This post is part of a series on the 9 competencies of an effective coach, taken originally from Developing Coaching Excellence. To see all entries in this series posted so far, you can search “coach competency” on the main page of my blog. 

Establishing moves us into the relational competencies: establishing, supporting, and concluding. These three competencies focus on the coaching relationship itself and how it is handled as it progresses.

Establishing takes place at the beginning of a coaching relationship and involves building rapport, setting direction, and clarifying expectations. Typically, that includes clarification of the role of the coach, responsibilities of the person being coached, logistics, the frequency and length of meetings, payment, and tentative plans regarding how and when the relationship will be concluded.

The most important skill in establishing is to build trust. A coach must establish rapport with the person they are coaching. Unless the person being coached trusts you, they won’t open up. Building trust requires time, patience, and honesty as you get to know one another.

The second critical skill is identifying what the client is trying to accomplish. The person being coached needs to be the one to set their own agenda. When goals are not clarified at the outset of a coaching relationship, the coach may end up making assumptions and inadvertently imposing his/her own agenda. If there is to be any real ownership, the leader must be the one to say, “These are the things I want to accomplish.” A coach can agree to be part of that process or not, but the initiative must come from the person being coached.

A third essential skill in establishing is getting mutual agreement on how you’ll be working together. Those conversations must include meeting times, the number of sessions and any financial arrangements. Although in some settings coaching has no financial component, most coaches who stay in this ministry long enough will begin to charge for their services. A lot of confusion can develop if financial expectations are not clarified up front. Sometimes leaders have gotten bills and not understood why— they never expected to receive a bill for those conversations.

Many coaches also neglect to specify an ending date for the coaching. The length of a coaching relationship can vary from a few weeks to a year depending on what a person wants to accomplish, but some type of closure should be anticipated. Coaching is a relationship with a purpose— and it tends to be a healthier relationship when some type of parameters are set with regard to duration. Knowing the time is not open-ended helps people maintain a clearer focus on their goals.

As an added bonus, clarifying expectations and helping clients determine what they want to accomplish will both help to build trust as well.

How can you go about strengthening the coaching competency of establishing in your life?