The Outstanding Coach Series #2: Managing Your Client’s Expectations & Establishing the Coaching Agreement

The Outstanding Coach Series 2 Managing Your Client’s Expectations
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It matters how we navigate the coaching agreement and client expectations.

Managing the relationship with our client in a professional way, with clarity and certainty about what’s expected and what’s not, is vital to establishing the early trust of the coaching relationship.

Coaches are entrusted with confidential and sensitive information and are held to the highest standard. We are seen by our clients and much of the community as keepers of excellence.

An outstanding coach is someone who can holds up to these standards and conducts themselves and sets up the coaching agreement in the best manner possible.

7 Steps to Effectively Managing Client Expectations & Establishing the Coaching Agreement

Effectively Managing Client Expectations & Establishing the Coaching Agreement

1. Communicate what is expected and possible in the coaching relationship without over-promising the results. 

When setting up the coaching relationship, be mindful of what is and is not available as part of your services. Because the success of a coaching session takes commitment from both parties, and is not guaranteed only because the coach is passionate, it’s better not to over-promise what can be achieved. This means that you communicate extraordinary results are achievable as long as the client brings 100% commitment and takes responsibility.

As a coach, you need to let your clients know your boundaries. They need to know that you are a coach, not a specialist so if they want specific financial advice, they will have to seek a professional specialising in that area.

In short, it’s important to establish whether or not you’re a good match for the client – for example, a client wanting coaching for bulimia is outside the scope of coaching unless a therapist has recommended coaching in writing as a part of their recovery.

2. Discuss the specifics, guidelines and parameters of the coaching relationship.

It’s worth getting clear on what you can and cannot coach (for example, you may not coach sexually abused until you’re trained), what mode of communication you use (such as the phone or face-to-face) and the days you coach (such as weekdays only).

You may also have a templated coaching form that they need to complete before you’ll coach them. There may be a sponsor involved, and you must be clear on the role of the sponsor and how much of the actual coaching between you and the client is shared with the sponsor.

3. Demonstrate the ability to describe the coaching process to the client.

You don’t need a memorised script for this, but it’s worth knowing how you describe coaching to clients who have a limited understanding of it.

Most clients who come to you will not know what coaching is, outside of what a friend has told them or what they have come to conclude about coaching on their own.

As coaches, it’s our responsibility to educate our clients in the basics of what coaching is and how it works.

One approach could be as follows:

Coaching is a confidential relationship with someone who is on your team. Its purpose is to assist you achieve the outcomes you want.

These goals may change as we progress with coaching, and as you get clearer on what you care about and where you’re heading.

We’re going to meet every Tuesday here in my office. We’ll do the sessions for an hour, more or less.

During that time, we can discuss whatever is on your mind. We can stick to a program that we design together. Sometimes I’ll throw in new ideas based on what my help you the most. I will always be your coach, and sometimes I’ll put on different hats, so I may be your mentor, or become an advisor based on where my expertise is strong and appropriate.

I will always check in with you to see which role you’d like me to play at a given circumstance. Anything and everything can be dscussed. I’ve heard it all. I cannot be shocked. I have heard it all.You won’t offend me or hurt my feelings, because this is about you, not me.

What gets discussed will always remain confidential unless a law is broken (so please don’t do that).

Let me know if there is anything, anytime, you’d like to discuss about this.

This is just one example – you can create your own variation and add more to it based on whom you coach and around what areas.

4. Come to an agreement about what is acceptable and what is not.

This can include logistics as well as content. For example, you may be very clear that turning up at your office at any time is inappropriate. That it’s not acceptable to phone you on certain days, but it’s always OK to email you.

In terms of content, you can draw a boundary around what areas you’re willing to coach. As professional coaches, we all have a personal style. Some of us are very direct. Some are more of a “leveled” energy whereas others are highly energetic.

You don’t have to change your style for anyone, because you’ll find that you attract the clients that are a best match for you. A lot of your clients will come to you exactly because of your personal style that you’re best at. It’s important to communicate that clearly with a new client so as to come to an agreement of what’s acceptable.

5. Establish outcomes for the coaching at the beginning of the relationship.

One way to do that could be asking them, “What would delight you in terms of outcomes if we work together?”

It’s a great way to let the client explore in their mind where they want to be, and who they want to become through the journey.

A great coach is flexible when it comes to outcomes achieved. Sometimes, a client may take months to just arrive at the outcome before they even begin to achieve it. It’s all acceptable and coachable.

6. Establish a formal coaching agreement.

You may or may not want a formal agreement. Some coaches prefer one, whereas others only operate based on trust of a handshake.

There is no right or wrong, but if you do decide to go with a written agreement, here are some basics to include:

  • Clear outcomes
  • Clear objectives
  • Are there going to be clear timeframes
  • Are both client and coach clear on what coaching is about
  • Schedule
  • Payment structure
  • Cancellations
  • Inclusion of others
  • Confidentiality
  • Timeframes to completion
  • Code of Conduct
  • What coaching cannot do
  • Client commitments

7. Ensure that your client has a clear understanding of what is being offered as per your agreement.

If your client is also a coach, they will understand what you mean when you ask: “How would you like to be coached?”

If they are not, you’ll have to spell out for them – and consider if they need you to be a sounding board, a listener, a motivator, a mentor, a champion and so on.

To achieve clarity around this, ask: “Do you ant me to coach you or play a mentoring role?”

Or, “Am I listening as your sounding board, or coaching?”

By giving them the opportunity to answer that, you’re familiarising them with the coaching language as well as allowing them to feel responsible and play a more active role in their coaching, rather than relying on you for their results.

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