– Meena Venkataraman

The third coaching competency as established by the ICF deals with establishing and maintaining agreements.

However, if we step back from coaching for a moment I would invite you to reflect on what really is an agreement.

The dictionary definition of agreement is as follows:

Look around you, agreements are everywhere, even if you don’t notice them. Sometimes, these agreements are implicit and assumed to be understood, forming unwritten rules that shape how we interact with others. Sometimes, they are explicit – created, spoken about, and maintained.

In the coaching relationship, we aim for the second, explicit kind and so agreements must be established and maintained. Agreements are more than just rules about what coaching is and isn’t. It’s about asking yourself as a coach “What does it take to create a safe and clear container for coaching to happen?”.  

Coaches must pay attention to agreements because they set the boundaries for the coaching relationship. Like in any relationship, having clear boundaries is vital to making things work smoothly. When coaches and clients agree on how they’ll work together, it helps build trust and makes progress easier.

Brene Brown says “Clarity is Kindness”. To be in agreement in a coaching relationship means the coach, client and any other stakeholders have clarity in what is involved and what can be expected.

There are broadly two kinds of agreements at play-

1. Agreement for the Entire Coaching Engagement

Agreements for the entire engagement are comprehensive and involve establishing mutual understanding among the coach, client, and any other pertinent stakeholders, such as sponsors. The key here is to focus on the entire system.

When we think about clarity and agreement, here are some questions for the coach to consider:

  1. Does the client understand the coaching process – What it is and isn’t?
  2. Is there a clear understanding regarding roles, responsibilities, and expectations?
  3. What are the goals of the engagement?
  4. Have you agreed on the logistics of the coaching engagement? (logistical details, fees, scheduling, duration, termination procedures, confidentiality agreements, and other pertinent considerations.)

If the relationship involves additional stakeholders such as a sponsor, here are some additional questions for the coach to consider

  1. In addition to the client, does the Sponsor understand the Coaching Process?
  2. Are the sponsor, client and coach clear on how to work together?
  3. Is there an alignment on goals?
  4. Is the sponsor clear that the coaching relationship is confidential? Is there a process in place to share progress between the client, coach and sponsor?

2. Agreement for Each Coaching Session

Agreement for each coaching session encompasses understanding what the client aims to achieve during the session and how they will recognise success, including defining measurable outcomes. Without a clear direction of travel, the coaching conversation might devolve into just a conversation about something. 

Additionally, the coach partners with the client throughout the session to effectively manage the time and focus of each session, ensuring it aligns with the client’s needs and priorities. This ensures that coaching remains tailored to the client’s goals and objectives throughout the engagement.

It is important to understand that both these agreements are connected to each other and failure to establish and maintain either can lead to ethical violations.

In summary, agreements form the backbone of the coaching relationship, providing structure, clarity, and accountability. By establishing and maintaining clear agreements, coaches create a supportive environment for growth and transformation.

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