In this post I outline a series of benefits that derive from coaching, and just to mix things up a bit, I’m starting with a couple of benefits that accrue to people when they coach, as these are perhaps somewhat less well known than the benefits of being coached.
 

A hidden value of coaching – it boosts your mindfulness

The argument’s clear for the value of coaching for individual and team growth and culture development. Most of us know it and are striving to increase the time spent coaching. But there is a significant, underplayed argument for coaching as a form of leadership mindfulness.

This struck me particularly strongly this past week as I was coaching a senior executive. He was exhausted. He’s got a big job – he inherited a mess – he’s six months in and it’s just a lot of hard slog.

A miracle would have been great, but the reality is that these situations are really tough, they take (too much) time, a great team, and a truckload of sustained energy. And they need the right kind of support. Thankfully the organisation is providing support to him now with a coaching program.

As I was hearing his story and absorbing his demeanour I was transported back to some of my most challenging leadership moments and felt a huge gratitude that I no longer have to experience such pressure and exhaustion. How different the coach experience is from the executive experience!

My stance as coach means that I focused on being open and vulnerable with him, hooking into my empathy for him and his situation, feeling humbled by his experience as well as my own. After hearing just a smidgen of his story I was able to show some appreciation for his immense efforts and achievements so far.

In coach mode, I was mindfully present for him – calm, engaged, responsive. Despite his experiences, I found our conversation to be inspiring, warm and uplifting. And so did he.

What I call coach presence, how you show up as coach, is founded on these four states – Vulnerability, Empathy, Humility and Appreciation. Entering the state of VEHA is a kind of mindfulness.

It can be helpful to use mindfulness techniques – attention awareness, deep breathing – to prepare you to coach others. Then using VEHA will help promote it, not just for you, but also will be transferred to the person you are coaching.

Coaching is not just an amazing investment in the person you are coaching. It is a form of working self-care that helps you promote your own renewal and wellbeing, even as you do great work with and through others.

Think about the value that you experience when you coach others – how does it benefit not just the coachee but you too?

Yet another value of coaching – it increases compassion

There’s another value to coaching – adopting coach presence harnesses your compassion. By adopting a coach presence, you can spread compassion.

When you are compassionate and positive with others, they will be more confident, hopeful and open. And that comes right back at you – it helps you to experience renewal, the antidote to stress and burnout.

According to Ellen B. Van Oosten, PhD, BCC and her colleagues the power of compassion in coaching is in ‘helping others uncover or discover their ideas, feelings, hopes and dreams and then supporting their efforts to change’.

Coaching is anchored in mutual trust, where the leader takes intentional steps to notice people’s efforts and express gratitude, as well as suspend judgment and deeply listen.

They refer to this process as resonance. You can read more about that here. And if you’d like to know more about coach presence, how you achieve it and other great coaching skills check out my Lead Like a Coach book.

Compassion is one thing we need much more of in our world. You can spread it as you go about your normal working day, turning it into a supernormal one!

What opportunities do you imagine are possible if there was greater compassion at work?

Three more reasons why coaching is so powerful

Coaching is about asking questions, rather than providing the solution, so it becomes self-generating. That means that even if you are unsure about what to do and how to do it, if you are coached you will be better placed to solve future problems.

Three more reasons why coaching is so powerful. It:

  • Frees up your thinking about yourself and your situation.
  • Helps you to uncover hidden assumptions.
  • Provides new options for action.

Coaching might be a little confronting as well as exciting, as it is about change. It is an opportunity for you to be as open as you choose to be about your dreams as well as your doubts.

And it’s powerful because it is all about YOU. Unlike other development processes that focus on groups of people, which can be hit and miss, coaching focuses solely on you and what you need. You decide your outcomes.

Why not give it a try? You can find out more about my coaching approach here.

How has coaching been most powerful for you?

Coaching significantly reduces burnout and improves job satisfaction and wellbeing

Coaching is well known to improve performance and skills, as well as well-being, coping, work attitudes and goal-directed self-regulation. But wait, there’s more!

Very important research conducted by Alyssa McGonagle and colleagues with the support of the Institute of Coaching showed that for primary care physicians in the US,

coaching significantly reduced burnout, while it increased work engagement, psychological capital and job satisfaction.

Not quite a wonder drug, but when so many people in all walks of life are at increased risk of burnout, it’s helpful to know what might help to shift the dial.

McGonagle stresses the importance of burnout intervention at multiple levels – work culture, leadership, workflows and structure, and team dynamics.

For individuals, the coaching focus is on how they cope in their environment, and manage their stress and communication.

While coaching is a 1:1 intervention, and burnout is a combination of the person in their work environment, a series of six coaching sessions over a three month period made a significant difference.

The coaching used a positive psychology approach, emphasising reflection, goal-setting and growth, and demonstrably improved positive emotional resilience and wellbeing.

