While executive coaching can be an incredibly rewarding profession, challenging situations are bound to arise from time to time. You may be wondering: how do you overcome common coaching challenges? We offer this in-depth analysis of a coaching challenge and how you might solve it using the resilience lens based on our 15+ years of resilience research.

Example of a Coaching Challenge

Coaching Challenges: A senior client in your workshop is not coping

You are running a workshop aimed to help enable change, and have some exercises for participants to try out in small groups. Almost everyone stands up, gets into their groups, and goes off confidently. However, one person is still sitting alone and you sense something is wrong. You approach them kindly and ask how you can help. The participant starts to cry and explains that they are feeling really overwhelmed, on top of a number of other things.

You have 10 minutes left before the other participants are due back from their groups. How do you solve this coaching challenge?

The participant is a senior leader in this organisation. They are crying, and in a stuttering way, have explained that they feel overwhelmed. They have told you that although the subject of your workshop is important to them and their teams, they don’t think they can face talking about it all right now. They have shared many fragments of their story; both personal and work issues. You notice that this client is overwhelmed, embarrassed, and stuck on what to do. 

How can you help this participant be resourceful enough to make a good decision and make the right choice for themself between staying at this workshop or returning to work? And if they do choose to stay, how they might be able to continue with their day?

With this in mind, how are you also able to continue working with the other participants in an appropriate manner?

How To Overcome Coaching Challenges Using The Resilience Lens

Let’s look at this client and coaching challenge through the lens of the Resilience Dynamic’s research.1 

The client is a resourceful person with a senior role. You don’t get to these roles without being resourceful in a significant way!

However, the client is rendered unresourceful because of their stress reactions: fight or flight, or freeze or appease. In this case the client’s stress reaction is to freeze. By gaining an understanding of these latter two stress reactions, a resilience coach has more in their toolkit to help clients understand what the underlying problem might be. 

The clientdemonstrates stuckness, which has been going on for a while. The client is stuck in many ways – even physically stuck in their seat when asked to move into groups. This, plus the fragments of their story, highlights that they have been in Fragmentation2 for some time – a critical state of resilience depletion that demonstrates a strong risk of breakdown in the near future. 

The only way the client can become more resilient, and more healthy as a result, is to take time to recover their energy. The responsibility as a resilience coach is to offer that set of resilience insights clearly and kindly. This means no rescue, no reassurance, and no trying to make them feel okay enough to rejoin the group. Any Gestalt-trained coaches will know – recognising the ‘is-ness’ of a situation allows for the space to shift it.

Outcome Of Applying The Resilience Lens To This Coaching Challenge

Within 10 minutes, the client was able to recognise where their resilience was and they were grateful for the clarity of that understanding. As a result, they were able to rejoin the group for the remainder of the workshop.

In the days thereafter, the client also requested a leave of absence for time to recover. They became healthy and happy again in that period, and returned to the organisation with a refreshed set of priorities and work-life balance habits. No additional coaching was offered in that time – it was just those 10 minutes at the workshop, which turned out to be critical for that client’s wellbeing. 


1 – Resilience Dynamic Accredited Practitioners will use The Resilience Dynamic® and Resilience Engine® models, based on 15+ years of research, within their practice. These help the coach ‘co-diagnose’ the client’s resilience level, understand the implications of that level very specifically, to know the key enablers for the client for that level that can be acted on at that time. Whilst resilience is dynamic, pacing the coaching specifically according to the capacity of the client brings about immediate resilience increase. And since resilience enables increased wellbeing and performance, this is only a good thing. 

2 – Fragmentation is a state named and explained in the Resilience Dynamic® model: a map of what resilience is, and how it shifts. 


Author: Jenny Campbell Founder and CEO of the Resilience Dynamic

Follow Jenny on LinkedIn for more of her thoughts, resilience research, and ideas.