The Benefits of Resilience Coaching for Senior Leaders

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There are many benefits of resilience coaching, and it can be especially important for senior leaders to build resilience in their leadership.

Two different resilience coaching clients had deep issues around identity, values and beliefs that were showing up in their leadership, and they needed to build their workplace resilience. One of our accredited resilience coaches worked with them to address this.

Both clients were experiencing a new, higher level of exposure in their senior leadership positions. They had previously climbed their respective corporate ladders in a way that was stretching, but had been essentially safe. 

In their initial resilience coaching sessions, both clients’ leadership styles were put under scrutiny in a new context, and fell short, leaving them both rocked. Despite both of these clients experiencing the same issues in their leadership and resilience, a different approach was needed for each because of the start point of their resilience levels.

Examples of the Benefits of Resilience Coaching for Senior Leaders: Client A  

Client A was a senior operational leader, who had come up through the ranks, and had always been about delivering turnaround and distinct stretch in their area. Client A had a phenomenal track record of taking progressively more areas under their belt and delivering sustainable high performance. Our resilience coach met them when they had been suddenly reassigned into a problem area, at the same time as a restructure of their original business division. 

Issues In Leadership Resilience

As a result of the reassignment, Client A lost all their staff, all their normal areas of control, all influence on how the new structure should be managed – everything.  On top of that, they had no idea how to approach their new problem area. There was no defined goal, little clarity, no direct control and lots of stakeholders jostling for power. The client was daunted and overwhelmed. Meanwhile they were hijacked by why this whole situation had arisen: the reason for the transfer was unclear but the client cited any of the following as possible:

  • The problem area needed this vast experience and confidence, and since the issue was at the CEO level, the client’s boss has put their best person on the job. This would mean it was an accolade. 
  • The client had displeased a senior colleague and was being moved into a smaller (even though currently more critical) area. This would mean it was a punishment. 
  • The client had gotten so good at leading and managing their area, that there was little room for growth of their next best people unless they moved on. The client just couldn’t see that, so a forced move would leave others to backfill and grow. This would mean that the client was stifling team growth and individuals coming into leadership. A serious problem! 

Our resilience coach couldn’t assume any of these as true or untrue. They noted the polar opposites, the negatives and especially the energy associated with pleasing others in the client’s description. Our coach then used this ‘data’ to understand that Client A’s workplace resilience was affected by: 

  • Their confidence being rocked
  • Feeling lost in a new job and being cognitively stuck 
  • Suffering from multiple losses: clarity of remit, sense of team, responsibility for staff, their authority
  • Feeling angry and upset. They had already applied for a job elsewhere which would mean uprooting themself from a home they had built and loved. It didn’t seem like the right answer.

Pretty mega stuff for a first resilience coaching session! 

Resilience Coaching Approach:

Our resilience coach’s approach included an understanding that the client could still articulate their abilities, reflect, take challenge and not get stuck on one conclusion. The client was feeling rocked in this context, but not rocked at their core – they knew they could perform well given the right conditions. 

Our coach trusted this, and used this information to build Client A’s resilience in leadership. Whilst still gentle, they did not hold back in unpacking the whole situation. This helped the client to reframe and find positives. They were able to laugh when they noticed their – annoying but true – drivers of wanting to please. It was also clear Client A was a cognitive learner, and needed to understand the whole picture, which created a shift. The whole picture was big, it included the potential drivers of needing to please at the heart of Client A’s success to date and how this then hijacked their resilience in this new situation. The resilience coaching work was shaped to unlock this.

The Benefits of Resilience Coaching for Client A:

As a result of the resilience coaching, Client A felt relieved, clear and had a plan. They were ready to consider how to raise their Resilience River© practically. The resilience coaching was extensive; getting right to the jugular, but without being too heavy, intense or over-exacting. This suited the client’s learning style and most of all it suited their resilience: their capacity for change. 

The work of a resilience coach is recognising how resourceful the client is in the moment whilst they cope (or not cope) with an issue that has knocked them back, or left them feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. Resilience coaching helps people to reconnect with their resourcefulness and to work from that point to build their personal resilience.  

Examples of the Benefits of Resilience Coaching for Senior Leaders: Client B

Client B is also a senior leader, fantastically clever, systemic in their thinking, and was on the way up in their organisation, but their story is very different. They had recently presented an organisation-wide vision for a new way of doing business in one whole business sector. It crossed over many other areas, joining and leveraging them. Client B was granted the remit to lead this, but they were immediately up against other leaders who sat in positions of authority and controlled how business was done with suppliers and partners. 

Most of the resilience coaching work is enabling the client to understand options, work flexibly through how to influence, and how to establish their authority and credibility. But nothing worked against one particular leader who refused to engage, and actively undermined the new vision.

Issues in Leadership Resilience: 

Client B had a particularly difficult interaction with this other challenging leader. They wrote it all down and showed our resilience coach an email that they wished to send. It was full of wanting to please, capitulation, and did not affect any kind of leadership on the situation. 

In the initial resilience coaching session this email unravelled how Client B had no real idea of how to deal with people. They were intellectual in their approach with everything. They planned, decided and acted from the mind; cognitively driving any sense of mirroring or matching others. They had little bond with others. This was a major issue because bonding is the basis of secure based leadership, which is resilient leadership.

This resilience coaching revealed a massive truth about how it is that such a senior person can have ‘learnt how to act’ around people, without actually integrating this into who they are. Client B was detached from a part of themselves, and this detachment was a strategy they had learnt very young due to issues with their parental relationships.  

This was big – really big. 

Resilience Coaching Approach: 

Uncovering the reasoning behind the client’s detachment during this resilience coaching session enabled the client to join up who they were with how they lead (or struggled to lead.)  The client was overwhelmed and therefore not resourceful, while also feeling lost. The resilience coaching that took place thereafter was focused on the pragmatic, practical steps that Client B could take to make changes, using the NLP model Logical Levels of Change. Our coach contracted with the client that in the short term, all the beliefs, values and identity conflicts that were driving the results weren’t going to be the focus of the resilience coaching. They could wait, as change can happen in an easier way. As a result, the resilience coaching concentrated on skills.

The Benefits of Resilience Coaching for Client B:

The choice to focus on skills was because Client B was never fully resourceful as a result of their resilience level. This leader had been stuck in Bounceback for a long time – they were able to perform within a particular context, but unable to transfer out into a different context because of these underlying deep and personal issues. This was deep and potential therapeutical work; not coaching at all. Therefore the resilience coaching, whilst helping to name the issues, also directed the issues into something safe where they could be addressed.

Overall, resilience coaching can have huge impact in real life situations.

For our resilience coach, these were both extraordinary clients and extraordinary sessions, with very deep satisfaction of real, impactful and paced work. By starting from where each client was, our coach enabled them to see the benefits of resilience coaching through times of challenge. 

If you need to experience the benefits of resilience coaching for yourself, your team or your organisation, the Resilience Dynamic offers coaching solutions tailored to your needs. Contact us today to get started.

If you are an experienced coach looking to get involved in the impactful work of resilience coaching, apply to our Resilience Accreditation Programme. You’ll learn how to work with all resilience levels in the Resilience DynamicⓇ while integrating both performance and wellbeing in this 8-month programme, ICF accredited for 60 hours CCEU.

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Author: Jenny Campbell Founder and CEO of the Resilience Dynamic

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