Chapter Three: a stronger future
This three-part ‘Buckle up’ series on resilience from earthquake survivor, coach and resilience expert Kathryn Jackson, offers insights from coaching during turbulent times
Welcome back to the final chapter of our three-part consideration of the science, resources and insights that could be helpful to our coaching practice, as we navigate turbulent times.
We’d considered the impact of our personal story as an influence on our coaching practice, and we have begun to explore the Three Es of Resilience: Evidence, Empower and Embed.
We noted that we may need to help our clients become more confident at noticing the Evidence of their emotions, and then get better at navigating what they observe. We also began to explore wellbeing science to help us Empower our clients to make evidence-based choices to look after themselves.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at the third E of Resilience, Embed, and the impact this can have on creating future strength as a result of turbulence.
I truly believe that Embedding is the place where coaching comes alive to support fellow humans who desire to overcome some of the terrible statistics relating to depression, anxiety and stress that existed long before the world shifted as a result of Covid-19.
The 2017 Wellness in the Workplace Survey highlighted that we lose around NZ$1.5bn a year due to stress, the average worker checks their mobile around 150 times a day and 40% of workers think it’s impossible to succeed at work and have a balanced life.
It’s fair to say that, looking at these and other global statistics, lots of us have been pretty dreadful at doing wellbeing for several years at least.
If you dig within the data, along with research from other reputable global sources, like the Harvard Business Review, Deloitte Insights and Robertson Cooper, you will notice interesting themes. For example:
- What causes one person to experience distress causes another to be energised
- A major source of stress, particularly at work, is neither feeling heard nor having somebody trusted to talk to
- We want wellbeing to be simple and yet, we find it hard to ‘do wellbeing’ even when it’s spelled out (eg, we know the importance of choices relating to eating, sleeping and exercise)
It makes me wonder whether the silver bullet we’ve been looking for to address the global wellbeing epidemic has been there all along, but not in mindfulness workshops and yoga classes.
Embedding wellbeing and resilience during turbulent times requires commitment. It also requires action. And it requires practice and repetition… Failure… Encouragement… Support…
And because wellbeing is in a continual state of change that can deteriorate or improve depending on our personal and professional circumstances, it needs to be regularly noticed, and nudged to stay strong.
Coaching by its very definition precisely creates these opportunities for regular reflection, celebration, awareness, and accountability. All of which are critical to support the embedding of new thoughts, beliefs,
Coaching conversations can anchor the progress of a journey towards strength, celebrating the achievement of mini goals, and noticing progress.
As coaches, whether in a private practice or in leadership roles at work, we have the honour of walking beside our clients as they courageously navigate change and grow stronger. This gives us a unique opportunity to help them personalise their journey, listen to their story and encourage them to keep taking steps towards the future.
Imagine a world where coaches have a better understanding of transformation and change, the impact of story, knowledge about how to notice and navigate human minds and insights about the science of wellbeing.
This process of Embedding takes time and will be personal for each of your clients. Some will whizz through the stages of change and transformation that we explored in the first episode of this series, embracing their ‘New Normal’ as part of their everyday.
Others will stay stuck, perhaps finding their emotions too difficult to navigate or concluding that their purpose has shifted beyond repair.
The journey for many will be unexpected. One of the biggest lessons I learned from coaching during extreme turbulence post-earthquakes is that people are stronger than they think.
Forced into the most unimaginable of circumstances, they’ll still claw their way back to humanity, they’ll find incredible ways to overcome adversity and for the most part they’ll continue to choose kindness and love.
I’d never really come across the idea of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) until I came face to face with it in my
New Zealand coaching practice.
Humans are so naturally negatively biased, that we can be quick to presume crisis will lead to doom.
This is indeed a terrible fact for some people, and as a coach I’ll reinforce over and over the importance of being technically competent to recognise and support clients who find themselves in need of clinical support.
However, we must also be prepared to meet another, more surprising type of client. One that grows stronger from this turbulent world, and for whom the crisis catalyses a richer outcome, filled with more meaning, purpose and growth than they have ever experienced.
