Words Make Worlds
Issue 13
January 21st, 2024

Ending Well

Welcome to 🪐 Words Make Worlds, a newsletter dedicated to the art, science, and craft of the Coaching Leadership Style. In this issue we come to the final stage of the coaching process: ending well. If you are just joining us (hi!) you can catch up previous issues in the series here:

  • Issue 9: The Coaching Process. Provides an overview of the coaching process and introduces the “What? — So what? — Now what?” framework.
  • Issue 10: Noticing and Exploring. A deeper dive into the “What?” part of the cycle and what it takes to facilitate deeper thinking and awareness in others.
  • Issue 11: Reflection and Meaning Making. An exploration of the “So What?” part of the cycle and the importance of making new meaning from what was uncovered in the noticing and exploring phase.
  • Issue 12: Taking Action. Coaching is effective because it combines self-awareness with taking action. Without action there is no coaching conversation. This is what the “Now What?” phase is all about.

The Idea

To maintain a thinking space where transformation is possible, the end needs to be as much in partnership as the beginning. You co-created the space between you and have done the work together. Co-create the end. - Claire Pedrick

We’ve now covered the entire arc of the coaching conversation, from raising awareness to making meaning to taking new action. While the majority of your time will usually be spent in the “What?” phase of noticing and building awareness, how you start and how you end are critical compontents of impactful learning and clear commitments.

It can be easy to breeze past beginnings and endings, and in normal conversations we often do. From my work with students in the Leader as Coach course I’ve come to understand that it can feel redundant or awkward to start with intentional structure at the beginning of a conversation — the “flow” isn’t there which can feel unnatural. And yet, starting with clear intentions and a core set of questions that define the boundaries of the coaching container jumpstarts the thinking process for the person being coached. It helps them to identify what really matters and what change they want to see. It sets the parameters and purpose of the conversation. With a clearly defined container the coaching conversation can flow in a focused and supportive way.

The same goes for endings, where again it can feel awkward to bring structure to reflections and learnings. It can be easy to assume that just because both people experienced the same conversation they each have the same understanding and takeaways. And yet, what two people experience in the same conversation can be wildly different. Asking the person being coached to reflect on their experience, learning, insights, and commitments is a chance to create radical clarity and mutual understanding around what happened and what comes next.

The entire process of “What? — So what? — Now what?” takes place inside a container created by a good opening and concluded with a clear ending. A good opening sets the field of play and defines the learning objective, while a clear ending reinforces new insights and ensures the conversation is complete.

Good endings are also important because most of the learning happens outside the coaching conversation, where insights are applied through action. By ending the conversation with intention and structure you set the stage for what comes next, creating small steps to build forward momentum.

The Practice

For endings I like to use Claire Pedrick’s CALF framework. As you close out the conversation be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Contract: Make sure that the agreements you set at the beginning of the conversation have been met and that you have done what you set out to do. You can say something like, “Circling back to where we began, what is different now? How did we do?”
  • Accountability: Coaching conversations are in service of the person being coached, and the accountability resides with them on what they will do next. A simple, “Where do you need to be accountable?” may be enough. I also find that in a work environment where the manager needs to stay informed of progress, “What will you do by when, and how will you let me know?” can be effective.
  • Learning: Reflecting on the key learnings helps imprint them in memory and facilitates the active of work of synthesis and integration. “What are you learning?” or “What stands out to you?” are simple ways to bring this out.
  • Finished: Are you actually finished? Is there anything else that might be lingering that wants attention but hasn’t been shared yet? “Have we finished?” or “Is that enough for today?” or “Does that feel complete?” are solid closing questions.

Quotes I ❤️

The best coaches make us recognize we have gaps in our reasoning. The moment we become unsure of what we know, learning happens. This is good coaching. — Marcia Reynolds

Thank you for being here and for bringing coaching into your leadership practice.

Until next time,


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