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Introduction

The terms “resilience” and “burnout” have become all too familiar in our fast-paced world. Burnout, characterized by Maslach as exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy (Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P., 2016), makes employees physically and psychologically suffer. In light of this, burnout comes with several occupational consequences, therefore straining organizations. Burnout is the consequence of sustained strain without the possibility to recovery. 

We define resilience as the ability to recover from setbacks. One could say that resilience and burnout are related as resilient people would not suffer from burnout easily. But that is too simple.

The question is how to develop resilience within organizations. The key to developing resilience is an individual approach. Coaching can have a profound impact on resilience. We look at empirical research and actionable strategies. 

In this exploration, we look into the science behind coaching and provide concrete examples of how coaching can help individuals and organizations. 

Leaders need to build resilient teams and organizations. And the way to do that is to introduce humanity in business. That sounds lofty, but let's never forget that strategies only fail because people do. And when strategies are successful, it's because of people's competencies, resourcefulness, and agility.

David Ducheyne

In conducting a literature research on resilience, I found evidence that coaching can contribute to its development. There is also a link with burnout, but this might be the topic of another blog.

Chloé Cornet

Understanding Resilience

Resilience can be seen as the ability to bounce back from adversity and maintain one’s well-being in the face of stress and challenges. In the workplace, at-risk individuals who are resilient deliver better than expected outcomes, display adaptability even when confronted with significant pressures. 

Although the general definition of resilience is the ability bounce back after setbacks, I like to extend the definition to bouncing forward. Setbacks are a disruption of a normal evolution and when people or organization are resilient, they learn from the setbacks and do better afterwards. It is not only about returning to normal, it is also about doing better.

David Ducheyne

People with high resilience have a higher capacity to recover after trauma (Mukherjee, S., & Kumar, U., 2016). Research shows that employees with higher resilience are not only better equipped to cope with workplace stress but also tend to exhibit greater career satisfaction (Srivastava, S., & Madan, P., 2020). 

David: We do not ‘resiliate’. ‘To resiliate’ is not a verb.
Resilience is not an innate trait but a result of behaviours like collaboration, learning and adaptation and sense-making.

David Ducheyne

Coaching

Coaching, a dynamic and evolving field, has gained recognition as a transformative tool in personal and professional development. it has the potential to be a powerful force in addressing workplace well-being and personal growth. 

Coaching, in its many forms, has existed for centuries, and has its origins in the art of asking questions as displayed by the philosophers in ancient times. The word is en vogue in many disciplines from sports coaching to mentorship. But coaching has come a long way. Contemporary coaching, particularly within the workplace, is backed by a wealth of scientific research.  

Rooted in psychology, management, and organisational development, coaching has evolved into a well-structured practice aimed at enhancing an individual’s performance and well-being (Lai, Y. L., & Palmer, S., 2019). 

We know that an individual approach has the highest chance of success. The process can take into consideration all the specific needs and individual strengths of the coachee. Customization of learning processes contributes to the effectiveness of learning.

David Ducheyne

Coaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It encompasses various forms, each designed to address specific challenges and objectives. Some of the prominent types of coaching include executive coaching, leadership coaching, career coaching, and life coaching. Each coaching process is tailored to the unique needs and aspirations of the individual. 

Coaching always follows the same process, regardless of the topic. The strength of coaching comes from the personalized approach. Let’s not forget that the two main targets of coaching are to increase someone’s awareness and sense of responsibility.

Karl Van Hoey: The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.
This co-creative process (sometimes referred to as “co-creative dance”) in between coach and coachee is always the same, regardless of the topic on the table. In their responsibility for this process, coaches can certainly optimize the process by making wise choices on questions, exercises, tools and strategies to use during coaching sessions. These choices are always process related, never content related.

Karl Van Hoey

Keeping employees motivated during tough times is perhaps one of the hardest things to do as a leader. How can a leader keep people on the same page and make sure they stay motivated even in times of crisis and setbacks? One way to do this is to highlight progress, even if it is small. People tend to ignore progress out of fear that the discrepancy between the desired and current state is too large. After all, people want to maintain a positive self-image. So as a leader, it is essential to put progress on the agenda, especially in times of setbacks.

What sets coaching apart in the realm of personal and professional development is its scientific foundation. The effectiveness of coaching has been rigorously examined through empirical research. Studies have consistently shown that coaching can lead to significant improvements in areas such as leadership skills, more effective coping with stress at work, job performance, and personal satisfaction (Greif, S., 2007).  

