Coaching in times of crisis: How to help individuals flourish

Posted on: December 14, 2015 by Andrew Kinder

In today’s ‘always-on’ society, individuals are increasingly finding themselves struggling with stress, anxiety and even depression as a result of the pressures of daily life. Over the last few years, stress and mental health disorders have overtaken back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders as the biggest long-term health problem and cause of sickness absence. This stress in the workplace can be exacerbated in times of crises, such as the loss of a loved one, a crisis of confidence over individual performance, or a conflict with a colleague. In response, coaching has been put forward as a coping mechanism to offer these people an opportunity to stand back, get support and identify how to deal with their situation.

What is coaching?

Of course, coaching means different things to different people in different scenarios. Sports players have coaches to teach them new skills and develop them further. In the workplace, coaching is an element of any manager’s role; where they are required to support their direct reports and offer them training in particular skillsets. Professional coaches on the other hand, provide guidance to explore workplace issues to challenge negative experiences in an informal environment. Coaching can often draw out skills or talents that were previously hidden within individuals, empowering those involved in the process to find new ways to solve problems previously thought unsolvable.

How does coaching work?

Employees can typically deal with workplace pressures in the short-term, particularly if there is a tangible end-point in sight; such as winning a new piece of business or completing a project. Ongoing pressure however, can become corrosive to our health and lead to exhaustion. This is where coaching can be used to help individuals face their challenges head-on. In fact, it’s often the toughest situations that offer the potential for the biggest transformation.

Coaching provides an opportunity to look objectively at our lives and take action; encouraging individuals to open up and look after themselves. It can be used as a preventative measure, as coaches can work with individuals to assess the situation before it becomes a problem.

How to get coaching right in the workplace

If an organisation is looking to put a coaching scheme in place, there are a number of things to consider first:

  • A coach should ideally be in a position where they are not the individual’s direct line manager; as they should feel comfortable opening up about potentially sensitive work issues
  • Coaching is about listening just as much as offering advice and challenging opinions
  • Make any qualifications and experience clear to the individual before establishing a coaching relationship with them
  • Put processes in place to work out what to do when coaching isn’t going well – such as confidentiality and a complaints procedure.

Used effectively, coaching schemes can help organisations to increase productivity, reduce sickness absence and secure a more positive culture of wellbeing. By following these steps, coaches, both internal and external, can be brought in to support employees through their times of crisis and make change for the better.

This blog is based on content from Andrew’s chapter in the recently published ‘Coaching in Times of Crisis and Transformation: How to Help Individuals and Organizations Flourish’ by Liz Hall. Andrew’s chapter focuses on the role of coaching in supporting organisations to address mental health issues.

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About Andrew Kinder
Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health
As Professional Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health, Andrew Kinder takes a lead on delivering its Wellbeing@work programme, which works globally to improve the health and wellbeing of its employees. Andrew has made a unique contribution in the area of counselling in the workplace over the last 15 years. He has been a leader in this specialist field work over this period, serving on the Executive Committee of the BACP Workplace (formerly Association for Counselling at Work). He has also promoted workplace counselling through committee work at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Counselling, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association. He was recently awarded a Fellowship by BACP.