Coaching Relationship: How to bade farewell to your coaching clients in an uplifting manner

Every time a coaching relationship ends I have a hard time to let the client go. When you learn to be a coach you also learn methods for your psychological hygiene. What you don’t really learn in my view is how to let go and accept that the client will take the next steps without you.

Every coach has to let go...
Every coach has to let go…
We do not yet know enough about the real impact of the coach on the coaching relationship and the success of our clients. It would be arrogant to assume that I am having a big influence on my client’s development. My clients are highly intelligent professionals. They are thrown into circumstances where a little bit of guidance makes their efforts worthwhile. Whether they succeed at finding a job they love or at improving their satisfaction during a merger is entirely up to them.
When I say that I have a hard time to let my clients go, it is not because I feel they still need me. It’s more because I still need them. Every client brings in a special energy and challenge. Once we are performing as a team I really start to like my clients and I sometimes even want to be their friend. I know that as a professional I need to keep a certain distance and it is better not to expand the relationship for too long but having an ongoing relationship with a client is comforting. It’s a regular income too.
If you also have a hard time letting go here are five rituals for ending a coaching relationship you can work into your practice.

Ritual 1: Limit the number of sessions to a logical number such as nine.

In my experience, every transition takes around nine sessions if you follow short-term coaching approaches and believe in only selling as much as needed. It is obviously different if your sessions contain advisory elements or are built around advising clients or providing a regular service to them. I am talking about classical executive coaching according to the definitions by the International Coach Federation.

Ritual 2: Call the final session “final session”

As you know in coaching we construct and while we construct in the world of the client, we also drive the cycle of the coaching and cycles between the sessions. We should formalize beginning and end. Many of my clients even bring a small present to the last session. I never expect it and I am always a bit embarrassed but it is a great way to bade farewell.

Ritual 3: Run a debriefing in the final session.

In the final session, I always like to look back at the target achievement and at the whole process. What did the client go through, where were the major changes in the process and how do they feel about themselves now.

Ritual 4: Agree how you will keep in touch.

As a coach, public speaker, lecturer, author and business owner you are probably as busy as me. So you understand that it will be hard to “keep in touch” with all of your clients. What I ask my clients is whether they would like to stay on the mailing list for weekly updates and I tell them to let me know if they want to have lunch or a coffee. I also offer that they can send me weekly progress reports. I am proud to say that some of my clients contact me a year later to tell me that an exciting breakthrough occurred or that they remembered something I told them or that they just understood something better that I had tried to explain to them earlier. I always love those emails and cherish them.

Ritual 5: Wish the client well

After we finish the conversation about keeping in touch I tell my client why I like them and wish them well. That is the most emotional moment of the journey. Don’t forget to take notes in between when there was a moment that moved you in a special way. Then the coaching relationship is over. I tell my clients that I keep their documentation for five years in case they ever return. After five years I delete their documentation.


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