Another influential model within the realm of coaching is Cognitive-Behavioural Coaching (CBC). Rooted in principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy, CBC emphasizes the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours (Good et al., 2013).  

Moreover, Cognitive-Behavioural Executive Coaching (CBEC) proves particularly beneficial in cultivating adaptable thinking and behaviour, crucial skills for today’s executives. CBEC can be applied more frequently and serves as a comprehensive approach for initiatives focused on skill development, performance enhancement, and personal leadership within organizational settings (Ducharme, M. J., 2007).  

Additionally, Solution-Focused Cognitive-Behavioural (SFCB) coaching exhibits significant potential as a methodology for assisting individuals in attaining their organizational goals. Simultaneously, it reduces distress and imparts cognitive and behavioral skills essential for building resilience. This approach equips individuals to not only cope with existing stressors but also effectively navigate future difficulties as they arise (Grant, A. M., 2017). 

In the subsequent section we will offer practical strategies to empower HR professionals and organisations in fostering employee well-being and growth. 

 

Coaching for Resilience

When coaching for resilience coaching, we focus on enhancing an individual’s ability to bounce back from adversity and thrive in the face of challenges. The structured process combines elements of positive psychology, cognitive-behavioural techniques, and personal development strategies to bolster resilience (Neenan, M., 2018). 

Coaching for resilience coaching involves a range of techniques and strategies that have a proven impact on an individual’s resilience. Coaches work with clients to identify and develop key resilience-building skills, such as problem-solving, emotional regulation, optimism, and effective coping mechanisms. Techniques like reframing, goal setting, and stress management are integral to the process. 

In my experience coaching for resilience is most effective when working on individual, team and organisational level at the same time, allowing an “interactive action plan” to emerge.

Filip Fiers

The optimal strategy for building resilience involves proactive development before encountering setbacks. While it may sound theoretical, it's quite practical. When individuals cultivate capabilities that promote resilience, there's a higher likelihood of deploying these skills effectively during disruptions. Although it's still possible to develop the necessary capabilities amid setbacks, the outcome is less certain. Preparation for disruptions is akin to training for self-defence—an investment in skills just in case they are ever needed (with the hope that they won't be).

David Ducheyne

Some Aspects of Coaching for Resilience

To be an inspiring leader, one needs to think about oneself as a leader. Self-reflection is a way to do this. It’s like taking a pit stop and looking at where one is as a leader and where one wants to go. It’s about questioning oneself as a leader and asking what could be better. It’s about becoming aware of what role to take at what time and for whom. It’s about knowing one’s strengths and knowing well when one is derailing. Strengths can become pitfalls. Developing oneself as a leader is a never-ending story and should be at least as important or even more critical as pursuing results.

Building Emotional Resilience 

Managing one’s emotions is a critical component of overall resilience. Coaches assist individuals in recognising and managing their emotions, reducing emotional reactivity, and cultivating emotional intelligence. This is particularly vital in high-stress work environments, where emotional resilience can make a substantial difference in an individual’s well-being and performance (Smith, C. L., 2017).

Adapting to Change 

Adaptability is a prized quality in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work landscape. Resilience coaching helps individuals embrace change and uncertainty, enabling them to thrive in dynamic work environments (NEWELL, D., 2022). Coaches facilitate the development of a growth mindset, fostering openness to new experiences and learning opportunities (Atkinson, 2022). 

Stress Management and Work-Life Balance 

 Resilience coaching equips individuals with effective stress management techniques, enabling them to handle high-pressure situations with composure (Junker, S., 2021). Coaches also work with clients to establish work-life balance, preventing the blurring of boundaries that can contribute to burnout. 

I think people should also learn to think in scenario’s and try to prepare for possible changes. Looking forward helps to prepare for changes.

David Ducheyne

Conclusion

In exploring the science of coaching, we’ve illustrated the transformative impact of coaching on personal and professional development, backed by empirical research and enriched by evidence-based models and methodologies.  

The following blog post will spotlight practical implications for coaching for resilience in organizations. 

Contributed to this blog

Chloé Cornet

Junior Consultant

Filip Fiers

Associate Partner

Karl Van Hoey

Associate Partner

David Ducheyne

David Ducheyne

Founder

Paul Van Geyt

Associate Partner

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