Coaching for resilience

by Jonathan Bowyer

04 October 2017


Have you ever had the sense of being overwhelmed with your work? Reaching the point where positive stress turns into negative, demotivating stress? The point where your health starts to suffer, sleepless nights increase and the quality of your work and relationships starts to decrease? Have you ever felt burnt out?

The eagle-eyed amongst you will recognise that these are the same words I used to start a short article on burn-out.  But this time, let’s focus on the opposite of burn-out: resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back - not only in the short term, but through sustained periods of stress. And coaching can help to develop that ability. Resilience is strengthened by three things: control, commitment and a challenge mentality.

When our sense of being in control is threatened, coaching helps us to recognise where we have control and influence (see Covey’s circle of concern). In coaching we can explore what can be changed and what cannot; what decision-making power we have and how best to use it. We may not, for example, control all of the policies that influence a budgeting round, but have choices about how we argue our case and about which areas require the most attention.

When our sense of commitment to a task or organisation is under fire, coaching can help us to review the purpose of our work and the underpinning values. We can review the extent to which our values are being respected and we can develop strategies to build commitment; sometimes by challenging the status quo, sometimes by seeing the bigger picture and sometimes by changing our tasks to find a better fit. Reminding ourselves of the link between our own work and the patient experience can refresh our commitment to the current task.

The way we respond to problems is the third area to consider in developing our resilience. Do we need to shift from a victim mentality to a problem-solving mentality?  Can we see that extra task (the one that threatens to break the camel’s back) as an opportunity rather than a burden? Coaching can help us raise our awareness of our thought patterns and start to change them; to move from seeing problems as negative burdens to challenges with promise and potential. Again, revisiting the connection to patients and communities can help us switch our mindset to one where we look for new ways to make a difference. 

I know much of this is easier said than done, but a conversation with a coach may be the thing which moves you into a positive, resourceful and sustainable direction of travel that enables you to build and maintain your resilience.