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How in-house coaches can effectively establish a 1:1 coaching relationship and contract

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April 25, 2024
CEO, Founder & Executive Coach
Discover the benefits and stages of in-house coaching, from selecting coaches to establishing clear contracts and conducting effective coaching sessions. Learn how to maximise the potential of coaching and the importance of evaluation for ongoing improvement.

In-house coaching is where a coach-trained colleague coaches another colleague within the organisation. This 1:1 coaching is done by in-house coaches, usually managers or HR/OD professionals who coach their own staff and/or whose coaching skills are shared across the organisation via a ‘pool’ of in-house coaching talent, organised by the HR/OD department.

Many organisations are developing this approach to organisational coaching as it is very cost-effective compared with hiring external coaches, it develops talent and relationships across the organisation and enhances a culture of performance and empowerment. The Institute of Coaching found that 80% of coachees reported increased self-confidence, and more than 70% benefited from improved work performance, better relationships, and more effective communication skills. Numerous studies have shown that one-on-one sessions after standard training programmes greatly enhance both learning and application of new skills and improve self-confidence and self-efficacy.

With this level of added value available through one-on-one business coaching, it’s vital to maximise the potential of the coaching process. Effective in-house coaches are not only proficient at 1:1 coaching - they also know how to establish the coaching relationship and contract with the coachee and other relevant stakeholders, such as the coachee’ s line manager. Effective coaching always depends on the level of relationship between coach and coachee, the kind of contract they agree and how clear the guidelines are for how they work together. It is important to view each coaching assignment with professionalism and to follow clear contracting procedures to maximise the benefits of coaching.

As a rule, formal one-on-one business coaching assignments are characterised by four key stages. Organisations that have successfully introduced coaching have very clear internal guidelines as to how these stages should be followed.

The four stages are:

  • Preparing which includes shortlisting of potential coaches, a chemistry meeting between shortlisted coaches and the coachee and establishing the level of coachee readiness for coaching
  • Contracting which includes agreeing clear goals, measurable outcomes/timeframes for the coaching and establishing clear boundaries in discussion with other key stakeholders such as the coachee’ s line manager
  • Coaching sessions for the agreed period, with a formal review about half-way through to check progress and adjust goals/expectations if necessary
  • Evaluation of the coaching assignment to check results against expected outcomes, what could be improved and how learning from the process can be applied elsewhere


The coachee and line manager should already agree that one-on-one training and /or 1:1 coaching is the right learning intervention for the individual at that time. Together they should have some idea of what outcomes might be expected from the coaching and the timeframe. The coachee should then be free to make their own choice of a shortlist of coaches drawn from an in-house pool of trained coaches. It is usual for the HR/OD department to facilitate this process. Usually up to three potential coaches might be interviewed by the coachee. These meeting are called chemistry meetings, and the purpose is to establish whether both agree that they can work together successfully in a coaching relationship. Expectations should be discussed about the coaching process and duration, the ground rules such as confidentiality and boundaries and whether the coachee has agreed goals with the line manager, at least in principle. Some content guidelines include:

  • Establishing rapport and appreciating each other’s background,
  • Understanding why the coachee needs coaching now and key outcomes expected
  • Who are the sponsors, other than the line manager and who owns the contract
  • What are the agreed lines of communication
  • Is the line manager/key stakeholder supportive of the coaching and do they have different or additional outcome expectations

It is critical to the success of any coaching assignment that both coach and coachee respect and trust each other and can feel free to have open and honest conversations within the scope of the agreed coaching contract. The coachee must feel confident that the coach will strictly adhere to ethical and confidential guidelines. The coach should emphasise that coaching conversations can be tough, challenging and may confront the coachee with difficult truths about their own behaviour or style. If both coach and coachee feel that they can establish and maintain this level of relationship and challenge, then there will be a strong basis for contracting the coaching assignment from there.


It is best practice, and usually mandatory as part of an organisational coaching process, to have a three-way contracting meeting between coach, coachee and their line manager. This is to make sure that all parties are aligned on what the coaching is for, what success will look like, the duration, and what are the ground-rules and boundaries. This creates clarity about expected outcomes and gives the line manager opportunity to support the process by agreeing time required for coaching in work hours, and to offer their own supplementary coaching support if useful. It should be clear from this meeting what are the coachee’ s Public Goals – the expected, measurable performance outcomes from the coaching which all parties agree to, and which the sponsor/HR/Personnel department will hold on record.

It is also vital to be clear on the confidentiality boundaries - the line manager and any other third party or sponsor such as HR/Personnel must respect this. The content of conversations between coach and coachee are private except in the very exceptional circumstances of illegality or harm. The expectation is that the coachee will share the relevant parts of the coaching conversations - goals, development, learnings - with their line manager and/or the HR/Personnel department

Logistics, timing and duration should also be agreed, and a summary of this contract is then circulated to all involved to ensure clarity and alignment from the outset. A template for this may be available for HR/Personnel department.


Coaching now continues with one-on-one sessions usually lasting between 1 and 1.5 hours each and usually 3-4 weeks apart, occasionally longer. Meetings are preferably face-to-face but may be conducted by phone or teleconference if necessary. A typical coaching assignment is 6-8 sessions in duration, though this can vary. After session 3 or 4, a mid-programme review should be agreed between coach, coachee and line manager to review the 1:1 coaching process. This is an opportunity for the coachee to share their learning, acknowledge their achievements so far, and to look ahead to the remaining coaching sessions. A variation in the original goals or duration of the contract may be agreed at this point - this is called re-contracting.


This stage is often overlooked or done superficially, which is a mistake. Evaluation of one-on-one business coaching is critical to learning from the 1:1 coaching process. Once the pre-agreed number of coaching sessions is completed, there should be a final three-way meeting between coach, coachee and line manager to discuss what the coaching has achieved and next steps for the coachee to take to embed their learning and performance improvement into their daily work. This is also an opportunity for the coach to receive feedback from both the coachee and their line manager. Re-contracting for further sessions can potentially be agreed at this point if appropriate. HR/Personnel department should also be notified so they can close off the administration of the contract or open a new file for further coaching. There is likely to be a Coaching Feedback Form/Survey to be completed for HR/Personnel department to evaluate coaching effectiveness in the organisation over time.