How do you, as the coach, create a safe space to ensure an open and honest discussion is had, to bring alignment in outcomes for both coachee and the sponsor/line manager?
Contracting, even when documented, is most successful when it reflects the agreement on the relationship between parties. Multi-party or tripartite or 3-way contracting in coaching is therefore advisedly embodied in a meaningful conversation between the parties who have the closest involvement in the coaching engagement.
A multi-party contracting/tripartite meeting helps to set the scene and clarify the desired coaching outcomes and/or review progress. This type of meeting is usually used where the individual who is receiving coaching is different from the party who has contracted the coach. Not all coaching contracts would include a multi-party/tripartite/3-way session(s).
Although the term Multi-party is used, there are usually 3 parties: the individual or team to be (or being) coached, a sponsor representing the entity who hired the coach, and the coach. The representative could be the line manager, Human Resources or other sponsor.In thinking about such a meeting, a good question to bear in mind is,
“How do you, as the coach, create a safe space to ensure an open and honest discussion is had, to bring alignment in outcomes for both coachee and the sponsor/line manager?”
When does it happen?
This is a meeting and not a coaching session. There could be up to 3 of these meetings. The first meeting is best at the start of a coaching programme to set the scene, provide context for the programme, set expectations, and clarify. A second meeting may be arranged mid-programme to check progress and resolve any issues which may be arising. The third meeting at the end of a programme to check on progress and learn lessons, is usual.
Tripartite contracting is most often initiated by a sponsor who wants their interest registered in coaching conversation. Such an interest could be to express support for the relationship and its outcomes for the coachee. A key point to keep in mind is what the coachee or team wants from this meeting. A coachee is likely to want to be reassured about confidentiality of the coaching conversations and any reporting back expectation. They may want to clarify any expectations around payment, number of sessions, additional sessions if required.
What does the sponsor want from this meeting?
Depending on the maturity of the sponsor as a buyer of coaching, they may want a range of outputs from this meeting. Examples include:
What does the coach want from this meeting?
The coach would usually want to understand the coachees’ context, along with the sponsor’s expectations and requirements.
The coach’s professional ethics would need to be on show at this meeting to establish a strong relationship with the coachee.
The coach would be best advised to clarify lines of communication which protect the integrity of the confidentiality in the coach-coachee relationship. Personally, I would be willing to share information about administrative arrangements for the coaching process with the sponsor, including session bookings, attendance, venue, equipment.
Where there are large enough numbers of coachees so that individuals could not be identified, a coach ought to be able to share themes from the sessions which require organisational attention.
It is good practice for a coach to support a coachee to directly communicate specific feedback and other information to their manager or other sponsor. This would keep lines of communication clean and can help coachee and sponsor to develop their communication, especially where the sponsor is the line manager.
Coach Presence is what the coach embodies when they are fully present in the meeting, attentive and responsive to the other parties. The coach is best served by showing up as a coach, even when facilitating a dialogue between coachee and sponsor.
The coach is encouraged to collect valuable data from the tripartite meeting about the relationship between coachee and sponsor, observing the coachee’s interactions with a third person. This could provide evidence and insights which may later prove useful to the coaching relationship.
It is important to follow-up after the meeting to ensure documentation and sharing of any decisions and clarifications made in the meeting. The sponsor may undertake this task.
Multi-party, tripartite or 3-way contracting is undertaken in coaching engagements to bring the stakeholders of the coaching assignment together. The sponsor may require it or the coach may deem it important after understanding the coaching brief. The coach should maintain a coaching presence, aiming to establish relationships, clarify lines of communication and collect context data which would be useful in the coaching assignment.
Joseph Ogbonna is a London-based versatile, experienced coach, with excellent supporting skills in strategic thinking, relationship building, mindfulness, organisational development, project and programme management skills, serving a range of public and private sector clients.
Read more blogs from Joseph Ogbonna – Lessons for a generation, “Keep Calm and Wash your hands”
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