Managing Client Focus, Session Time, and Relationship Completion

In this article, we take a closer look at competency: Establishes and Maintains Agreements.

These next markers of competency focus on the management of the coaching session and closing of the coaching relationship. The concepts in this article are supported by competency markers:

  – Partners with the client to manage the time and focus of the session 

– Continues coaching in the direction of the client’s desired outcome unless the client indicates otherwise.

– Partners with the client to end the coaching relationship in a way that honors the experience 

Every coaching conversation begins with the client’s agenda and focus. The client holds the content and the coach holds the process. Together they partner to make progress towards the client’s goals. The goal of coaching is to create client awareness. It is more important that the client learn and make progress toward the goals outlined in the beginning of the conversation than it is to get to the end, ring the bell and say, “We did it!”

Coaches have to let go of getting to the finish line and focus on the journey to the finish line. In the process, the coach must manage the art of the conversation in a way that both promotes progress, holds the focus of the session, and manages time so that the arc can be complete before the end of the timebox.

It’s important that the conversation wind down and come to a natural feeling end rather than an abrupt, “time’s up!” ending. It is also important to respect the client by ending at or before the scheduled time. I find that, in general, the first 25-30% of the coaching conversation is focused on the coaching agreement. The final 25-30% of the conversation is focused on actions, accountability and reflection on progress and learning.

The rest is the body of the coaching conversation. It is the coach’s responsibility to manage the timebox and the focus of the session. If the coach follows the client’s lead, the conversation will focus on the client’s agenda and move in the direction of the outcomes the client desires. The client is resourceful and knows what they need to discuss to get where they want to be. So, ask the client where to go. Listen to the client and respond to their answers with questions that keep the conversation moving forward. If you hear that the client seems to be going in a new direction, check in to see if the conversation is still focused on what the client needs to get to the outcomes they desire. The client will confirm if the conversation has gotten off track or if it needs to continue forward in the current direction. Remember, the client knows what they need better than the coach does. Always follow the client rather than having the client follow you.

Similar to how a coaching engagement should start with structure, the closing of the

relationship should also be structured. The coach has a responsibility to close the engagement in a way that honors the experience of coaching. In my coaching engagements we generally review the original goals of the client and determine how much progress has been made on each of the goals. Then, we discuss how the client will continue to make progress towards each of them.

Sometimes we develop a plan of attack the client can continue to follow after their engagement with me. Other times, the client decides that they still want to do some work on the goals in partnership with me, their coach. Additionally, we talk about the experience of coaching, how the client is different than when they started, and what the client has learned in the process. I generally ask the client if they are willing to provide feedback about their experience and if they would like to provide a client testimonial. Some clients provide a letter of reference I can use with future clients, some provide an online testimonial that gets displayed on my website, some provide an anonymous testimonial which preserves the confidentiality of our relationship, and others do not wish to provide feedback. What’s most important is that the coach learns and incorporates feedback into their coaching practice so future clients can benefit. I also generally ask the client if it is okay for me to send an email in a few months to check in with them. I like to check in with my clients a few months after the engagement is over for two reasons. First, we are in a relationship and I’m truly interested in their success. Secondly, sometimes after a few months, the client decides they would like to engage in coaching again for their next set of goals.

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