Richard Maun – fish

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Successful Contracting #1 …Find the Stinky Fish

24 October 2010

Ignore what's on the sofa... It's what's down the back that really matters.

Ignore what's on the sofa... It's what's down the back that really matters.

Are you looking for a job? Or working as a coach? Or about to agree with your partner what you will be doing over Christmas? (Too in-law, or not to in-law, as Hamlet famously said)…

Clear contracting can help us in all of these diverse situations and by a ‘contract’ I’m referring to a mutual agreement. Transactional Analysis, a subject close to my heart, is often described as a ‘contracted psychotherapy’ and puts clear contracting the heart of the client-consultant relationship. It has much to say on the subject and what follows is based on the work of Berne, Hay and English.

When we’re offered a job we need to agree expectations and terms, if we’re coaching someone we shouldn’t be working if there’s no contract and if we don’t sit down and talk things through with our partner then Christmas can be a disaster.

So, I have 5 Top Tips to offer this week, which we can all use to make sure we have really robust contracts with people. Here they are:

1) Name your frustrations, concerns, likes, or dislikes. Doing this gives people permission to name theirs. We all have them, so we may as well get them on the table, where we can see them, poke them and include them in our thinking. These are the ‘fish’ in the title and we will come back to them later on.

2) Think about the issue of competency. Are you competent do the work? Is the other person competent to take part? I recently had pass an opportunity on to a colleague because a client wanted me to run a workshop that I wasn’t fully competent to do. What was the point in doing 60% of a job, when my colleague could work to 100% of the client’s needs?

3) Talk about contracting. It’s a word that needs to be in our everyday language. We use the word a good deal at home; not to be smug, but because we lead busy lives and need to agree diaries, kids pick-up times, food requirements and so on. It saves a lot of heartache and grumpiness later, so why not make it part of your lexicon?

4) The success of the contract is determined at the psychological level. This is a posh way of saying that if you agree to something that you really don’t want to do then you’ll probably either not do it, or will make such a fuss that a row breaks out and the work fails. The first top tip says ‘name your frustrations’ because of this. If you talk about what’s inside you can deal with it and I’d rather have a harder talk now and a better Christmas, than the other way round…

5) Check understanding. I think a lack of clear understanding causes more rows than anything else. For example, a chum told me that last Christmas she invited her sister over for lunch, to arrive ‘around 2 o’clock’. The sister rolled up at a whisker before 3, without bothering to telephone ahead to let them know where she was. Was she late? Should she have called? Well, all roads lead back to the contract and the need to make sure people are clear. Who do you need to check things with to make sure you’re both clear for your Christmas dinner?

Lots of people think that ‘contracting’ is all about discussing and agreeing the obvious things, such as time/date/place, but the really smart people do this and go the extra distance to talk about their fears, or worries, or limitations in order to add them into the mix.

I call these things ‘stinking fish’ because they’re like having a kipper down the back of the sofa. You know it’s there. You can smell it. You might ignore it, but the smell persists…The only thing you can do is to reach for it, pull it out and deal with it.

So, what do you have to deal with this week, in order to achieve a really good contract with someone? Who do you need to sit down with to re-visit an existing agreement? What fish lurk down the back of your psychic-sofa?

We all have fish, so smile, pluck them out and talk about them. That’s the real secret of successful contracting.

Oh Yes, That Promo Video…have you seen it yet?

Los Penguin Productions have posted the  Job Hunting Blues video on YouTube so please click through and enjoy it. It features Brian, our resident stunt man and he was great to work with, a real pro. Do you like his boots? And he was very happy to be able to read his own special, little copy of the book Job Hunting 3.0. If you know someone who is looking for work then please point them at Amazon where they can read reviews and order a copy of the big book.

This week: Would you find a friend for me please?

If you know someone who would be interested in this blog post please forward it to them, or ReTweet it, or let them know they can subscribe to regular emails via the box on the homepage. Many thanks.

Next Week

…we will consider one thing that can really smooth the process of contracting. I like doing it…

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Click cover to view details on Amazon


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