Contracting is a process, not a piece of paper. Your contract is the basis of a clear working agreement that helps you and your coach understand what to expect. A good contract will enable you and your coach to check that you’re on the same page about what you’ve agreed to work on together and whether you’re moving in the right direction.
In Transactional Analysis, there are three main points to the process of “contracting”:
1. Procedure. When is your coaching happening, where, how often, what happens if one of you needs to cancel, client confidentiality & data storage, etc.
2. Professional. What roles are you each playing in this contract? What are the responsibilities of each party? Who contributes what to this working relationship? How do you evaluate success?
3. Personal / Psychological. How will the client and coach interact with each other? What kind of a coach do you want today? What kind of a coachee do you want to be today? What kinds of methods or tools will the coach and client want to work with?
Parts of your contract, especially around procedural and professional matters, may exist on paper, but the personal and psychological aspects of your contract will be an ongoing process: each individual session and even parts of a session can be continually recontracted in response to the changing needs of both coach and coachee. Continuing to reassess contracting, even with a simple question like “How do you want to use today’s session?” can avoid frustration and wasting time through misunderstandings and assumptions.
You probably already use many of the parts of contracting in other types of relationships you have, like agreeing the frequency and purpose of project meetings with a group of colleagues, or setting professional skills and behavioural expectations at a team level. How might your ‘contracts’ change if you began formally thinking about contracting when entering into working agreements? How might you use contracting in your personal relationships?