Before beginning coaching, through the written coaching agreement, the coach and client agree to the nature of the relationship, boundaries, time commitment, fees, and confidentiality, among other salient points.
Sometimes there is a free introductory session where the coach asks the client about their understanding of the coaching process. If a sponsor is hiring the coach, there may be an orientation for the client. Often, coaches simply have a conversation with clients about coaching and sign the agreement when establishing the relationship.
Professional coaches have a written agreement they sign with their clients prior to the first coaching session. The ICF publishes a sample agreement with key points covering:
- Length of the relationship;
- Fees and scheduling;
- Client responsibility;
- Nature of the relationship;
- Coaching is not mental health (and to seek outside mental health care if needed);
- Coaching is not a substitute for professional advice; and
Additionally, if there is a sponsor, there may be reporting parameters included in an agreement. A written agreement embodies commitment and provides a solid foundation for understanding and building rapport.
When coaching competencies are evaluated during coaching certification, mentor coaching, or applying for credentialing, the guiding parameters are defined by the ICF as PCC Markers. The markers include the coach asking the client to confirm what they want, their measure of success, what is meaningful about their objectives, and what they believe must be addressed.
This means that an agreement before coaching includes clarifying what the client wants to accomplish through the coaching relationship as a whole and during each individual session too.