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Once the coach gets the hang of it, I find when supervising coaches that they do their contracting reasonably well. They develop their own style and approach. What I do experience though is that new coaches often don’t contract or have conversations with the line manager of their clients. This ‘3 way contracting’ provides a critical opportunity for the coach and client.

Scene setting

Coaching about enabling the client to learn develop. This happens through the coaching conversation, the actions carried out by the client and the learning enabled by others around the coaching relationship.

Whilst developing coaches might be a little averse to engaging with the line manager, by not doing so they a missing out on key part of the their clients learning network.

Having 3 way contracting conversations also develop the coach’s wider communication and relationship skills.

Value added by 3 way contracting

There is significant value in having 3 way contracting conversations, for all parties:


  • Absolute clarity on Line Manager’s (LM) view of situation
  • Opportunity to understand support available from LM
  • Explore opportunities available to apply learning
  • Opportunity to seek examples of performance delivered and sought
  • Opportunity to have an open discussion in a safe learning environment

Line Manager

  • Understand the coaching process and logistics
  • Clarity on the role they play in the coaching
  • Agreed approach to seeking feedback
  • Can cite evidence of the change they are looking for
  • Clarity on the support they will offer between sessions
  • Identify the important stakeholders for the client
  • Identify for themselves any of their own development needs to support client


  • Discussion on how parties will work together between sessions
  • Gain agreement on the measures / goal to be used
  • Clarity on what the LM needs from the coach
  • Discuss how confidentiality will work
  • Discuss the importance of feedback to the client
  • How will the LM enable the development of the client?

Practicalities of 3 way contracting

By having this approach to contracting it can reduce the risk of issues, lack of clarity and purpose to be avoided later on in the coaching. It also engages the line manager in the learning process, which is critical. The line manager is the greatest enable of learning in the workplace, but also the greatest blocker too. The coach needs to have them on side, supporting the client and the process.

The line manager does not have to be present for the duration of the contracting, but they should be there initially to enable agreement on key facets of the coaching process. Potentially allocating the first or last 20 minutes to the 3 way discussion.

This approach will also build trust within the coach and line manager relationship.It also reduces the likelihood of awkward moments if the line manager seeks feedback from the coach and the coach declines because of client confidentiality. For the coach it also builds professional credibility in engaging with the line manager / sponsor.

Reasons to 3 way contract, rather than not to

In my experience coaches and clients can be hesitant about involving the line manager. I encourage coaches to explore and understand the reasons for this for themselves and their clients.

What are the hesitancies? Where are they coming from? What value can the client see in having the conversation? Risks of not having the conversation? How might the conversation benefit the client and line manager?

A courtesy conversation at the very least

If a 3 way coaching conversation is not feasible then at the very least the line manager needs to be informed that coaching is being undertaken. This can be by the client or the coach. The former is best placed to enable this conversation to happen.

This might follow after an initial meeting or the contracting meeting has occurred.

If the client is adamant that they do not want their line manager involved, the coach should explore this, the reasons for it. The should also make them aware of the pitfalls and risks associated with this. At the end of the day it is the client’s choice. Though it does put the coach in a potentially awkward situation moving forward.

If the coach is not happy with this, they do not have to undertake the coaching assignment.

Where I have not been able to engage with the line manager we have been able to have both telephone calls to understand their view of the situation, and also emails where I have been made privy to information pertaining to the client. The client was made aware and in agreement to this happening.

Contracting is at the heart of the the coaching relationship and conversations. This includes contracting with key stakeholders of the client, most notably their line manager. New coaches can establish good practice and skill sets by engaging the line manager in the contracting meeting. There is value to be had by this.

If you are interested in becoming a coach then contact Abintus and let’s get you on the track to achieving that!