Preparing a room for painting

By Dr. Felix Villanueva, Director of Vibrant Faith's Coaching School

In the book, Becoming an Exceptional Executive Coach, Michael Frisch and his partners compare coaching agreements with “preparing a room for painting. It may seem to delay the start of the needed work, but preparation always pay off later in both efficiency and quality of results.”
Part of the preparation in co-creating the coaching relationship is developing and discussing coaching agreements with your coachees/clients and the individual or organization that may be paying for your coaching services.  For those times when you will be hired by someone else to coach an employee, consider what types of questions you need to ask yourself, and the involved parties, to help ensure a positive coaching experience.


Please share your insights as you review the Coaching Agreements for these instances:
  • What are the similarities and differences between individual and corporate (organizational) coaching agreements?
  • How would you approach the conversations with the hiring entity regarding confidentiality and the coaching process?
  • How would you meet the expectations of the hiring entity?
  • What are your responsibilities toward the entity and the Coachee? 
  • How do you avoid conflicting interests?
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Brian Hooper - August 19th, 2022 at 11:04am

I imagine that the difference between individual and corporate coaching would be coaching goal...there might be an outcome that is defined by the corporation and not necessarily an individual outcome that is defined. However, the outcomes may overlap.

Concerning confidentiality, I would share with the corporation that what is shared in the individual session is confidential. Corporate might touch base with the client concerning movement forward.

I would try and meet the hiring entities expectations by setting a contract with them, periodically touching base concerning the contract. I imagine it might be hard to track progress as the sessions are a process and not a fix at one time.

It is hard to manage conflicts. My focus is on the individual in coaching sessions, and working with them to evoke new awareness. Conflicts will happen and I would go back to the individual contract.

Janny - August 21st, 2022 at 2:24pm

With working hard on proper preparation; making communication, confidentiality and goals clear, it feels like the painting job: half the work is done and the good work of coaching can begin!

The setting of goals and expectations plus who shares what is individually one-on-one done set up. The difference with a company using me as a coach would be that the goals and expectations must be cleared with the individual and the responsible person of the company. I will not share the content of the one-on-one meetings unless the company and individual came to a specific agreement before the coaching started.

The responsibilities I have to the company is agreed on before the start, and I assume that will be mainly report when I did meet with the client, so they know I can be paid :).

Avoiding conflict of interest is about communication: when conflict arises, I need to get back to the table with the party/parties involved and clear it out.

Tom - August 21st, 2022 at 9:06pm

I think the similarities would be the parts of the contract pertaining to the individual client, confidentiality for instance. I imagine an agreement with a sponsoring entity would have additional wording pertaining to the relationship between the entity-client and entity-coach as well as clarification of what the coach is expected to report as well as what the coach will not be able to report in light of our commitment to confidentiality.

I would explain to the organization that the effectiveness of the coaching process depends on the trust a client has with the coach. In order for the organization to reap the most benefit from hiring a coach, they must allow the coach to honor their commitment to confidentiality. In order for me to serve the organization as the best possible coach I can be the organization needs to honor my commitment to confidentiality with the client.

With that said, I would want to know the organization's desired outcomes from the coaching process. I think quantifying the benefit of coaching to the hiring entity would be challenging. If their goal was to improve collegiality or work-place performance, that would be on them to measure. So I would want to know what measurables they are using to evaluate the effectiveness of my coaching.

While conflicts are bound to happen, one approach would be to manage expectations going into the agreement. An employee who is underperforming isn't going to become a superstar after one session with me (maybe after one session with Janny!) Change that comes from coaching takes time. It takes time to impact attitudes, assumptions and actions. If the organization is patient, their patience will be rewarded far in excess of my coaching fee.

Finally, as Janny wrote, communication is huge-can't communicate enough throughout the process. When I'm confused about something or the goals seem unclear, ask for clarification. Take the time to prepare the room for painting by thoroughly working through expectations and goals.

Dan - August 21st, 2022 at 10:25pm

I would imagine the majority of the Coaching agreement would be the same for individual and corporate Coaching (though I'm eager to learn more about coaching within organizations/corporations). Having said that there would certainly be a greater degree of complexity to a 3rd party coaching agreement.

Honest and open conversation with the organization concerning expectations and responsibilities would be absolutely essential. Clarity on the part of all the parties involved in the coaching agreement is essential from the beginning. Particularly important would be a conversation with the organizational representative about the confidentiality of the coaching relationship. Clarity on confidentiality is foundational. All this conversation and work is akin to the work of preparing to paint a room; detail oriented and time consuming work but absolutely key to the room being painted well.

I would expect that conflict might occur in corporate coaching. In this case, I agree wholeheartedly with Janny and Tom that open and honest communication would be key in clarifying (reclarifying?) the expectations and responsibilities of the Coaching agreement in a corporate coaching context.

Shelly McNitt - August 29th, 2022 at 11:47am

Coaching agreements will vary depending on the client - individual versus organizational - yet they should all integrate together so there is clarity and context for all involved. What is everyone's role should be defined through out the agreements. Individual session agreement the client is in charge and sets the path for the session and can change the road map at any time. The corporate agreement will be more overarching and looking for ways to improve a performance gap and how progress will be measured,

Clarifying confidentiality in the agreements will be key in building trust with your client and the organization. Telling them what will and won't be shared by the coach should help eliminate frustration when addressed on the front end of the agreement.

Sharing what coaching is and what coaching isn't will also be key in setting the road map for the contract. Checking in and asking for feedback and setting a time frame from both the individual and the organization will help evaluate the progress and if the coaching relationship is a good fit for all parties.

Clarity is such a strong resource for working through conflict and making sure all parties understand the road map, time frame, tools to measure growth and progress, and what role everyone has in this agreement should help keep conflict to a minimum. Referring back to the agreements from time to time may help reduce conflict also.

Jason Bland - August 31st, 2022 at 10:33am

When reviewing coaching agreements with clients it’s imperative to be specific and somewhat prescriptive, i.e. this is what will happen, and this is what will not happen. This allows the coach the opportunity to clearly explain the coaching process, and the client’s role in the ongoing relationship. This is also a great time to review with the client/hiring entity what their expectations may be, enabling conversation which will support the development of realistic goals and expectations that align with the coach’s ability/code of ethics.

If the hiring entity is different from the client themselves, then it’s also important to ensure that discussions are held to review the confidentiality agreement. Prior to starting any coaching sessions the Coach should clearly understand any expectations the hiring entity may have to share results from any coaching sessions. Details in this regard should be clearly outlined and added to the written agreement, if not already included.

Ultimately, the client, hiring entity, and coach should all be aligned and moving in the same direction, with the same goal(s). This can only happen if the space in which coaching is to occur has been adequately prepared, ensuring the container in which the coaching conversations will be held meets all requirements and expectations.