By Lucia Baldelli
Ending a coaching conversation is not easy for different reasons. Coaches might want to do more and more to make sure the conversation is successful. Clients might want to stay longer to talk more. Yet at some point our time is over. ‘How do you end a coaching session?’ is a question that I am often asked. In this article I will explore how to end a coaching conversation in a way that is useful for both the coach and client.
The Art of Closing Your Coaching Session
ICF describes the art of closing the session in one of the ICF Core Competencies, ‘Facilitates Client Growth’: the coach “partners with the client to transform learning and insight into action and promotes client autonomy in the coaching process.” We simply help them create the conditions for forward movement – motivation, drive to action, clarity on next steps, and potential obstacles. We also consolidate and celebrate the learning that happened during the session.
Now, think of a time when you had a nice flight but the landing was rough, maybe the pilot attempted to land a few times. What memories do you hold of that experience? Probably not really nice, even if the flight was mostly enjoyable.
Ending a coaching session well is like landing a plane smoothly when we arrive at our destination. It means we both feel complete and satisfied. The work is done. Ending well is important because it is when we facilitate the client’s reflection on the insights that have emerged during the session and we move to action. After that, they feel comfortable to continue on their own. Once they have more clarity about what is next, there will be more work for them to do before we meet again.
What could cause bumpy endings?
Following a script over being responsive could be one of the possible scenarios! Many coaches have a ‘closing sequence’, a series of questions they want to ask as they close the session. Some of them come from what we learned in our coach training or from some book we read.
We might also rush our endings if we do not manage time well. This might look like: starting the session with a huge topic without narrowing down the focus at the start or opening a new topic when it is time to wrap up. If either of these happens they will leave feeling incomplete.
Curious to get more coaching tips and insights?
Tips to End a Coaching Session
Even though we value responsiveness over following a script, there might be a few things to not forget to end a coaching session successfully. Particularly if you are recording for your coaching certification, the following best practices might help. Let’s look at them one by one!
Start Ending Early
I am actually tempted to say “begin with the end in mind”, as suggested by Stephen R. Covey in his book The 7 habits of highly effective people! If we start with a clear session goal and a topic that is manageable in the time we have, it is easy to be focused on achieving the session goal and complete the work before the time is over. More about this in our article on Establishing the Coaching Agreement. Checking in after an insight is a great way to agree if we are ready to fasten our seatbelts and prepare to land. Read more about it in our article on Checking-in In Coaching.
Summarise the Key Insights From The Session
Client’s insights from the session are the “value” they get out of our time together. I like to give my clients time to sit with what is emerging, process the new information until they are ready to put it into words and move to action. The coach “partners with the client to summarise learning and insight within or between sessions”, ICF says to emphasise that we will not see a lot of the progress they will make and yet it is so important to celebrate it and acknowledge the client’s work inside and outside of the room.
Ask the Client What They Learned About Themselves During the Conversation
The person that will leave the room is not the same that entered it! They shift, sometimes incredibly, during the coaching process and this is just an amazing thing to witness. It is the best gift of a coaching session. Inviting them to reflect on how they have changed is important for their self awareness, motivation and drive to action.
Ask the Client How They Will Apply their Learnings
New awareness or insight have to inform an action plan that we partner to co-create. Without action, we are just talking. Therefore I always ask what will change in who they are or what they do based on what has emerged during the session.
Ask the Client What Progress Will Look Like
What does successful progress look like before we meet again? Reflecting on this will inform their next steps, resources they need to succeed, people that can support them, things that could go wrong and potential obstacles. A strong plan will give them confidence and keep them motivated.
Help Them Create the Space to Finish What is Unfinished
Some clients open new topics when the time is nearly over or we get to the end and they still feel there is something unresolved. We trust they are competent and whole and will be able to move things forward after the session. I simply ask “where will you find the space to think about that?”
Stretch the Client Goal Further
If the session goal is achieved successfully and the client feels complete, we can still try to stretch them even further. For example, if they wanted to have a successful strategy to handle a specific situation and they say they have it, I might ask “what would make your strategy even more successful?” I find it a great way to push their thinking beyond what we have already achieved.
Wrap-up: Final Coaching Session Questions Examples
Still looking for some questions that could help you land well? Here are some you can try.
- Where are you discovering right now?
- What has just changed in you?
- What insights do you have about your challenge?
- How can you use them to move forward?
- With this new awareness, what could be your plan?
- What is one little step you can start with?
- What resources do you need to succeed?
- Who can help you?
- What obstacles could get in the way?
- How will you keep yourself motivated?
- How could you make your plan even more successful?
For your reflective practice, it is a great learning opportunity to watch your own recordings of coaching and notice:
- Do you begin with an end in mind?
- How do you decide to start landing?
- What do you intentionally do to end well?
- What should be different based on what you have learned from this article?
- Updated ICF Core Competencies
- How to effectively close a coaching session, by Jeanine Bailey
- How to end a coaching session, by Val Hastings
- The 7 habits of highly effective people, by Stephen R. Covey
- Building trust in a coaching relationship, by Karen Bruns
- Evoking awareness in coaching by Chester Jackson
- Silence in coaching: a powerful tool, by Lucia Baldelli
- Check In in coaching, by Lucia Baldelli
- Curiosity in coaching, by Karen Bruns
- What does partnership mean in coaching, by Lucia Baldelli
- Coaching mindset: definition and how to embody it, by Chester Jackson and Raquel Silva
- The Arc of a Coaching Conversation: Fundamental Steps for a Successful Session, by Chester Jackson
- Establishing the Coaching Agreement, by Lucia Baldelli
- Direct Communication in Coaching: An Essential Core Competency, by Karen Bruns
- Emotional Intelligence and Coaching: the importance for effective practice, by Raquel Silva
- Reflective Inquiry in Coaching, by Karen Bruns
- The 3 Levels of Listening, by Karen Bruns