the coaching process: contracting.

  • Do include in the contract discussions clarification and agreement on arrangements and confidentiality: Who will schedule? If either of you has to cancel—by when? Where you’ll meet: how frequently? By when should the coaching cycle have been completed? (Six to 16 months is generally accepted depending on the complexity of the issue). Confidentiality—what does it mean to you and to the client and the terms you can both accept?
  • Don’t hesitate to make it clear that the only time you’ll break a confidentiality agreement is if you learn of actions by your client or others that would clearly result in serious physical or emotional damage to any individual, group or the organization.
  • Do reconsider your decision to contract with an individual if, early on, it becomes obvious that your client is suffering from severe depression or shows signs of a problem with drinking, drugs or violence. Reference your client to a social worker, psychologist or the organization’s Employee Assistance Program and move on.
  • Don’t contract to coach someone whose boss or direct report you are also coaching. You’ll soon abdicate the role of coach and too easily evolve into a mediator, or worse, a broker for one side or the other.
  • Do avoid contracting to coach clients whose fundamental principles, values and subsequent behavior you simply can’t abide. You’ll want to change these clients and that’s not your job. Leave that to their wives or husbands. Your job is to help them change what they want to change and make your clients better at what they do. If you can’t buy into what they do and why, you don’t want to make them better at it.
  • Don’t contract to coach clients as part of an organizational documentation process for demotion or termination. If the decision has been made, coach the organization to step-up to that decision as soon as possible. Avoid the seduction to pull off “last hope” heroics—it seldom works.

About the Author:

Richard Gauthier

Richard Gauthier

Richard is a highly-skilled and respected consultant and executive coach with more than twenty-five years of experience in organizational development, leadership, marketing and communications.  Currently a Principal Consultant at Linkage, Richard addresses a wide spectrum of customer challenges in leadership, customer satisfaction and retention, change management, management development, alignment and total quality. 



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