REINVENT YOUR FUTURE

Ending coaching relationships

Your relationship with clients usually extends beyond the formal coaching relationship. How you mark the ending of your role as a coach is important. Coaching relationships end for a variety of reasons. In most cases, the client achieved their desired outcomes through the coaching relationship and the ending of the coaching relationship becomes a celebration of “mission accomplished.” Some relationships end due to budgeted funds expiring.  In these cases, coaches often explore ways that clients may continue to move forward as they "go it alone." There are also times when, after mutual discernment with the client, that the client wasn't ready to receive coaching or has needs that would be better served by working with a counselor, consultant, mentor or another type of support beyond coaching.  There are also settings when the coach and client recognize that they aren’t a good fit for one another.

Whatever the reason, the goal for ending a coaching relationship is to end on a positive, hopeful note.  Listed below are a few strategies for ending coaching relationships with clients.

1 | Reflect on the progress clients made during the coaching process. 
Reflections may include listing changes that occurred to a client’s:
  • Assumptions and self-imposed limitations.
  • Attitudes and managing one's mindset.
  • Approaches and new awarenesses that surfaced during coaching.
  • Actions and the development of new habits and routines.
If coaching is about sparking transformation in people’s lives, then it's important to list and celebrate what has changed. Help your clients look back to when they began the coaching process and how they've moved toward their preferred future.

2 | Tell them they’re ready to go it alone.
Many clients are ready to continue address their desired outcomes without any further coaching assistance. Invite the clients to name their strengths and the resources they have available to them for moving forward. With the client's permission, you may suggest some resources to support their next steps.

3 | Describe, in concrete ways, how the coaching relationship will change.
Describe what an appropriate relationship would look like outside of a formal coaching relationship. State what you will or won't do when the coaching relationship ends. Establish norms and boundaries that serve BOTH you and the client well.

4 | Plan to reconnect at a future time.
Ending coaching relationships doesn’t mean that you never wish to see your clients again. Times for reconnecting are often fun and productive for both parties. Coaches learn how clients have continued to grow, learn, and make progress as a result of the coaching you've provided and the coach and client may also discover opportunities to reengage in a new coaching relationship.

5 | Offer a parting gift reflect their progress, passions, perspectives, or next step.
I offered parting gifts more frequently when "in person" or onsite coaching was the primary connection point. Now, most coaching is done by phone or Zoom. On occasion, I still offer gifts that may include items such as:
  • Books that will help them on their journey.
  • A journal or writing pen (if I knew that journaling was one of the ways they processed their life and learnings).
  • A short-term subscription to a book club or ministry resource.
  • A complimentary session with a mentor, counselor, or consultant.
  • A token gift (usually less than $10) that reflects a gift, passion, or unique perspective I see in them.

6 | Recommend someone else to serve as their coach.
When I sense that I'm the wrong person to support a client's next steps, I often suggest another coach who may be a better fit for them. I often ask the coach whom I'm suggesting to provide a 30 minute complimentary coaching session to see if they'd be good "dance partners" for each other.

Like a good book, coaching relationships need to start and end strong. Have a strategy for doing both well and processes in place for doing this in a consistent manner.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
  • What do you want your clients to THINK, FEEL, and DO and the end of the coaching relationship?
  • What are you doing now to start and end well? What will you KEEP doing?
  • What will you START or STOP doing to improve how how begin and end coaching relationships?
  • What's the ONE THING you can do now to improve the way you end well with your clients?

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18 Comments


Brian Hooper - April 19th, 2022 at 1:46pm

At the end of any coaching relationship, I hope the client would be able to recognize and name the transformation/growth that took place over the coaching relationship. Perhaps a concluding coaching session could include some dialogue concerning changes. One way to help a coaching relationship to end well would be consistent follow up, perhaps asking along the way: "What is working well and not working well? Are there things that we are missing? How can I further support you in this coaching relationship?"

Tom Smith - April 19th, 2022 at 1:56pm

Brian, I like the idea of devoting some time during the last session for reflection/celebration. I wonder if during the second to the last session the coach could suggest the client reflect on progress and bring a couple notable changes with them to the last session or to ponder the questions you suggest prior to meeting for the last session.

Dan Solomon - April 19th, 2022 at 3:58pm

Tom, that is a great suggestion to invite the client to do some reflection and assessment prior to the last coaching session. Would likely make for a much more powerful conversation (for both client and coach).

