We have established that we are concerned with behaviour change and that means corresponding changes in the brain. So too we have established that the body and brain are interdependent and that all inputs into the body and mind are relevant to the success of the changes people wish to bring about.
To further challenge the thinking that health is an add on speciality within coaching, a nice to have but not essential, we can consider the fact that we are being impacted in our executive coaching practice by all the inputs whether we chose to make that explicit in our coaching practice or not!
No one I have coached has proved that they are able to completely transcend their biological existence. What you eat for breakfast, how you sleep, how you feel about your relationships, how you drink, what you drink, how you think about your physical and mental life, all this is going on for all of us who are alive. And all this activity is constantly impacting on present time. We have rhythms, go up and down during a day. We can focus better at some times than others, respond and deal with stress better some days and worse others. In short we are like a boat upon a sea looking to sail to a destination. There are a myriad of things that we require to get us where we are going. When we sit down to coach a person we are entering into their world and all the inputs of their world are there, doing something. If we only hold a coaching space around part of their world, leave parts at the door then we only part of the picture is visible. Include it all and we have a better opportunity to develop the change being looked for.
Once we have taken the decision to encourage all inputs to be taken into the coaching relationship, then we are improving our opportunities to develop our coaching effectiveness and add new speciality to our coaching offering.
We can see health then on a continuum from wellness to recovery and treatment as in the diagram below. Along this time continuum (left to right), people can move to different levels on the continuum (top to bottom).
Usually people don’t have the opportunity to scrutinise where they feel or think they are on a continuum such as this. It is helpful when they can and do as it helps them develop an understanding of the need to build on an existing solid foundation in one aspect of their lives whilst at the same time being able to possibly see they would benefit from a recovery focussed approach in another area of their lives. People often say they are in one place on the diagram in respect to one aspect of their lives, ie they feel well in some ways but they feel that in other ways they are more in the recovery zone. This is important information that can get incorporated into the coaching.
Sometimes people need a recovery focus for their situation, sometimes they wish to improve their wellness. They may find they need treatment and then a subsequent recovery. If a coach has incorporated their clients health into their coaching practice then they are already situated to coach their clients within a recovery context either with or without a treatment component.
Coaches, of course, get to choose where they wish to work and most executive coaching takes place with our clients in the wellness zone. In this zone mental and physical health inputs are not normally considered important to the coaching relationship although I hope by now we can see that they are. How we work with clients in the zones depends on the coaches understanding of the issues at stake in the zones and where emphasis might be placed. Meeting the client where they are and responding appropriately is crucial. Coaches can shy away from issues related to mental and physical health when they have not been part of the normal coaching contract and design. It can be a challenging shift and lurking at the back of our minds can be the implicit bias mentioned earlier in this blog series. Much of the ambition of the Executive Coaching and Health programme is to improve executive coaches understanding and confidence in engaging with clients across all the zones in the diagram.
The main reason why we would want to bring health into executive coaching practice is to inspire and support our clients to be more curious in how they function and perform. The integrative approach is for the clients benefit first and foremost. We hope they will become interested in how their brain works and how they can change it. That they will easily understand the logic of being able to look at all the ways the change they are looking for may be be made easier and more successful as well as looking at what might be getting in the way.
Finally, including health into into executive coaching practice does not make a coach a medical professional. Neither does it make them an expert on nutrition or exercise or other aspect of health. It certainly does not equip them to give advice on health matters. That can be done if they are a trained professional in another discipline but then that would not be coaching.
What including health does do for the coach in our programme is to broaden their knowledge of the relationship between a person's change process and their change objective. It builds on existing skills and adds new ones that increase range and confidence especially when confronted with behavioural health challenges.
Previous articles in series include:
AoEC are running in parnership with the Foundation for Recovery and Wellness Coaching International (FRC) the Executive Coaching and Health: Coaching Skills for Wellness, Recovery & Performance 3 Part programme.