Finishing Well

As Kirsten is still on holiday, here’s another post from me, Roy Marriott. (In case you missed last week’s intro, I’m a SolutionsAcademy trainer and mentor coach, an MCC with the ICF, and I’ve been using Solution Focus since 1992. I also have a background in software – Agile Coaching is a particular interest of mine.)

This week I’m writing about finishing coaching sessions well.

Let’s start with a simple overview, and then apply it to various situations – hopefully one of which will match yours!

When it comes to bringing a coaching session to a close, I think about three main things:

  1. Drawing Together: help your client to draw together their thoughts, learnings, insights, awareness etc etc from the session.
  2. Thinking Ahead: invite your client to consider what happens after this coaching session, to make best use of what’s emerged for them.
  3. Partnering to close: collaborate with your client to reach a conclusion that works well for you both.

Now, let’s see how these apply to a number of different situations. Feel free to jump to the one that interests you the most, and skip the rest! And please bear in mind these are just starting points, and they’re in my style – please improve them and make them your own!

A leader coaching someone in your team

Suppose you’re a leader and someone in your team has come to you with a problem. You’ve spent 10 minutes with them, asking them coaching questions that have led them to think of a good way forward.

In this case you obviously want to keep it short and sweet, so you might simply ask, 

  • “so if you’re happy with that as a way forward, what will you do now?”

Or if you think they might need a bit more clarity on how to get started, you might ask a couple of questions like:

  1. (Drawing Together) OK, so what do you think the best way forward would be then?
  2. (Thinking Ahead): What’s going to be your first small step?
  3. (Partnering to close): Is that enough for you to get going?

An Agile Coach coaching two teams out of conflict

Suppose you’re an Agile coach, and you’ve been working with two teams in conflict. You asked them what they want instead of conflict, and they said “better collaboration.” They’ve come up with a list of specific ways they’re ready, willing and able to collaborate better.

What does a good finish look like now? There are a million ways to do this, of course, but here’s one:

  1. (Drawing Together) Please spend 2 minutes looking through the at the list of possible actions we’ve come up with. Have a think about which you’d like to do yourself. 
  2. (Thinking Ahead): Shall we all choose one specific action to commit to?
    (if yes) OK, so let’s take a minute to choose one…
    (after the minute) OK, so have we all got an action that we’re ready, willing and able to take, in order to improve our collaboration across the teams?
    (if so) OK, so let’s go round and each say what we’ll do.
  3. (Partnering to close): OK, so we’ve all got our ways forward. Anything else before we close?

A One-to-One Coaching Session at ACC level

So now let’s imagine you’re coaching someone 1-1, and you’re coming to the end of a session. What does a good finish look like?

At ACC level, the ICF are looking for “translating awareness into action”, “specific action plans” and a little partnering to close the session.

So the finish might be as simple as:

  1. (Drawing Together): What’s emerged for you in this session?
  2. (Thinking Ahead): How might you put that into practice?
    What specific steps will you take?
  3. (Partnering to close): Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we close?

A One-to-One Coaching Session at PCC level

At PCC level you’d got quite a menu to choose from – there are 9 markers within the “Facilitates Client Growth” competency! The good news is that it is a menu – you only need to address half of them for the session to be at PCC level. 

Here are some classic questions you might like to have on your personal menu for finishing a coaching session:

  1. (Drawing Together): 
    At the start of the session you mentioned you wanted <coaching agreement>. What’s emerged for you in relation to that?
    What have you learnt about yourself?
    What have you learnt about this topic?
    I’m impressed by….. (or some other celebratory message from the coach)
  2. (Thinking Ahead): 
    How do you think you might use this over the coming days and weeks?
    Would you like to think about planning particular actions to take, or perhaps ways to continue the reflection and exploration?
    Shall we think about what might get in the way of your progress, and how to overcome it?
    What support or accountability do you think might help?
  3. (Partnering to close): 
    What else would you like to talk about to bring this coaching session to an end?
    Would now be a good time to finish?

A One-to-One Coaching Session at MCC level

At MCC level, the emphasis shifts to making the conversation as natural and “fully connected” as possible. There’s more partnering – the whole session is co-created with the client. There’s an emphasis on allowing the client plenty of opportunity to reflect on progress, learnings and insights during the session, not just at the end. 

So Partnering to close moves right into the foreground – finishing well means partnering with the client to find out what a good finish would be in this case! 

You – and your client – might like to consider possibilities from the “menu” we talked about at PCC level above, and include whatever fits best. Some Drawing Together might well be helpful, and you certainly need to make sure there’s been ample opportunity for Thinking Ahead.

One final tip

Here’s a final tip: leave plenty of time to finish! For example, in a 55 minute coaching session, I’d allow 10 minutes for the finishing (or 15 with a particularly talkative client!)

Now it’s over to you! I hope you find this way of thinking helpful – so you and your clients can enjoy coaching sessions that finish really well.

And if you’re left with questions – about this or any other aspect of coaching, why not join us for a free meetup and exchange session?