Mary Eide - April 19th, 2022 at 2:34pm

Brian, I like your idea of having a practice of checking in with the client to BOTH help them acknowledge what has changed (for the good), as well as do spot checks to ensure the coaching relationship is working for them...and give both client and coach an opportunity to suggest fine tuning that could take place.

Mary Eide - April 19th, 2022 at 2:31pm

There is so much value in doing what Jim suggests in the blog to end the coaching relationship on a good note: having the client state their wins, ways they’ve grown, what they’ve made happen, or in some cases…what they were able to stop happening. I want them to FEEL GOOD about the journey we’ve shared together, and CONFIDENT about what they can achieve on their own. I would like them to put into practice what they have learned over the course of our time together, which would include having accountability partners who can help them stay the course.



I can’t honestly say HOW I’ve started or ended coaching relationships yet…but I’ll keep in mind the ideas Jim present with regards to asking them to give voice to how they have been changed by the experience, and give lots of affirmations about how they ARE ready to continue moving forward without a coach…while occasionally sending out notes/emails to check on their status.



With regards to the more difficult situations Jim wrote about, this is all together a different situation. I’ve been on the client side when I had to stop using coaching services because funds had dried up. Because I knew her as a dear friends and knew her journey, I felt bad about having to stop working with her. I also wasn’t sure I could make it without her.



I’m NOT looking forward to the awkward moment when a client and I come to the awareness that we aren’t a good fit. Even worse yet…what if only ONE of us feel that way??

Nathan Luitjens - April 19th, 2022 at 6:47pm

I like what you have to say about confidence. So much of what a coach gives to the client is the space to see a way forward and the tools to take steps into their preferred future. As long as we have been able to give the client that and can help them to recognize the progress they have made I think that will go a long way to giving them the confidence they need to keep moving. I also think some form of staying connected can be helpful to them, reminding them that they have made significant moves in the past can hopefully continue to help them as they move forward.

Jason D. Bland - April 26th, 2022 at 8:28am

Mary,

I think your focus on positively closing out coaching relationships will pay big dividends in the long rung, because it validates the coaching concept of truly caring for the person and valuing them and their time they shared with us. To simply close out the relationship without any "fanfare" would be missing an opportunity to further strengthen the coaching bond and appreciation in them we should exhibit.

Sherry Villanueva - April 19th, 2022 at 3:26pm

I have found that setting up the ending of a therapy relationship with my clients was as important as setting the beginning. I have felt that specifically naming the learnings and victories they accomplished through our work together gave them the added belief and courage in themselves to move forward from our work together. Sometimes I like to think of it like packing a suitcase before they head off for a world trip. After going down memory lane, I ask the client to name those things that they have discovered as absolutes that they know they will need and use for years to come. We celebrate the work well done by the client. I often send them with added resources/books they may use to support their continued growth. If the client asks to update me on their journey, I welcome the connection.

Ladd Sonnenberg - April 19th, 2022 at 3:33pm

As a few others have shared, I love the idea for an ending session to be a celebration session no matter what has brought the end to fruition. I like talking about how they have seen themselves grow or what they’ve learned about themselves regardless of reaching the end goal that they may have or not. I also like the idea to do a follow up down the road. Allowing the client to know that they can always reach out and check in but at the same time as it’s been stated in Jim’s article to set healthy boundaries of what future relationships would or would not look like. I think these are all healthy things to keep in mind moving forward.

Ladd Sonnenberg - April 19th, 2022 at 3:34pm

I appreciate how you connect it to your own experience as a therapist. I agree that the way you and this is as important as the way you begin. Leaving on a positive note no matter the situation is always important. As one of my mentors always says be careful about which bridges you burn, because you might want to cross over them down the road.

Dan Solomon - April 19th, 2022 at 4:11pm

I agree with consensus of those who have already commented that it is key celebrate the transformation and growth experienced by the client in the coaching relationship. An honest assessment in this final session will be helpful for the client and the coach as they move forward. Client's can be encouraged that they are better equipped to engage in "self-coaching" as a result of their work and growth in the coaching relationship. As I'm in the very early stages of my coaching I don't have experience in ending coaching relationships. However, it appears that the starting and ending are both key to effective coaching relationships. Therefore, at this point, it is important that I intentionally and thoughtfully consider how I might best shape the start and close of my coaching relationships. Additionally, It is important to commit to continuing to assess these important transitions as I gain more coaching experience.

