To do otherwise I feel, would be negligent considering the working world of 2022 – and might put my clients’ long term career success and happiness at risk.
Perhaps this shift of wellbeing up the coaching agenda, doesn’t feel such a surprising development considering how professional and managerial work has changed in the last ten years. Change is now the only constant due to new technologies, globalisation, political issues like Brexit and most recently Covid and the widespread adoption of working from home and hybrid working. Executives are continually dealing with high levels of volatility, uncertainty, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) aspects to their projects. As a result, senior executives may gradually slide into ways of working that are unhealthy, damaging to mental health and ultimately unsustainable.
Executive Wellbeing is More than Avoiding Burnout
However, poor wellbeing manifests in many ways long before burnout. I’m talking about clients who frequently sleep badly or who have poor sleep habits, feel anxiety about their workload, or overwhelm and stress about the pressure their under. Others share feelings of isolation due to home-working or conflict in key relationships with bosses and subordinates. Under the wellbeing banner, I would also include feelings of lack of meaning and purpose.
Isn’t executive wellbeing part of the ‘corporate wellbeing’ agenda? Something that employers are attending to? Well yes and no. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)2 research shows that wellbeing is high on business agendas these days, but there is a significant ‘implementation gap’. It seems that while boards are wrestling with the corporate wellbeing issue and perhaps piloting programmes, staff wellbeing and executive wellbeing which is my particular focus, continue to deteriorate.
Executive Wellbeing is a No-Brainer
Coachees are realising the importance of managing their wellbeing and are prepared to invest to improve it. For many it’s a no-brainer. “If I stay fit and well then, I will have a long, lucrative and fulfilling career ahead of me. By contrast If I burnout, I may end up taking a lot of time out and my card might be marked”. (Yes, stigma around mental health still exists.)
For me executive wellbeing coaching helps with so much more than ‘preventing burnout’. Like any executive coaching it is an opportunity for you to gain greater self-awareness, increase your self-knowledge, gain insights and replace outdated beliefs with beliefs that are more helpful to your life now. Executive wellbeing coaching can help you actually break patterns of self-destructive behaviour. E.g. You know you need to leave your desk, get out and take some fresh air, but still, you feel chained to your desk. Often, it’s not enough to cognitively be aware of the benefits of taking a walk, you may also need to understand and deal with the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that might be keeping you at your desk; behaviours that perhaps might be driven by low self-esteem, perfectionism or fear of failure to mention but a few reasons.
Some of this may be attributable to the fact that nowadays it can be hard for line managers to identify wellbeing issues. For instance, in matrix organisations a line manager may not have clear sight of their report’s total responsibilities as he or she may be collaborating on projects across the organisation and reporting to different leaders on some of them. A boss may only see a report on Zoom, and infrequently at that, making it harder to spot signs of poor wellbeing.
Senior Executives Need to Take Responsibility for Their Wellbeing
This is where your executive coach can help. Executive coaches can also help you to take remedial action when your wellbeing might have gone awry.
Executive Wellbeing Audits Can Help
Executive coaching for peak wellbeing ideally explores what wellbeing looks like for the individual. This might include an audit of current issues, health status and self-care practices. Such an audit can identify latent mental health issues and pave the way to plan for better wellbeing and to access relevant resources.
Following the audit an executive wellbeing coach might help you to:-
¹ HSE Data Dec 2021. Work-Related Stress , Anxiety or Depression Statistics in Great Britain.
2 CIPD June 2016. Growing the Health and Wellbeing Agenda
© 2022 Trudy Lloyd & Associates. All Rights Reserved.
collaborate, the soaring absence-rate and how you struggle to retain talent.
You know what you’re doing isn’t working.
I ask you what you’d like to do differently, and you fall silent. It’s a treadmill you say and you can’t change it. Your teams are exhausted, but you push them on because the CEO screams that the share price has tanked and the sales pipeline is weak.
I ask again what you’d like to do differently, and frustrated, you say flippantly "give my teams a break! A rest".
And I see the sadness in your eyes, and your exhaustion. “Maybe that’s what you need too...”
We Need New Ways to Lead
You shake your head, even the HR director simply urged you to tighten up on performance management and employ disciplinary processes if need be. You sigh. “No one sees… no one sees…”
“What don’t they see?”
“That we’re destroying it all; our reputation, our customer relationships; with poor service and after-care, and our people… We drive them like machines!”
You exhale, and you’re feeling the folly of it all.
