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Contracting – ‘who you are is how you contract’

Recently I was delivering a teleforum  on the subject of contracting. Not just contracting, but psychological contracting; that is to say what goes on underneath the overt contracts we make and re-make with clients, stakeholders and sponsors. The context for this teleforum was one of our supervision training programs, the one currently running in Sydney and we were thinking together about how to explore the topic of contracting with supervisees.

What was interesting is that we spent some time considering ways to understand how to be fully ourselves in the untangling of contractual conversations.  So for example,  we were mindful of the importance of our presence in these conversations, our impact on the other parties – how do we hold ourselves calmly and  speak truly in contracting?  How do we speak so that others feel free to speak openly too? We noted also,  how important is our capacity to be aware of the balance between impacting the conversation and our intention for it – Amanda Riding’s book: ‘Pause for Breath’ is a superb exploration of how we can become more skilful in dialogue.

One of the interesting things that we kept coming back to during the teleforum, was the need to be aware of where each party was coming from in a contractual conversation:  does each person speak in  ‘adult’, speak  honestly/truthfully  – or does fear or contraction or financial concern, somewhat skew contributions to the contractual conversation. And how would we know??

We had a marvellous time reflecting, untangling  and sharpening up our awareness. We were all –  myself included – reminded that every time we make a contract with someone, however formal or informal, that finding a way to be really clear, truthful and complete  is essential.  We noted too the need to make sure that there is space for ongoing contracting –  the pieces of paper that we sign that look like full-proof contracts can hide so much and constantly need upgrading.

Allow yourself to reflect on recent contractual conversations which you have had and take note of how you have been in those conversations. How true and strong and clear have you been?  What has silenced you?  What did you not ask?  How did you feel when the conversation ended?

Take note of how others have been too and where you/they may have made assumptions and expectations that have not yet surfaced and may trouble you all later.  Much of my work as coach supervisor tracks back to the contract.  As supervisors and coaches, we need to be super vigilant in our contracting!

Edna Murdoch  2013

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