Expectations in Coaching Relationships

A crucial step for a coach is to clarify expectations in coaching relationships. Back when I was in my twenties I bought an investment property with a close friend. After owning it and living in it together for several years, I got married and wanted to get my money out of the house. The circumstances I left under weren’t what we had anticipated, and the only thing that kept the situation from souring our relationship was that we’d written out a plan years before for how we were going to divvy up the profits.

Clear, written expectations make for a productive, long-term coaching relationship. Here are three great reasons to have a written agreement with every client, whether they are paying you or not:

1. It can save your friendship if things don’t turn out the way you expect.

2. It can uncover unrealistic expectations before they cause trouble.

3. The client will take the coaching relationship more seriously if there is a written agreement.

That third reason is particularly important. I spoke recently with a denominational executive who was a reluctant convert to this principle. He was a highly relational person who had coached pastors for several years with nothing written down. It felt uncomfortable to him to sign contracts with co-workers whom he considered friends. However, he found that when he started requiring his clients to sign on the dotted line, they became more consistent about making appointments, took the coaching relationship more seriously and got more done. Now he’s a true believer in coaching covenants.

I’ve often heard aspiring coaches say something to this effect: “I don’t like the idea of having a coaching agreement. It doesn’t make it feel like I trust the person or value their friendship if we have to sign a contract in order to work together.”

Here’s how I answer that objection: “I value our relationship so much that I want to make sure that nothing happens that could damage it. Signing a agreement for a coaching relationship will ensure that we both know what we’re getting into, and that we both want the same thing.”

Below is a checklist for clarifying expectations in coaching relationships. Most of these items are normally included in a coaching agreement.

Expectations in Coaching Relationships Checklist

  •  How often will we meet?
  •  How long will our appointments be?
  •  How long are we committing to work together? When will we reevaluate?
  •  Will we meet by phone or in person?
  •  If by phone, who will make the calls?
  •  Do we have each other’s contact information?
  •  Have we signed an agreement together?

Have we talked about the following?

  •  Timeliness and rescheduling boundaries.
  •  Taking initiative with me instead of waiting for me to do things for you.
  •  Phone etiquette.
  •  Taking action between appointments.
  •  Being honest and authentic.
  •  Handling what is shared with discretion.
  •  Having fun and accomplishing great things together!

Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute.