Coaching: When it’s Time for Clients to Move On

Coaching is an interesting calling. You become a coach to help clients not need you anymore. It’s a mind set that has to be with you all the time, yet not be the sole focus of coaching. Clients reach their goals, gain their balance, get unstuck, and then move on. That’s the coach’s goal. But as a coach, you can’t rush a client too fast, or they stumble. You can’t slow down and hold them back, either.

Full moon rising behind palm tree

Full moon rising behind palm tree

One of the difficult stages of coaching is the completion stage. Sometimes the client asks, “Am I done yet?” and sometimes the coach brings it up. It’s a delicate stage, and most coaches suggest a month’s time to prepare for completion.

It’s a bad idea for the client to decide to quit and then act on it. That results in a jarring separation and a requirement for the client to be able to recall all the lessons learned whenever they need them in the future, and that’s simply not going to work.  The best way to end coaching is to lengthen the time between sessions while you review and practice  techniques. You’ll need some time to process information around dealing deliberately with your inner critic in the coming weeks, when you aren’t speaking with your coach.  It’s a weaning process, and an important part of gradually moving to your own ability to be accountable and love yourself at the same time.

Moon+in+phasesIf you are a mother who breastfed your child, you remember weaning. You didn’t just decide you were done nursing, buy formula, cereal and make a meal switch. The baby can’t adjust to a bottle, formula, cereal and spoon overnight, and the mother will still be producing milk with no relief. That’s bad news all the way around.

The way to wean is to replace one feeding with formula or cereal, then wait a while to see how it goes. In a week, you might add another feeding. Weaning takes about a month or so to allow the adjustment to feel like growth, instead of whiplash change which will start to crumble the benefits of coaching.

If you didn’t nurse your baby, the same idea is seen in learning to drive a car. First you learned rules and techniques. Then you got behind the wheel. Then you got a learner’s permit and had to have a licensed driver in the car. Only then could you drive solo on the streets. Your first request to drive was probably to run an errand for a parent, not to start a cross-country trip alone in a snowstorm. Same analogy. Ending coaching is a step by step process.

Coaching is a way to handle a change you want, but may not be looking forward to making. Once you have learned to negotiate the change, and it becomes part of your life, there is still the work of habituation to be done.

We hold you to the light, © Quinn McDonald

We hold you to the light, © Quinn McDonald

Coaching is a blend of support, encouragement, and accountability. It’s a process that helps you grow. When you are ready to step into your new life, give yourself some time to adjust. Your coach will help you find the path that may have gotten washed out by your busy life. It’s still there, but it is a good idea to make sure you are heading in the right direction before you start to run down it.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer working on a book about the inner critic.

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6 thoughts on “Coaching: When it’s Time for Clients to Move On

  1. Coaching sounds pretty normal. There are two kinds of jobs. You either do the same things over and over or at some level you’re trying to make what you do no longer necessary.

  2. Your description of coaching is very similiar to raising children; “a blend of support, encouragement, and accountability” and lots of patience. You sound like a good coach.

  3. It sounds very much like the therapist/patient relationship. Having been a patient, I came (gradually) to the realization that I was ready to, let us say, “graduate” from therapy. And my therapist agreed–and, as you put it, we tapered off. But, she didn’t just throw me into the deep end (even though I knew how to swim!).

    • Yes, it is very similar. But also painful to watch a client bolt, end coaching and then expect to be able to go it alone. Worse, if you counsel them to do it gradually, the client often sees it as a financial ploy, rather than as a “stand on your own two feet” release.

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