Going back to the executive I was coaching last week, it’s clear that a further dose of resilience wasn’t what he needed. There’s a misconception that was implicit in the coaching brief, that if he could increase his resilience skills, he’d be better able to cope with the demands he was facing.

This strange idea that growing resilience is a valid response to people’s stress and burnout needs to be knocked on the head. He was more resilient than he should ever need to be. It was the demands and expectations that were the problem.

Resilience isn’t something you increase, it’s something you unlock

Senior leaders, high performers and high potentials are already highly resilient. In our chaotic, over-demanding working world there is an expectation that people will just keep ‘building’ their resilience in line with increasing demands – yet we are not resilience machines that can be endlessly fine-tuned to meet superhuman expectations.

To unlock your resilience:

1. A growth mindset is helpful in assessing your situation, identifying what’s going well and not well, embracing ‘failures’ as opportunities for learning, and most importantly, being open to new perspectives.

This is a key part of what good coaching will do – help you expand your growth, see things from multiple perspectives, and see the opportunities that come from mistakes and missteps.

2. Reflection is helpful for learning from missteps and mistakes, as well as successes and opportunities.

The biggest challenge is that reflection takes time, and a different way of thinking. You’re already stretched, so finding the time for brief reflections that suit your style is key to adopting a new practice.

Here’s an easy way to start – at the end of each work day, take about three minutes to ask and answer three questions:

1. What did I do today to make progress on …(development goal)?

2. What got in the way?

3. What will I do tomorrow to make progress on….

It’s reflection, and a kind of self-coaching that’s remarkably powerful.

 

3. Set goals with your coach and your boss.

If it’s not goal-directed, it’s not coaching, so having two to three key goals to focus on is critical.

What makes goals work:

1. Commitment – goals should be meaningful, attainable, public.

2. Clarity – make them specific and behavioural so that you can easily check your progress.

3. Feedback – from yourself, your coach, relevant others help you assess whether you are on track or need to adapt. They also fuel appreciation for your change efforts.

4. Use a system – eg SMART, FAST, etc whatever works for you, as long as it makes the above easier.

The goals need to be behavioural and identify what you will do differently as a consequence of coaching. They should be motivational, but they are also about accountability for you, and for your coach.

I’m not keen on seeing resilience pitched as a ‘coping strategy’ but more as an approach to work and life.

Resilience isn’t about enduring more but about how you recharge – the key to resilience is recharging regularly and proactively, not waiting until you ‘need it’. You need it when you don’t need it, to prevent needing it, if you get what I mean!

4. Recharge through the day, even if you don’t think you need it and you will feel less depleted, more refreshed at the end of the workday.

The harder you work the more recovery and recharging you need to access your resilience. Focus on multiple five to ten minute recharges through the day to give you a cognitive break eg, shift your attention, change work tasks, step away from your desk, go for a short walk, have a warm conversation.

5. Cognitive flexibilityis the leadership superpower that helps you to continuously grow and learn. The ability to see the same situation from a variety of perspectives, while difficult, is one that underpins meaningful growth, helps reframe setbacks, identify new options and learn from mistakes

This is how to do it:

1. Be mindful – what sense are you making of the situation, how helpful is it to you/others?

2. Notice your feelings – do they serve your purpose?

3. Be curious – what can you learn from the situation?

4. Ask eg ‘What if’ ‘How else?’ ‘I wonder…’ ‘Why not?’ ‘What don’t I know?’ ‘What can I enable?’

If you’re able to see things from different perspectives, you will feel less stuck and more open to learning.

What if you’re coaching minority groups, or those who feel like impostors?

Five ways to coach team members who are less self-confident

If you coach team members who are less self-confident and/or experience imposterism, there are a couple of research-based interventions that are worth knowing about, and will help anyone with these experiences.

Researchers have found that attributing success to self and ‘failure’ to external factors decreases imposterism, while the opposite, attributing success to luck or ease, is associated with increased imposterism.

As coach, help people to change their internal and external attributions. Guide them to attribute their success to their skills and talents, and failures to circumstances beyond their control (without gilding the lily!); it will make a big difference.

To effectively coach someone who doubts themselves, feels unconfident or experiences imposterism, help them:

  1. Know they are not alone – if 90% of the working population experiences imposterism for example, it is not abnormal!
  2. Uncover and challenge their negative self-talk.
  3. Reframe their experiences – help them to see the problem from the outside-in, not just inside-out.
  4. Find sources of appreciation, praise and recognition, and be one of those sources.
  5. Turn discomfort into an opportunity to increase growth by identifying further learning.

Read more here about how to reframe the benefits of lower levels of confidence and self-doubt.

If you’re interested in getting the support of an external coach, I’m currently taking on a small number of additional clients. Reach out to me to find out more, or check out my coaching brochure for more information.

‘My career would not be where it is without the candid, thought-provoking and ‘call-to-action’ coaching from Karen. She taught me how to navigate my journey – through the highs and lows – with an honesty that enabled me to challenge conventions and take ownership of my destiny.’

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