Employees are tired. Stressed. Languishing. They’re struggling to be their best, most productive selves at work. They lack the wellbeing needed to feel good, and the competence and confidence that allows them to function well. Workplace initiatives focus on employee development abound, and mental health continues to make its way to the forefront of organizational campaigns. However, those workplace initiatives are broad strokes, and the mental health benefits in place are reactionary, provided only after the issue has shifted from acute to severe. The services available address the condition, not the person, and are utilized only after a critical threshold has been met.
More than 65% of employees identify work as a significant source of stress. Research shows that low levels of stress and burnout, when left untreated, can snowball into something more serious. From an organizational perspective, high stress can impact the bottom line. Those experiencing stress exhibit greater presenteeism (e.g., being present at work but not performing), absenteeism, turnover, and disability leave.
What if we could target mental health before it becomes a problem?
Professional coaching has historically served as a luxury benefit, available only to top executives. In recent years, our society has seen a shift in the coaching industry, with an acceleration of broadening the scope of coaching from the c-suite down throughout the organization. It is quickly growing as a workplace intervention that serves to improve both the productivity and the wellbeing of employees.
Coaching serves as a multifaceted tool to improve the lives of workers across a broad spectrum of needs, helping individuals to improve their self-awareness, clarify their goals for development, enhance workplace skills, and reach greater potential. Among these needs are the components of wellbeing that, when caught early, can prevent a more serious mental health crisis from occurring, helping employees avoid the need for private mental health services that can be expensive and hard to acquire.
Licensed therapists and psychologists are trained to treat people across the mental health spectrum, from preventative to clinical needs, but may be unavailable when needed. The American Psychological Association estimates there are only 34 licensed psychologists per 100,000 people in the United States, and over 115 million Americans live in an area with a shortage of licensed therapists. At the same time, companies may offer EAPs, which provide therapy to employees, but utilization is low, historically hovering below 10 percent, and due to the therapist shortage, people may struggle to get an appointment. Meanwhile, there are thousands of certified professional coaches in the United States alone who can provide evidence-based interventions for clients experiencing symptoms of anxiety, stress, or burnout, who have not yet hit a clinical diagnosis, and prevent them from reaching such an apex.
Coaching is a preventative mental health solution that promotes individuals’ abilities to improve wellbeing and productivity while proactively mitigating negative mental health challenges. We know that wellbeing and productivity are intricately connected, and both are needed to be successful. We also know that when people are equipped with the tools and coping mechanisms needed for the ever changing work environment, they are more resilient and adaptable, can better manage their emotions, and are more likely to overcome challenges that appear in their paths. Coaching is the intersection of productivity, wellbeing, and developmental growth.
Coaching is a one-size-fits-one solution. Professional coaches are trained individuals with the skills and abilities to guide individuals toward career success. Using a specific set of tools, such as powerful questions, coaches help create awareness, develop goals, and co-create solutions with members that specifically address their unique needs. They also serve as accountability partners, helping to support and guide their clients throughout the transformational coaching process.
“As an ICF certified coach, having worked with hundreds of C-suite executives and the teams that support them, I know first-hand the challenges organizations face regardless of size, and the need they have, knowingly or unknowingly, for tools to effectively and efficiently overcome their toughest challenges— ensuring people retention and creating a harmonious balance of productivity and wellbeing across all teams.” - Kelvin Thomas, MBA, PCC, CPC, NLP - Director of Coaching Experience, LeggUP. “I often tell organizational leaders and HR professionals that if you want to create a high-performing team, while increasing wellbeing (a duo once unheard of in the business world), I advise that they bring scalable professional coaching into their benefits offerings.”
Self-awareness, or knowing yourself and how others see you, is a fundamental skill for all employees as it directly impacts work performance and leadership skills. Considered a soft skill, it’s nonetheless critical for workplace success. However, being self-aware is more challenging than people think. While most people believe themselves to be self-aware, only 10-15% of people truly fit the criteria. Despite our best intentions to see ourselves clearly, we often have blind spots. Coaching helps to overcome these blind spots and reach greater levels of success.
Certified professional coaches ask powerful questions that help individuals dig deeper into self-reflection and gain greater insights into what prompts their thinking and behaviors. They serve as a sounding board for working through past experiences and building greater understanding of what mindsets, habits, and beliefs a person holds that help and hinder their performance. Throughout this self-discovery, individuals may learn what prompts situations or feelings that cause them to experience stress, frustration, and burnout, while also discovering what motivates them in their work. With a coaching emphasis on self-awareness, individuals may uncover workplace characteristics impacting their mental health and begin taking steps to adjust their environment before hitting a threshold of a mental health diagnosis.
Goal setting is important for anyone wishing to make a change, whether regarding their professional development or mental health. While setting goals may sound easy, developing effective goals can be challenging. For many individuals, not knowing the best practices for goal setting often leads to failure. Working with a coach can help individuals learn techniques for effective goal setting that sets a roadmap for success. In fact, in only 3-4 months of professional coaching with LeggUP, called Talent Insurance, individuals have improved up to 63% in their goal setting capabilities. Additionally, goal setting can help manage stress by providing a clear direction and specific action steps needed to achieve the desired outcome.
Perhaps the key to the success observed through coaching lies in the accountability and support a coach provides. When engaging in coaching, you have someone in your corner to help guide and support you as you work through challenges. Coaching is not a one-off process; rather, it is a sustained series of interactions that helps uncover new insights and implement new learnings across the duration of the coaching engagement. As individuals improve their self-awareness and determine new steps forward, their coach is with them along the way to help reflect on how their new efforts are working, the outcomes being achieved, and additional behavioral changes that would benefit the individual. Coaches are your cheerleader in going after your goals and help develop your growth mindset by validating the time and effort they see you putting toward your development.
Coaching has shown to help people improve their self-awareness and successfully achieve their goals. It also has positive impacts on mental health, reducing psychological distress and burnout while improving overall job and life satisfaction. While coaches may not hold clinical licensure, and therefore would be inappropriate replacements for licensed therapists when critical mental health issues arise, they are effective at guiding individuals through behavior change that can mitigate low-level stressors from developing into a more serious condition.
“The art of creating and asking powerful questions is a practice that coaches must master to uncover and unlock new pathways of thoughts, new perspectives, and new possibilities for clients. In the US and at most companies, we tried to master the art of providing the "right" answer, which has led to a decrease in active listening when engaging with others and causes us to unconsciously judge the message and the messenger. Because of this, we miss valuable information that could be the difference between success or failure. As a coach asking powerful questions along with intuitive listening allows us to get to the root of the challenge a client is facing and begin the process of creating new pathways to success and wellbeing,” Thomas said.
Whether referring to “motivational interviewing” in the world of therapy, or “powerful questioning” in the world of coaching, the underpinnings remain the same— seek to understand, validate, and develop action steps for moving forward. If you’re working toward performance, development, or mental health goals, professional coaching can help you move further along in your journey.
Want to learn more about equipping your team with professional development and preventative mental health solutions?
“Finding the right coach can be complex and even challenging for many organizations. I found that those in charge of people development have typically tapped one coach to manage the entire executive team leaving the rest of the organization without the support they so desperately need,” Thomas said. “At LeggUP, we’ve taken the guesswork out of finding the right coach by creating a comprehensive network of coaches in over 20 different countries, speaking over 11 different languages. Our network of coaches comes with deep industry expertise, are ICF certified, trained in the LeggUP coaching approach, can help members unlock potential once untapped, identify the challenges and blind spots they face, and quickly enable them along the path to even greater success.”