Explain how Coaches should Contract and Manage Confidentiality to Coach Ethically

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At the start of any formal work relationship it is important to agree a contract, an agreement about how you are going to work, the terms and conditions of the relationship. Coaching is no exception and in a similar way to other work arrangements there is usually a need to agree a formal contract and also an informal contact.

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The formal contract can either be a two-way agreement, between the coach and the individual, or more usually, three way, between the coach, the coachee and the manager of the coachee. In some organisations the Human Resources Department has a role to play and is often responsible for the contract and can also be part of the formal contracting. This formal contract, which is usually a written document, spells out the commitments of the coach, the coachee and the manager in the coaching process.

The coach needs to spell out clearly for the coachee and the manager how they plan to work, the schedule of work eg 6 coaching sessions over a 6 month period each lasting one and a half hours. The cost needs to be transparent and agreed up front, both fees and expenses. This is usually a cost for the full schedule of coaching. Payment details, how the coach will be paid, in one lump sum at the beginning or monthly as the coaching progresses, need to be agreed. The coach needs to understand where the coaching meetings will take place. Often coaches like to be coached away from the work environment and in this case a budget for booking private rooms in a hotel or other venue need to be agreed. Often once the coaching is underway the coach and coachee can agree to meet in a more informal meeting place eg a café or hotel lounge area. Cancellation arrangements also need to be agreed. The coach will normally need to be flexible about changes to meeting times as the coachee will sometimes have last minute changes to schedule. However there need to be parameters agreed on these changes eg. changes within 24 hours of the meeting will mean that a missed meeting charge will be made.

Termination terms need also to be agreed. If for any reason the coachee or the manager wish to terminate the contract it is usual for 2 weeks written notice to be given.

The coaching contract also needs to cover the overall goals for the coaching process. The manager will have spoken to the coachee about coaching in advance, when they offered them the opportunity to have a coach, so this discussion should not be news to the coachee. It is important that the discussion about the goals of the coaching is discussed with the manager and the coachee so that there is no room for misunderstanding. The coach and the coachee will have met before the formal contracting meeting as they will have had a chemistry session to ensure that they can work together. The goals of the coaching will normally have been touched on at this point. This is therefore a formalisation and double check that everyone understands the goals.

Once the schedule of the coaching has been agreed the manger or sponsor needs to commit to releasing the coachee for the agreed amount of time. Coaching is often most advantageous if done either at the beginning of the day before the demands of the day take over or at the end of the day when the days work is behind them and the coachee can focus purely on themselves and the coaching. Half an hour before the coaching session is scheduled should ideally be put aside for the coachee to reflect on what they want to cover and to have a chance to clear their mind so that they can be fully present and concentrate on the coaching. It is also a good idea for the coach to work to this discipline and set themselves half an hour before running a coaching session so they can also be clear on the purpose of the meeting and what they intend to cover or think through any techniques they plan to use.

The manager needs to commit to doing everything possible to allow the coaching to take place at the agreed times and not to pressurise the coachee to cancel if a last minute problem occurs.

The sponsor also needs to commit to being supportive of the plans that are agreed at coaching and give any help and support needed for them to be implemented. The manager has a duty of care to ensure that the coachee finds the experience as fulfilling and developmental as possible and that they feel able to implement changes agreed as a result of the coaching when back in the workplace.

The coachee may have some personal goals that they wish to make for the coaching sessions. They may be open to sharing these with the manager or sponsor in the contracting meeting or they may want to wait until they are alone with the coach to agree with them. In some instances, coaches want to use the coaching sessions to help build a better relationship with their manager and they may not wish to raise this in front of the manager. All coaches need to feel confident that they are working with their coach in a safe environment.

The coach needs to be clear in the formal meeting about the confidentiality and the non-judgemental nature of the sessions. They will commit to not disclose details of the discussions but only report on the achievement of goals if required. Often the coach is not required to report back to the manager throughout the coaching period, the manager gets their updates from the coachee and hopefully sees the benefits of the coaching through different behaviours displayed or a change in the ways of working that is aligned to the goals set. It can be agreed that the coach will meet with the manager and the coachee at the end of the coaching period and contract to review progress made and if there is any further requirement for coaching or any other developmental intervention.

It is crucial that both the coachee and the sponsor feel confident that the coaching will be done in an ethical way. If the coach is an external coach to the organisation they should be able to prove that all coaching records will be kept in a locked cupboard or in a passworded file. External coaches should have a privacy policy which they should provide for the coachee and the sponsor to read. They should also discuss their commitment to abide by a code of ethics which includes abiding by all employment legislation, avoiding unconscious bias, taking care not to discriminate, either directly or indirectly, in any way during the relationship. They need to make the client comfortable that they are familiar with employment legislation, the Equality Act and Privacy legislation. They need to be ble to convince the client that they will create a safe environment for the coaching.

Once the formal contract has been agreed and signed off the informal contract between the coach and the coachee can be agreed. This is held at the very beginning of the coaching process but can be revisited during the process if required on either side. Whereas the formal contract was about the ‘what’ of the relationship, this contract is about how they will work together. The acronym COACH is a useful way to remember what to cover in an informal contract.

Confidentiality – the coach is bound by coaching ethics to respect confidentiality. This means that everything discussed in the room is confidential and will not be repeated by either party outside the room unless specifically agreed to do so. Even if the sponsor asks the coach directly to discuss the coaching sessions they will not discuss unless agreed with the coachee.

Openness – the coachee must agree to be open in order to gain the most form the coaching and to see real progress towards the goals set.

Accountability – the coach will hold the coachee accountable for taking agreed action and will usually start each session with a review of what they agreed last time and catch up on progress made.

Challenge – the coachee needs to be willing to be supportively challenged. The coach is likely to ask questions that are outside the comfort zone of the individual and they need to be agreeable to this from the start if real progress is to be made.

Honesty – the coachee needs to be honest with themselves and the coach and bring their whole self to the coaching. This is a session just for them and they need to feel that they can give it their full attention for the duration of the session.

Sir John Whitmore touches on the importance of ‘conscious working agreements’ in his book, Coaching for Performance. ‘The conscious and deliberate design of a good working relationship at the start builds the respect, trust, and agreement that are essential to collaboration and high performance’ (p63)

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Explain How Coaches Should Contract and Manage Confidentiality to Coach Ethically. (2022, Sep 02). Retrieved February 1, 2023 , from

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