The Behavioural Contract

Sign contractAt the beginning of the coaching process a “behavioural contract” should be drawn up which takes into account the needs of the sponsoring organisation and the changes required from a corporate perspective, the needs of the coaching client and the changes they want to make and the thoughts of the coach who synthesises this information into a series of ‘objectives’ and associated ‘outcomes’.

For example, the organisation may wish to see an individual improve their communication skills in order to become a more effective leader and the individual may want to gain con?dence when dealing with superiors. Both of these statements are regarded as overall objectives. However, neither specifies what would need to be different for there to be a positive outcomeor some sort of measurable change, or how the organisation or individual will measure the change.

A series of further questions are used to elicit measurable outcomes such as: “If you were more confident, what would you be doing differently?”, and “if X were a more effective leader, what behaviour would they be engaging in that would be different?”

Consideration is also given to the Key Performance Indicators already in use in the organisation and how these can be used to measure change.The role of the coach is to ensure that the outcomes are clearly stated, that all parties know what is expected and that the number of desired outcomes can be obtained in the specified time. In addition, during the contracting period, agreement is also reached on the type and method of feedback to be provided to the organisation, the parameters of con?dentiality and the terms and conditions related to the coaching assignment.

Once all these factors have been agreed, the contract can be signed off by all parties and used to evaluate the success of the coaching sessions. There are, of course, occasions when the contract may need to be amended during the coaching programme if new information comes to light or if circumstances change. In effect, the behavioural contract sets the agenda for change.

Sessions start with the coach ascertaining the client’s current mood as well as what has happened to the client since the previous meeting. The coach then refers the client back to the behavioural contract so they can choose one of the items listed to work on in the session. The session then focuses on the chosen item using whatever skills and/or techniques seem appropriate, and the client is then helped to design ‘homework’ to take place before the next session. The session ends with the coach eliciting feedback on how the client has experienced the session and what has been helpful.

CBC is a collaborative process so it is important that the client takes control of the subject matter, and provides feedback to the coach on his or her approach.The coach also takes into account the learning style of the individual. For example, some clients prefer to have more information about the concepts behind the coaching style being used and want to engage in what could be termed‘bibliocoaching’, an adaptation of the term ‘bibliotherapy’ where reading material is recommended to back up the programme. Other clients may want to engage in more experiential learning. If the coach can work with the client’s learning style it can lead to more successful goal attainment.

The individual is helped to identify and understand the impact of their thinking style in a given situation. Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs –self-defeating thoughts) are based on the ‘life rules’ or underlying assumptions we have devised to help us function in our environment, which, in turn, are based on the core beliefs we hold about ourselves, others and the world.