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Coach yourself to wellness by Alison Reid

By Alison Reid

In the midst of the tumultuous events of 2020, virtual coaching emerged as a popular means of achieving personal and professional wellbeing.

Coaching offers guidance for those wanting to live in holistically healthy ways, and is focused on optimising meaning and potential in the unique context of a person’s life and experience.

There are two ways of viewing wellness. The first is ‘below-zero wellness’, which directs us to focus on areas of our lives that are not serving us. To unearth these issues, we ask: “What is wrong?”, “What is missing?” and “What needs to be fixed?” Below-zero wellness serves to bring the person to a point of ‘normal’ physical, mental and emotional health.

This is vital work, but it is about survival rather than potential and purpose. Coaching extends beyond coping mechanisms to help individuals surpass the boundaries of so-called ‘normal’. As individuals and leaders, we should all be striving for the second type of wellness, known as ‘above-zero’ or optimal wellness. It is in this space that we really start to see people thrive.

In recent times, coaching has come to focus on both sub-zero and above-zero wellness. It’s been used to help people with coping mechanisms; work-life balance; and resilience in the face of the pressures resulting from the pandemic, a weak economy and global political uncertainty. But when coaching ramps up to the optimal level, it truly starts to guide people towards fulfilment, purpose and meaning – no matter what their circumstances.

As we push through the complexities of a changing world, you may well wonder whether the focus on optimal wellness is really that important. The answer is a resounding yes.

In this fast-evolving world, people need to be highly motivated and adaptable if they hope to succeed. Experience has shown us that people who feel that they
have purpose, potential, autonomy and mastery are motivated to succeed, and are generally happier. Conversely, those who lack motivation and feel limited in their own abilities tend to struggle and fall behind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many leaders struggle on a variety of levels. Not only have these individuals battled with stress and change in their own lives, but they have also had to reinvent themselves as leaders to better serve the people who look to them for support and reassurance. In this context, coaching can really support with tools for resilience, stress management and change management, helping people to hone in on and understand their priorities. It is precisely in times of crisis that leaders also need to think more creatively and be more strategic as they steward their businesses and people through the crisis. This means calling on deeper capacities and being extraordinary, which is what coaching is all about.

With everything happening so fast, conversations around new leadership capabilities have been sorely lacking. It is in individual and group coaching sessions that
people are able to make better sense of a rapidly changing world, realise that they are not alone, and find their unique ways of both surviving and thriving.

Naturally, coaching has had to adapt to social distancing and work-from-home realities, which has resulted in a boom in online coaching. Virtual coaching has been around for many years, as proficient and experienced coaches tend to have a global client base, but digital platforms have now become ubiquitous. The online transition has been largely seamless, and has given rise to a number of benefits.

There are the obvious ones, such as online coaching crossing global borders, reaching more people and saving costs, since the likes of office rentals and transport can be removed from the equation. It also saves time, as clients are not spending hours in traffic to get to and from coaching sessions. But it is the less obvious benefits that are crucial. 

Online coaching gives clients access to their coaches on their terms - when and how they need them: on-demand and just-in-time. Coaching is about flexibility and working with clients in a way that suits the client. For example, if a client has a board meeting, they can schedule a quick ideas session with the coach beforehand. While presence and connection are vital ingredients in coaching, some coaches find that there are fewer distractions with online coaching, which means that participants are getting more value from the sessions. Where you might expect less of a personal connection online, some coaches report that coaching
individuals in their home settings actually allows them to be more fully themselves in a way that is even more personal and ‘real’.

While nothing can quite replace personal interaction, online coaching affords clients the chance to have more frequent and relevant sessions as, when, and where they need them. It allows us to flip the coaching relationship from ‘going for scheduled coaching sessions’ to ‘having a thinking partner and learning companion’.

As we navigate our lives in the new year, it’s worth considering coaching as a way of boosting the life skills needed to enjoy truly holistic wellbeing in a rapidly changing world.

Alison Reid is the Director of Personal and Applied Learning at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). The University of Pretoria’s business school, GIBS offers coaching and facilitation courses for all levels of
management. The institution also boasts a leading overall online offering, with GIBS Online making a number of internationally-accredited executive development short courses available at the click of a button.

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