Break through the performance and wellbeing barrier through mindful coaching

Following Kate Mathers’ previous blog on ‘Mindfulness at the heart of coaching’, she now explores how mindfulness and coaching can increase performance and wellbeing in organisations.

“The Australian workforce is overwhelmed by high stress levels…
65% of employees report ‘moderate to high stress levels’
41% of employees have psychological distress levels considered to be ‘at risk’”
(University of Wollongong in partnership with WHAA: Workplace Health Association Australia, 2015).

Wellbeing is increasingly becoming a business imperative as auditors review various risks to their employees and ascertain that the employee’s mental health and wellbeing provides the greatest risk to their business. There are sobering statistics on workplace stress levels worldwide, and Australia is no different. From the above statistics alone, it is clear to see why our coaches’ coaching clients increasingly present as highly stressed individuals.

So how does mindfulness training help?

At IECL, we believe that any training that increases our coaches’ self-awareness, and ability to coach for self-awareness, will enhance their coaching for wellbeing and performance. The same is true of any training that improves self-regulation of emotional behaviour and increases resilience. Training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) fulfils both of these criteria. Indeed, mindfulness training is one of the most effective trainings worldwide for increasing levels of emotional intelligence.

As well as an awareness of the neuroscience behind stress and emotional self-regulation, and the significance of ‘approach’ behaviour towards the unpleasant, the concepts of self-compassion and self-kindness are also taught and explored in MBSR. At IECL we see it as ideal if a coach has a personal understanding and practice of this material in order to coach others in ways that will enhance their own personal wellbeing.

The subjects of inter-personal mindfulness and compassion are also introduced and explored in the latter weeks of the MBSR program. Compassion and interpersonal mindfulness help to build trust and intimacy with the client, so that the client can open up about what’s really important to them. Liz Hall, in her book Mindful Coaching, reports how Boyatzis and colleagues (2010) carried out research into how coaching counterparts react to ‘compassionate’ and ‘critical’ coaching approaches and the results showed that when coaches use a compassionate approach to explore clients’…‘desired positive visions’, the clients were more likely to learn and make behavioural changes. The study also revealed that in the brains of those coached by compassionate coaches, a week or so later the parts of their brain associated with visioning, a critical process for motivating learning and behavioural change, were ‘lit up’ or activated.

IECL’s Coaching Effectiveness Survey data shows that ‘increased wellbeing’ is the third most important and common benefit that counterparts receive from IECL coaching. From our recent coach Alumni conversations where we started an online discussion on ‘Wellbeing as a core element in IECL coaching’ our coaches have been sharing strategies to foster wellbeing for counterparts and their own personal mindfulness practice has been one of the items most often shared. There is an understanding that they need to walk their talk and be trained and educated in wellbeing strategies and both mindfulness and mindful self-compassion are evidence-based in this regard.

Does this ring true for you and your practice?

Kate Mathers is IECL’s Principal Mindfulness Trainer. She believes that offering coaches professional development programs of the depth and rigour of MBSR significantly furthers their ability to help prepare both themselves and their coaching clients to respond to the challenges outlined above in intentional, thoughtful and creative ways. Kate will be running a course on ‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Optimal Performance and Wellbeing’ in Sydney from October to December 2017. Sign up and earn 27 CCEUs for ICF Credentialling or Renewal Purposes.