Tom - April 20th, 2022 at 12:51pm

I appreciate your comment about continuing to assess how one handles these important transitions, Dan. Calls to mind the need for ritual-an honest sharing-highs and lows-of the shared experience and a blessing of sorts for the parting of ways. Lots to ponder.

Nathan Luitjens - April 19th, 2022 at 6:40pm

The thing that really sticks out to me in this post is the idea of inviting the client to look back and see the progress they have made over the coaching relationship. I think far too often we fail to take stock of where we were and where we have ended up. Sometimes it may seem like we haven't made the progress we wanted to make, but sometimes I think people grow in other areas that allow them to see the world differently and this has changed even what their goals will be moving forward. I think once people see where they have come from, it can also give them the courage to continue the journey alone since now they can see the progress they have made and know that they can do it.

Tom - April 20th, 2022 at 9:51am

I appreciate all the comments and great insights everyone is sharing. It reminds me of the importance of that initial contract whether its pro-bono coaching or not. I always that of that contract mainly for the client's benefit but I see know how important it is for the coach in creating healthy boundaries that create an environment for enabling the best possible outcomes. Helpful for me to remember that's the goal, after all. Its not about making new friends or building a referral base. Its about helping the client reach their preferred future. I'm thankful we'll have time to discuss this more today.

Brian Hooper - April 20th, 2022 at 11:28am

Thanks for this reminder, Tom. For me It goes back to the original coaching definition "partnering with clients..." I look forward to learning more about some aspects of a coaching contract, and am curious how rates are set.

Paul - April 20th, 2022 at 12:51pm

Prior to going into chaplaincy, I did a pretty bad job on ending well. It was during this time that I wanted to end my time at hospice well. I talked to a couple of the other chaplains about how to do this and I produced a good bye video that I think helped end the process for me as well as the department.



I hadn't even thought about this type of goodbye in a coaching relationship. It makes sense that there are a lot of different reasons that the relationship would end. I think it important to end the relationship well though. I loved all the suggestions for little gifts, which is the way that I think I will say goodbye.

Jason D. Bland - April 26th, 2022 at 8:26am

As I consider my time with a recent client that concluded their initial 4 sessions, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was missing out on opportunities to further leverage this relationship. With that in mind, after reading this blog, I wanted to develop some key steps.



1. Contact them via email with a few brief questions such as:

- What worked well for you?

- Are there things I should try in future coaching sessions?

- What did I do that was unproductive?

2. Ask if they feel they’ve met their goals, and grown with purpose and intent.

- If yes, then congratulate the progress…

- If no, then ask if they would like to establish a new coaching agreement…

3. If they found value in our time together, ask if they would like to refer anyone to me.

4. Conclude by summarizing the growth and development I’ve seen… and celebrate their wins.



Remind them that I’m always open to establishing a new agreement, and that I’m always available if they would like to celebrate a new victory with me.

I’m still formulating my exact style & verbiage, but I think this is a good starting point for closing out relationships and maintaining a very positive and professional relationship as we close out the contract.

Amelia - May 3rd, 2022 at 3:01pm

Ending well is just as important and beginning well. Part of ending is normalizing it. Sometimes there can be shame or a sense of feeling bad to end both as the coach AND the client. I think it would be helpful to name ways to end and what to expect when the relationship comes to end in the overarching coaching agreement.



I am getting better at ending relationships in a healthy and life giving way. My modus operando is to simply let the relationship fade away. The "slow fade" does not honor the client and is in conflict with my core belief that everyone matters: their story, their progress, their life. So, NO SLOW FADE!



From the article I really appreciate the idea of a "parting gift". How affirming to someone! It speaks to the adage that "people won't remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel". The following suggestions from the blog can play a big part in the continuation of the client's development and how they speak of you and your business to others.



'' Offer a parting gift reflect their progress, passions, perspectives, or next step.

I offered parting gifts more frequently when "in person" or onsite coaching was the primary connection point. Now, most coaching is done by phone or Zoom. On occasion, I still offer gifts that may include items such as:

Books that will help them on their journey.

A journal or writing pen (if I knew that journaling was one of the ways they processed their life and learnings).

A short-term subscription to a book club or ministry resource.

A complimentary session with a mentor, counselor, or consultant.

A token gift (usually less than $10) that reflects a gift, passion, or unique perspective I see in them.

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