Endings in Coaching

We tend to avoid endings, to rush over them, to pretend there're not really happening and try to avoid experiencing them fully. But endings in coaching and mentoring are potentially one of the most powerful parts of the relationship. They offer the opportunity not only to review the journey and consolidate the learnings but also for the coachee to reclaim and revitalise parts of themselves.

One of our aims in working with others is to evoke from them the fullness of who they are. And one way we do this is by embodying qualities that the they is not yet able to fully manifest. So the coachee may see us as having insight, understanding, balance, etc but not recognise these qualities within themselves - though they must have these qualities themselves to some extent since how else could they recognise them in us? In psychological terms, this is "projection" whereby one's own traits, emotions and qualities are ascribed to another. It is most commonly encountered when looking at unwanted feelings but applies equally with positive qualities.

One thing we are continually doing throughout the coaching is helping clients re-own these projections - helping them see and develop their strengths and recognise their own developing insight, balance and so forth. But it is likely that, at the end of the coaching, our clients are still lodging parts of themselves in us, and are still projecting onto us qualities which they don't realise that they also possess.

I therefore use a simple ritual to return these projections and bring to a close the coaching relationship. This is done right at the end of the final session. It is designed particularly to help clients own their ability to self-coach but also provides the opportunity to re-own other qualities too. I start by explaining that we are about to complete the coaching process with a short ritual.

The next and key step is to uncover at least some of the remaining projections. I ask the coachee what qualities they have noticed me bringing to our work together and what skills and strengths they have seen in me. I encourage them to be as exhaustive as they can. I also suggest qualities that I believe they may see in me based on our work together over the course of the coaching. (When I first started doing this, I was afraid that I would be seen as being self-indulgent so I would explain the process in advance. But this dilutes its effectiveness and I now risk being momentarily seen as seeking praise for the much greater impact the ritual can have.)

Once these projections are clear, I come clean on the process and explain that these qualities that the coachee has identified are actually their own. I also explain that we are about to perform a ritual to enable the coachee to reclaim these qualities and the resources they bring.

I ask the coachee to be as aware as they can of the qualities they have seen in me and to feel their way into them (I will have noted them earlier and now say them back to the coachee). I tell the coachee that I am going to get up from my chair but will leave these qualities behind.

I get out of the chair reminding the coachee to see the qualities as being left behind in the chair. I then ask the coachee to, with consciousness, sit in my chair and as they do so, to "sit into" the qualities and absorb them. I ask them about the experience to check it has worked.

This process of re-owning these projections can be a powerful experience for the coachee and they often report a very real and visceral experience of feeling these qualities within them. The coach too will notice a tangible shift in their relationship with the coachee and a clear sense that the relationship has now changed.