I ask new clients to read this page before our first formal coaching session, and we'll spend the first few minutes of that conversation briefly reviewing the main points here. (So this is the right place if you've read about my approach to coaching, we've had an in-person conversation, and we've mutually decided to work together. If that's not the case, but you'd like to know more about me and how I work, you can start here.)
Although our business relationship will be defined by the terms of a separate letter agreement, I view this as an equally meaningful interpersonal contract that will help set mutual expectations and define how we'll work together.
Key Elements of Coaching
I don't have ready-made answers for you, and my primary goal in our work together is to earn the right to ask the uniquely challenging questions that you must answer to be successful. That said, I won't withhold information that I believe could be useful, and I will occasionally offer direct suggestions and feedback, but I'’ll be explicit when I do.
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 may proactively raise an issue at times, but the agenda is ultimately your responsibility.
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.
Characteristics of the Coaching Relationship
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 prohibition—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.
Things to Expect in a Coaching Session
Interruptions and 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.
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.
Reflection and note-taking
Coaching sessions differ from typical conversations in which both parties feel an obligation to keep up the momentum. 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.
Photo by Glenn3095. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.