And then you smile ruefully, and together we’re contemplating those two opposing forces in life and business. The ‘force for change’, some call will; to set goals and targets, take action, persist, achieve and shape the competitive environment. And opposing it the ‘force for acceptance’, some call love; to empathise with people and care for them, bring them together and to accept current reality in all its complexity.
We sit silently, feeling the tension between those forces and the awesome task to harmonise them and make business sustainable.
You shake your head, and say you don’t know where to start.
Leadership Requires Your Take Risks
And yet we make a plan, just baby steps, to begin to shift the balance in your division between achieving business targets and nurturing people and relationships.
And when you return you say it hasn’t been easy, but you’re now acknowledging what people have done instead of simply focusing on what’s next. You’re listening actively and engaging with your colleagues concerns rather than downplaying them. You’ve even championed people getting away from their desks at lunchtime!
But there’s pushback. Your higher–ups claim you’re losing your grip. They’re bringing forward the deadline for your division’s business plan so as to have it completed by the time the top team visit. You sigh, everyone will have to work late nights to achieve that!
You shrug and I feel how it hurts you to consider reneging on the ‘better way’ you’ve promised your teams.
And then I see your nascent leader emerging, and your passion, to make your division a place where you deliver results AND care for your people.
Leaders Need to Speak Up and Speak Out
We imagine how you might inspire them to consider change,and develop your negotiation strategy to get the deadline pushed back, including your red lines. We also work with what holds you back.
And as you leave, you smile and say you’ll give it your best shot, but the important thing was deciding.
“To listen to the voice inside, and to speak up and; change or no change, choosing to speak out.
And my heart sings at the leader you’re becoming.
© 2019 Trudy Lloyd & Associates. All Rights Reserved.
You work on your skill set, right?
Of course. It’s a must for you as a 21st century professional; to keep up with your field, with work technologies and relevant legislation. …So when did you last upgrade your skills in handling the pressure at work?
Professionals often tell me that earlier in their career they might have experienced short bursts of high-intensity working, but then things always quietened down again. However, now they feel the pressure at work is relentless.
Such pressure left unchecked can lead to workplace stress and wreak havoc on health; weakening the immune system, upsetting the digestion, disturbing sleep and more. Stress can damage relationships inside and outside of work, making people feel miserable and no longer able to enjoy life.
How Can I Combat Workplace Stress?
Clients struggling to cope with workplace stress, often ask me if they should leave their role or change career. I tell them : “You have three choices – and leaving to find pastures new is only one of them”.
Here are the other two options.
Explore with your boss or colleagues options to reduce pressure and combat stress; these might include deferring deadlines, getting access to extra resource from inside or outside the organisation, doing some work from home and cutting back on the scope of a project. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can and try to make a case.
And yes, I’m aware that speaking out at work about how you’re experiencing pressure and even stress may carry risks as to how you’re perceived, and may even affect your career progression. However, if your current job with less pressure would still suit you, then maybe it’s worth a try?
How to Grow your Capability to Handle Workplace Pressure and Stress.
Ultimately though, option two may be more fruitful: Change yourself. This means growing your capability to handle the pressure at work.
I imagine you’re already familiar with what I call ‘Level One’ stress management techniques. They include ‘self-care basics’. However, it’s easy to break these positive habits when we’re under pressure.
Advanced Techniques to Handle Workplace Pressure and Stress.
OK, but what if you’re still feeling the pressure? That’s where what I call ‘Level Two’ techniques come in.
‘Level Two’ techniques can bring about a step change in how you manage pressure and stress at work. E.g. They’ll enable you to ‘get away’ from work when you’re not there, so that you’re not recreating your 'stress response', and the attendant risks to your health, by thinking about work at home. You may need to work at mastering these techniques, but if you’ll do, you’ll reap huge quality of life rewards.
Here's a brief introduction.
Are You Too Attached to 'The Outcome'?
Are You 'Too Identified' With Your Role?
Handling pressure and avoiding stress is a key life skill in the 21st century. Perhaps it’s the MOST important professional skill - because it’s fundamental to your ability to keep on working and to enjoy your work!
If you'd like to learn more about advanced techniques for handling pressure and stress you may want to consider personalised stress management coaching as an investment in your career and wellbeing for the long term.
How have you learned to handle pressure? Share what's worked for you in the comments below!
I believe that everyone should enjoy meaningful, satisfying and rewarding work - work that fires you up! I am fascinated by human potential and the life journeys people make to find work and careers where they can channel and develop their skills and talents in meaningful and satisfying ways.