Coaching for Resilience in a COVID-19 world

Naysan Firoozmand, Head of Global Executive Coaching at Hult Ashridge shares key insights into the importance of building resilient leaders in a COVID-19 world.

With the unavoidable influence of technology, the pressure to perform (self-imposed or external), and dramatic shifts in the economic, social, and environmental contexts, we rarely ‘switch off’. Our conscious, and our subconscious self, attends to matters well beyond what is considered healthy. In many organizations, long hour cultures and competition to get ahead puts more and more pressure on individuals. Stress-related absence is growing, and career burnout is a recognized phenomenon. Work-related stress, depression, or anxiety continues to represent a significant ill health condition around the world.

We are living through times of unprecedented global disruption and anxiety where one of the key challenges is to stay resilient in the face of anxiety and uncertainty. Leaders and workers at all levels in organizations are being called on to make smart decisions in uncertainty and collaborate effectively when working remotely.

Supporting the resilience and wellbeing of your leaders has many benefits – for them as individuals, as well as for their organization. Higher levels of wellbeing are known to be associated with decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury, better immune functioning, and increased longevity. Individuals with greater resilience are also known to be more productive at work and are more likely to contribute to their communities.

Our research shows that building resilience (it’s not a magic bullet, like physical fitness you have to work at it) is achieved through a combination of activities: mindfulness training, regular exercise, healthy eating, good quality sleep, and coaching, significantly increases your ability to stay resilient, to collaborate and to make better decisions in volatile, uncertain conditions.

Those who engage in these activities with the support of a coach to help make sense of all that is going on, to explore alternative ways of working, experience improved agility, perspective-taking, emotional control, and empathy. In particular, those who work with a coach are more likely to notice that things need to change, to focus on the causes, not just the symptoms of mental, emotional, and physical fatigue.

Our coaches support individuals to take stock of their personal resilience starting point (level, strengths, risks). Providing the opportunity to momentarily step back and look objectively at the causes of pressure, stress, uncertainly, and anxiety in a safe and unbiased environment; enabling our clients to navigate a new more resilient path. We do not advocate merely helping a person to ‘recover from stress’ so that they can blindly return to what they were doing before in the hope that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Resilience is not about ‘bouncing back’ assuming that things will be different next time. The coaching we provide takes into account the organizational context, the longer-term goals of the individual and the business, in order to provide the reflective space that leads our clients to explore new possibilities where they feel more confident, calmer, mindful, and deliberate.

Ultimately, the learning that takes place during (and after) moments of increased (sympathetic and parasympathetic) nervous response caused by anxiety, will only aid the individual if they can take the time to acknowledge the learning and adapt based on the insights they gain. By utilizing time with a coach to focus on their resilience they will become more adaptable and flexible both emotionally and cognitively in a positive and sustainable way.

Key takeaways for anyone interested in the merits of coaching for resilience should consider these facts:

  • Personal resilience is very individual, hence the development journey is also individual – this is why coaching works so well
  • It is not a trait – it can be strengthened or weakened over time, it changes through real-life experience
  • Context has a central role to play in both personal and team resilience
  • Team resilience is much more than the sum of the personal resilience of team members
  • Leaders’ style and approach have an important impact on the resilience of others
  • Strengthening personal and team resilience benefits wellbeing and performance.
naysan-fitzroomand

Naysan Firoozmand is Head of Global Executive Coaching at Hult Ashridge where he works with leaders in a very practical way, using his background in coaching, facilitation, and psychology to allow people he works with to try new techniques and gain in personal confidence to do things with greater skill.

Hult International Business School
Hult International Business School
Ashridge Executive Education