Contracting 2: First Impressions Count?

Contracting 2When does the coaching or mentoring relationship start?

This is an essential question for you to ask yourself as a coach or mentor and to answer. It also needs to be asked and answered separately for each one of your clients. Why?

In coaching and mentoring, as in life generally, first impressions count. What happens from the moment of initial contact – and even before if your client comes to you through referral – will influence the nature of your relationship. Understanding and managing the contracting process is central to the establishment of a successful coaching and mentoring programme – whether that be one or several sessions.

Why does the question ‘When does the coaching or mentoring relationship start?’ need to be asked of yourself at all? Isn’t it obvious?

Like everything that is obvious, or ‘common sense’, it doesn’t always happen. In the hurly burly of getting the day to day work underway some of that essential pre thinking can fall by the wayside and then come back to bite us.

Even the most experienced and seasoned of us

. . . can fall into the trap of forgetting to take account of what has happened BEFORE we meet our client for the first time. While it should be clear that any pre-contact we have with our client is going to influence the coaching or mentoring relationship, and that we need to take this into account, there may be occasions when it is somebody else who deals with the initial arrangements. Then it is much easier to forget to reflect on what might have happened before the first meeting that will impact on your relationship.

Even when you have had no part in setting up the initial meeting ‘you’ will have been introduced in some way to your coachee or mentee. There will also have been some kind of conversation about coaching or mentoring that will have set the scene for what the coachee or mentee is expecting to happen. Being conscious of this and thinking through what it might be appropriate for you to do either before you meet or right at the beginning of your first session, is important to remember in terms of that first impression.

And, more importantly why does asking the question – when does the coaching or mentoring relationship start? – need to be asked for each of your clients?

The context for every one of your clients will be different

There will be context in terms of why they are coming to coaching or mentoring as well as contextual factors relating to others involved in the decision and/or the focus for discussion. If the referral is from an organisation, this will bring an additional layer of relationship building which will affect the direct relationship you have with your coachee or mentee.   This is where you might want to consider dual contracting – the focus for another blog.

In addition to the contextual factors you need to consider, in terms of securing an effective and ethical ongoing relationship, there will be practical considerations relating to context. These can impact, for example, on your thinking about: where you might meet for that crucial first session; whether you need to send anything in advance; how long the first session will be. The answers to all these questions may be quite different for different clients.

So, lots to reflect on even before you arrive at that first coaching or mentoring session! Depending on the context of your own coaching or mentoring practice, the differences may be small or large. If you are an internal coach then there might be some constants in terms of context or if you are working in a specific sector that is more familiar with the coaching and mentoring process. However, this should not stop you reflecting on the potential individual differences . . .

the key to ‘optimising coaching’ for each and every one of your clients!

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