The research on PTG is still relatively new in this space, originating within the work of Richard Tedeschi and
Lawrence Calhoun in the mid-1990s.
Much of the existing research focuses on non-life threatening case studies, but I was encouraged by my psychosocial support team to explore the idea, because of the strength lens it could bring to my coaching practice.
At its simplest, I was advised to visit the library’s autobiography section. “Look around you. Marvel at all the stories these people have shared about how they faced significant adversity
but grew stronger on their journey through it.”
PTG is most often experienced by individuals who are absolutely rocked to the core and for whom the considerable psychological distress they experience causes a need to completely re-evaluate their life.
We should expect many of our clients to benefit from talking about their experience through a strength lens.
Ask questions such as:
- What has surprised you about your ability to get through this time?
- How has this experience helped you to become stronger?
- What coping strategies helped you most?
- What were you brave enough to do?
- What are the changes that this event has inspired you to make to your life?
These are all entirely appropriate questions for our coaching practice.
My not-so-secret wish is for Covid-19 to be a driver for positive changes in the world and at work. Whether simply by demonstrating how some work can indeed be done from home or that life goes on despite your child joining your Zoom call, or as complex as recognising the intricacies of personal response to trauma and normalising emotions.
Wouldn’t that be an incredible outcome from unimaginable times, and wouldn’t it be amazing if the coaching community could play a significant part in contributing to that stronger future?
For now, here are some practical actions for you to consider today, as you prepare to coach your clients on their journeys through this changed world.
Make a note in your own diary to regularly notice and nudge your own wellbeing choices.
Personally, I’ve anchored Wellbeing Wednesday. I am actively involved in a Wellness Champions Network in
New Zealand, and we enjoy a lunchtime catch-up each week. We listen to an industry leader share their story of designing wellbeing at work, host ‘Ask the Expert’ sessions or simply share a virtual sandwich and catch up.
This time is my opportunity to reflect on how much attention I have given to recharging my Resilience Battery using the Foundations for Resilience, and to ensure I’m not over- or under-investing.
I can become mindful of the work I have ahead, and check I’m powered up to deliver it – or ensure I have plans in the week to recharge regularly. If not, I can be honest and kinder to myself, acknowledging I may not be at my
Perhaps you could design some materials to give structure to your conversations with coaching clients. For example, a series of questions like these:
- What are the regular conversations that you have (either in work or elsewhere in your life) where a wellbeing check-in would be easy to include? How could you make this happen and anchor your reflections?
- How will you better notice the transition from having a full, green, Resilience Battery to one that is depleting? What signs will you need to be aware of?
- What will you notice about your wellbeing because of the coaching support? For example, the clues that our time together is having a positive effect on your resilience.
Or maybe you could use a more formal way to encourage your coaching clients to record their journey through turbulent times and become more conscious of their emotional state and the resources in their toolkit to maintain their Resilience Battery.
- Kathryn Jackson is the author of Resilience at Work: Practical Tools for Career Success – a Finalist for Best International Business Book, with the Business Book Awards (London) and a Finalist for the Australian Career Book Awards (Melbourne). The content of this book has recently been embedded into a 30-week resilience programme in the Kite Support app and a six-week webinar series called, Let’s Talk Resilience at Work.
Her coaching practice, careerbalance Ltd, has been working with professionals who want to grow confidence, success and resilience since 2006, and she has trained over 500 leaders in the skills to do the same. Her practical coaching skills workbook, Essential Questions to GROW Your Team, is recommended reading at business schools worldwide.
Kathryn qualified as a coach with the Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring in 2004 and became a senior practitioner with the EMCC in 2017. She is a Fellow of the CIPD and RSA, and an associate with the New Zealand Institute for Wellbeing & Resilience.
- J Boaler, Limitless Mind. London: Thorsons, 2019
- Deloitte Insights: www2.deloitte.com/us/en.html
- Southern Cross and Business NZ, Wellness in the Workplace annual survey
- Dr Kristen Neff: https://self-compassion.org/
- Harvard Business Review: www.hbr.org
- Post-traumatic growth and post-traumatic growth inventory www.positivepsychology.com