Developing a Coaching Contract
When a manager assumes the role of a coach, their primary responsibility is to identify unproductive behaviors and to focus the individual employee on taking positive actions to change them.
Coaching contracts are a method that holds the employee accountable for the claims and promises he or she makes to change their behavior. Without a contract, behavioral changes are difficult to manage, and it becomes impossible to hold the employee accountable.
IMPLICATIONS — WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
Behavioral changes to increase one’s productivity often take time. The manager cannot possibly be ever-present to ensure an employee is making the appropriate changes. Not only is it impractical, it becomes condescending, as employees are adults and should be responsible for their own actions.
This is important for managers to appreciate because if employees formally agree to a course of action it should empower them to change, as it holds them accountable for their actions and agreeable to the consequences if they do not follow through.
STRATEGIES, TIPS & TECHNIQUES TO APPLY
Coaching contracts empower both the manager and the employee to work together toward the accomplishment of common goals. In this manner they are both focused on positive actions.
Coaching contracts are flexible enough to hold an employee accountable for a single day’s actions or for creating a plan to accomplish more complex goals. The following steps can be taken to create a contract:
Define the Parameters of the Contract
Managers should specifically define the problem, issue or complaint that is to be addressed by the contract. This definition should be exact and specific as to what the contract is being formulated to accomplish.
Define the Actions
Once the problem is defined, the specific actions that need to be taken are detailed. This holds both the coach and the subordinate accountable for what they claim they can accomplish.
Specifically, the coach and the employee will discuss and negotiate the exact steps and actions needed to overcome and correct the problem. In many instances, the coach may need to secure a series of promises from the employee, especially if they are reluctant to make the necessary changes.
The scope of a coaching contract can be overwhelming to the employee. To ensure success, coaches should break the contract into small and easily manageable blocks. Each becomes a mini-contract that when completed, fulfills the entire contract. This allows the employee to create a series of smaller successes, which in turn empowers and motivates them.
Specific and realistic deadlines should be established for each step, phase and milestone of the contract. The coach will need to negotiate these with the employee so that all parties are in agreement.
Penalties should be agreed upon if the terms of the contract are not upheld.
Once the contract has been developed, it should be formally offered and accepted by both parties. Committing the contract to writing and having both parties sign it formalizes the process.
Once the contract is formalized and accepted, both the coach and the employee have specific responsibilities and have been empowered to work together toward their accomplishment. Either party should be able to follow up with the other to assure that the terms of the contract are being met.
While the contract is primarily focused on the improvement of the employee, the coach will have specific responsibilities to assure that their behavior is modified and that he or she works within the parameters of the agreement. The bulk of the responsibility will be on the employee, who will be held accountable for their behaviors and performance.
POINTS TO PONDER — SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
- Have you used contracts when coaching individual employees? What were the results?
- How have you held subordinates accountable for their behaviors in the past? Explain.
TRAINING ACTIVITY — APPLICATION & ACTION PLAN
Develop contracts for performance improvement for each individual member of your unit or department. In each contract:
- Define the problem or unproductive behavior.
- Determine the actions the employee needs to take to correct the behavior.
- Develop milestones to easily manage the contract.
- Establish deadlines.
- Formalize and sign the contract.
- Follow up and hold the employee accountable.