This document is intended to help you better understand my approach and get the most out of our work together. We'll discuss Sections A-C in our first meeting in order to set mutual expectations, one of the few times that I'll begin a session with an agenda. Although we'll define our business relationship in a separate letter agreement, I view this document as an equally important "interpersonal contract."
1) You have the answers, not me.
Coaching isn't mentoring, therapy, or consulting, although it's related to all of those disciplines. A difference is that in those relationships you're typically seeking answers from an expert. My expertise is in building meaningful coaching relationships, but I'm not an expert on you or your goals, and I don't have answers for you. I have questions, and you’ll ultimately have to determine the answers that are right for you. I’ll provide feedback and advice at times, but I’ll be careful to note when I do, so that you can decide for yourself what to do with that information.
2) You set the agenda.
You’ll decide what issues we address, both during the course of our work together and in each individual coaching session. I’ll help you track issues over time and prioritize issues in a given conversation. I’ll raise certain issues at times, drawing upon my experience with other clients, but the agenda is ultimately your responsibility.
3) A coaching relationship is an equal partnership.
I'm not an authority figure, nor am I a subordinate. We’ll work together as equal partners in this process and share responsibility for its success. If we ever feel that we’re not acting as partners, we’ll say so.
I will not disclose your identity as a coaching client, any information that would identify you as a client or any details of our work together without your permission. Note that this is a "one-way street"—I strongly encourage you to tell people you trust that you’re working with a coach and to share what you’re working on. I find that clients who invite colleagues, friends and family into these conversations get more out of the coaching process.
You’re ultimately accountable to yourself, not to me, and my role is to help you fulfill any commitments you make to yourself. That said, we also need to honor the commitments we make to each other, starting with an agreement to be on time and ready for each coaching session.
While we need to feel a sense of caring and appreciation in our coaching relationship we also need to be honest with each other. I’ll always speak professionally and with respect, but I’ll also strive to be as candid and direct as possible in order to be as helpful as possible.
1) Interruptions & pointed questions.
I may interrupt you, and I may ask direct, pointed questions. It's important that we find the communication style that's most effective for us as a team, and it's essential that you feel heard in our discussion, and yet excessive politeness should not get in the way of real communication.
2) Suggestions and responses.
I may make some suggestions, and you always have at least four responses to choose from: You can say "Yes," say "No," propose an alternative, or ask for time to think about it. Any feedback or advice that I provide can be thought of as a suggestion, and you always have the ability to accept it, reject it, modify it, or defer it.
3) Reflection and note-taking.
Coaching sessions shouldn’t feel like other conversations, in which both parties feel an obligation to "keep up." At times I may pause to allow you to reflect or to choose where to go next, and at times you may pause to take some notes or gather your thoughts. I’ll take occasional notes to avoid being distracted by points I’m trying to remember or questions I’d like to raise later.
Consider the questions below. We're not obligated to pursue any of them, but they may serve as a useful starting point in our work together.
1) Questions to understand you and your current situation
What activities have the most meaning for you?
What works for you when you make changes successfully?
Where do you get stuck?
How do you deal with disappointment or failure?
How do you deal with success?
What helps you fulfill your commitments?
What gets in your way when you don't?
What's satisfying about your work today?
What's unsatisfying about it?
What one thing could you do immediately that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?
2) Questions that will allow you to help define my role
What does "coaching" mean to you?
What does it not mean?
How would you advise me to coach you most effectively?
If you seem stuck, how would you like me to help?
3) Questions to understand where you want to be in the future
Where do you want to make a difference?
What would make your work so compelling that you would do it without compensation?
If a goal is an external, visible outcome, what are your most important goals?
If a commitment is an internal force that drives you to set and achieve goals, what are you committed to?
If a habit is a small sign of a larger process, what helpful habits do you want to encourage?
What counter-productive habits do you want to break?
What assumptions and beliefs support your success?
Which ones are getting in your way?