Pragmatic advice for coaches, managers & leaders

Why letting clients go is the right thing to do

CrutchIf you earn some of your livelihood through coaching and mentoring others, you’ll be acutely aware that finding new clients, delivering excellent work and, as a result, getting more new clients, is the name of the game. There will inevitably be a certain amount of churn. There will also be those clients that want to stay with you because of the impacts and positive results you have helped them achieve. And here’s where is gets a bit sticky …

The ethics of the client relationship

As a coach your ethical stance needs to be unimpeachable (I had to look that up). The client and the programme sponsor need to be certain that you are not going to do anything during, or after the coaching engagement to manipulate your client to a point where they believe they need you, when in reality they do not.

The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and the International Coaching Federation (ICF) both state in their Code of Ethics similar thoughts on the subject:

EMCC: The coach/mentor will ensure that the duration of the coach/mentoring contract is only as long as is necessary for the client/sponsor

ICF:  I will respect the client’s right to terminate the coaching relationship at any point during the process, subject to the provisions of the agreement or contract. I will be alert to indications that the client is no longer benefiting from our coaching relationship.

You’ll get more work in the long run, I would suspect, if you don’t engineer more work with a client than is necessary.

Doing yourself out of job

There is an irony to the job of a coach that means, part of your job is to do yourself out of a job!

You want to help your client get into a place where they are achieving their goals and are sustainably more capable to do so, without you there. It’s tough from a business perspective but necessary in order to maintain the ethicality of what you do. If things are tight and you need more clients, redouble your efforts to find new pastures, but avoid being tempted to up-sell, hard-sell, actually, ‘any-sell’ yourself to your current client.

Some coaches believe that you shouldn’t coach more than one client in an organisation, to safeguard the ethical boundaries. I do not sign up to that stance myself (although I can understand and respect it) but I do ensure that all possibilities are covered off with the sponsor prior to commencing a programme and that the client is aware of their rights and responsibilities through an extensive Contract.

It’s easier to end the relationship when it is clearly not working. You can recommend someone else and that usually earns you credit in the eyes of an appreciative sponsor. It’s perhaps more difficult when you and your client get on really well and they have achieved what they wanted to, with your help. The thing is, you’re not there to be their ever-present crutch – that goes totally against the idea of great coaching.

What experiences do you have of letting clients go, when they wanted you to stay?

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Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to  raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.