Coaching: Fostering Empowerment to Navigate Change
Dates that have become significant in our lives become markers in the calendar, times for celebrations, remembrance and now, release from lockdown.
How does this transition feel to you? Maybe you can’t wait to move forward into the ‘new normal’, perhaps it is creating heightened anxiety or you contemplate the future in a semi-lockdown state because you live with health challenges.
The Transition of Change
Whichever situation you are in, this time will be a transition, the process we go through when things change.
A transition is characterised by a stage of loss, a period of reorientation and followed by the opportunity to move forward into the ‘new normal’. The speed of movement through the transition depends on the individual, their experiences, openness to explore and ability to adapt.
Examples of transitions include:
- Taking on and thriving in a new role
- Changes in work including redundancy or retirement
- Returning to work following personal transitions – parenthood, caring, ill health
- Negotiating life-changing transitions for example the diagnosis of a long-term health condition
Empowering Health and Well-being
So, what are the ways we can support ourselves and be mindful and compassionate of the differing needs of others, cognisant that there is a crisis in mental well-being exacerbated by the pandemic.
I have recently been involved in co-authoring and co-editing Empowerment in Health and Wellness1. This book was conceived by a group of volunteer cancer coaches during our coaching supervision. We coach cancer patients (clients), their families and carers at the Fountain Centre and our work is shown to make differences to their well-being, outlook and the personal goals that emerge through the coaching dialogues. Coaching for cancer covers a wide range of emotions and experiences, working with clients and their families following an initial diagnosis, supporting clients through and post-treatment. Becoming a ‘cancer survivor’, living with and beyond cancer, can itself require sensitive navigation for clients looking towards their future and navigating uncertainty.
In our book, we have identified, from our experience, three pillars of empowerment;
In this changing world these three pillars for our development will help us, not only find ways to support and resource ourselves to live well and function optimally, they also help us influence what is going on around us and be mindful and responsive to the needs of others.
The Covid Landscape
The past 18 months have seen dramatic changes to our lives, from changes of routine to changes in our social habits to challenges with employment and relationships. The restrictions placed on our daily activities and the new responsibilities and efforts required from us; such as home-schooling, finding space for work, not having physical contact with loved ones and the need to maintain existing responsibilities within a different landscape are now disappearing and this is a further change for us to process and navigate.
It is important to understand that although we have experienced a collective change; how we comprehend and respond to this is completely unique, as is our response to life trying to move to what we perceive as ‘normal’. Where our colleagues, team members or managers may ‘look’ the same as they were before pre-pandemic; personal experiences during this time will play a huge part in how they navigate this further change.
Some will have faced illness, bereavement or perhaps changes to household income due to redundancies and the subsequent challenges this can create. Others may have experienced challenges with childcare and the juggle of home working adding extra stress within a household. Socio-economic factors will also be felt by various team members which will have further influenced their unique experiences. Whereas others may have been fortunate to have experienced little change or have benefitted in some way. So, this myriad of experiences will play a huge part in how we embrace returning to the workplace.
For example, some people are very keen to return to the office, to experience the energy and innovation that comes from being part of a team in a physical space. They are motivated to adapt and cope with the unknown. They may naturally be extroverted and gain energy from and with other people. Other people may be very anxious for a wide variety of reasons, which can generate hypervigilance. They may less able to adapt to change, are naturally more introvert and enjoy working in more isolated ways. They are often more sensitive to triggers which cause their bodies to stress.
It is important that organisations (and individuals too) have a mission which revolves around collaboration and inclusion and use enabling questions like ‘How can we (I)…?’ to engage values that align people and cultures.
A weight of this responsibility will be on those who lead and manage people and finding ways to empower and enable their teams so engagement is increased and burnout is reduced are vital as workplaces adapt. It is also important to recognise that business leaders, managers and HR/OD professionals will not be exempt from personal experiences during lockdown. They too will have mixed feelings and emotions about the return to the workplace, added with the duty of supporting their teams and commitment to the ongoing business vision.
What Can Coaching Bring to Your Team?
So, how can you safely explore, support and encourage team cohesion after such changes? Coaching is a confidential and safe space where leaders, managers or their team members can explore ways to increase their leadership of themselves (Personal Leadership) through living mindfully, developing their resilience and resourcefulness and find ways to manage anxiety and stress and to develop well-being and their working relationships. Coaching engages different perspectives and techniques to manage transitions with greater ease. The exploration and challenge help people feel empowered and develop mastery over their lives and emotional responses.
Coaching programmes can benefit organisations, business leaders and teams by fostering a sense of inclusivity, support and trust; which in turn can nurture strength, collective responsibility and enhanced communication. It is well known that diverse teams out-perform homogenous teams. Teams with different ages, genders and ethnicity can perform up to 35% more than uniform teams as they analyse issues from multiple vantage points. However, supporting diverse teams through transitions of change is crucial in order to maintain the benefits that these unique cohorts bring.
Our coaching programmes improve the well-being and functioning for individuals who are finding either the thought of returning to work or the process daunting and stress-inducing. By supporting individuals through this, organisations both show they value and care for their employees and benefit for the increased engagement and performance which results.
Coaching: A Powerful Toolkit
Bespoke programmes can support individuals to be with and manage their discomfort and provide them with tools, techniques and skills, which can impact positively for the individual, their team and their Organisation, and equally help form future HR strategies.
Often individuals are not struggling in their situation (when signposting to counselling would be appropriate), rather they are either functioning at a low level and have high resources (existing) or are high functioning and have low resources (managing) and coaching supports the movement towards high functioning and high resources (flourishing)2.
Coaching can also be used for new and experienced executives to increase empowerment and develop awareness, self-leadership, leadership of others and promote health and wellness. Indeed, research back in 2009 from CIPD within their ‘Taking the Temperature of Coaching Report’ showed that 51% of companies had already considered coaching to be a crucial part of their business strategy.
Coaching is a fundamental tool which can support your team and business. Sessions can be held online, allowing participants to join wherever they may be located, adding an extra level of convenience and flexibility. Alternatively, sessions can also be carried out over the telephone, which may suit individuals who prefer an element of anonymity. They can also be held outdoors, gaining all the benefits that nature connectedness can add to health and wellbeing. Coaching can adapt to your team’s needs and requirements whilst providing a confidential, inclusive platform.
Employee engagement and wellbeing are key factors that help drive a business forward and boost productivity, so the responsibility and necessity in supporting your team is crucial in keeping this vision alive, whilst navigating further change within your business. Demonstrating your tangible commitment to individual needs will not only create more meaningful and loyal relationships within the workplace, it can affect positively relationships with your clients and stakeholders.
- Empowerment in Health and Wellness 2021 Ed. Andrew A. Parsons, Sue Jackson and Jackie Arnold
- The Health Awareness Tool, developed by Professor Sarah Corrie (2019).