December 5, 2014

Each session can be the last

The realization that each session can be the last, and that both clients and coaches can decide to stop, often works well, both for coaches and clients. 

In progress-focused coaching we work with the old (solution-focused) principle that each coaching session can be the last. This means that, after each conversation, clients can decide whether they find it useful to have another conversation. One reason for stopping could be that clients found the conversation not so useful. Sometimes this happens but not so often. More often the reason is that clients found the conversation so useful that they feel that, for the time being, they can proceed on their own and don't need further help. Of course, if, later, it turns out they do need further help, a new appointment can be made.

It often works well if clients clearly know that they can terminate the coaching trajectory after each session. It helps them to focus more on whether the coaching is working or not and whether they need further help or not. Too often, coaching trajectories tacitly go on and on, and both coaches and clients may eventually start to wonder whether they the process is still useful and even whether it will ever stop. But if you constantly work in the awareness that each conversation can be the last, it is easier to remain attentive and mindful all the time. This applies both to clients and coaches. When this is the deal, each moment counts.

What applies to coaching trajectories, also applies to group facilitation and training programs. The 'each session can be the last' principle works well with these types of projects, too. In these projects it often works well to agree that both parties (both the group and the facilitator) decide, after each session, whether or not they want to proceed. This keeps both of them attentive and alert. Both the group and the facilitator can decide to stop. This enables them to focus constantly on whether what they are doing is working or not. If the group thinks facilitators do not match well with them or their approach does not work they do not have to feel that they are stuck with this person or approach for the next two or three sessions.

It works the other way around, too. When group members realize that the facilitator can decide to stop, too, they will more easily recognize that each moment counts. If they suspect that facilitators, for commercial reasons, will always try to stretch out each trajectory as much as possible, they can get a bit defensive. If, however they know, from the start, that this is not the case, and that it is even so that the trajectory could become surprisingly brief, there will be no reason for defensiveness. Knowing that each session can be the last calls for the avoidance of any kind of waste of time and for finding out, right away, what benefits cooperation might have.

It makes sense that facilitators will not decide to stop without a good reason. They make their money helping people so basically this is what they like to do. So why would they want to stop? One good reason might be that they themselves feel that they can't make a useful contribution. This could be the case when they feel their approach does not fit or when they lack the required knowledge or skills for this project. Another reason might be that the client project does not fit with their interests and values due to which they lack the right kind of motivation for the assignment. This may be the case when the values or principles which guide the client project conflict with the values and principles of this facilitator. In such cases it can be unwise to proceed anyway. People work best when they find things interesting and valuable so that they are really can really endorse what they are doing. If that is lacking you can try to negotiate in order to change the approach. If that does not work it can be a wise decision to stop.

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