How To Make Resilience Work For Your Coaching Clients

How To Make Resilience Work For Your Coaching Clients

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Resilience is an oft-used word these days and is enroute to becoming a true “buzzword.” In my thinking, it’s nearing “pivot” in my lexicon of words-I-may-never-want-to-hear-again. However, resilience is too important for your clients to allow it to be relegated away. The world is going to continue to be overwhelming, confusing, and chaotic.

My solution for coaches: keep resilience practical. How do you help clients turn the concept of resilience into something that actually creates improvement and impact in their life and work? Some clients try meditation or movement or a number of other techniques but find limited success. So, what will make resilience a sustainable presence for them?

In my experience, there are three concurrent elements that the client must integrate for resilience to be present in a meaningful way. I call it the “Resilience Triangle” (and no, it’s not found off the coast of Bermuda). The Resilience Triangle comprises Mindset + Energy + Action. It’s like a three-legged stool. Lacking even one leg, the whole stool won’t stand firm.

MIND THE MINDSET As we know from the neuroscience research, thinking shapes reality. So, the client’s perceptions, beliefs, expectations, and assumptions set the stage for how resilient the client’s mind is prepared to be. First off, so many clients think of resilience as “bouncing back,” as if things will go back to the way they were before. Picture a marshmallow you squeeze and release.

It’s comforting, but unlikely. I prefer to invite the client to think of it as “bouncing forward” to a new place. I ask them, “What is the ‘new normal’ you’d like your resilience to bring you to?” and see where they go with it. Sometimes the follow-up is, “If not that, what other possibilities might there be?” to expand their awareness. What are your client’s perceptions of the situation? Ask them, “How would you describe the situation you are facing?”

Are they seeing the whole picture, or might they benefit from exploring what they aren’t seeing? What are they believing to be true about the situation? How does that perception support them in moving in a direction that works (or not)? Expectations are just predictions of the future and clients are sometimes focused on a single expected outcome, sometimes to their detriment. Sometimes they say, “The only way this will work is for me to just power through it.”

Ask them, “If you were to apply the option you just described, what would you expect the outcome to be?” Sometimes you find they are too narrowly focused on one strategy or anticipating a negative experience that is prematurely precluding the options that might be their better, more effective choices. Ask, “What gives you confidence that is the only option?” Perhaps the biggest challenge for our clients (and perhaps the biggest opportunity) is identifying where they are making assumptions. Clients often presuppose that two thoughts must inseparably go together.

For example, “The team will start working together better when we are all in the same room,” or, “When we go back to meeting in person, we will waste time talking about the same chatty, non-work things as before.” These are linked in the client’s mind but not necessarily destined to happen. Conversely, two thoughts might never be able to be true at the same time in the client’s mind, such as, “If I were to take the time for some self-care, my work will never get done.”

The Resilience Triangle comprises Mindset + Energy + Action. It’s like a three-legged stool. Lacking even one leg, the whole stool won’t stand firm.

Breaking these perceived assumed truths can move the client from stuck to resolution. Ask, “Is it true that there are no other possible outcomes? What could they be?” You can help the client break their mental logjam.


Often; the stress of rapid and unexpected change drains the client of energy. Yet that very energy is what is needed to be active in thinking creatively, addressing challenges, and moving in a new direction. So, how can you help your client charge their battery and make choices that can keep it charged going forward? The answer is working with the client’s Core Needs.

Core Needs are the 8-20 types of experiences that energize, engage, satisfy and fulfil the client in their work and personal life. These include experiences like achievement, connection, teamwork, accomplishment, learning, doing important work, being part of something bigger, and the like. We all have our unique combination of these, and must have these experiences from time to time to give us energy. Think of them as the fuel tanks that power your client around.

Enter the pandemic. Suddenly the ways that many people were getting their Core Needs met where no longer possible. Not to mention, being cooped up with the kids and working from home likely drained some tanks bone dry. For those to whom connection, collaboration, trust and partnership are important, the virtual environment has made those Core Needs all but impossible.

Perhaps you have experienced this for yourself. To build back energy (and provide the “oomph” needed to be resilient), help your client understand their personal set of Core Needs. Then, help them find new activities they can do that provide the same energy boost even with the constraints of the hybrid workplace or changing life conditions. To discern their Core Needs, ask them:

  • “Think about a great work experience you have had in your current organization or with a past employer. What was important to you about your work in that situation?
  • “When you look back on a day (or week), what are things you consider positive or exciting?”
  • “What aspects of your work give you the most satisfaction?”
  • “What is important to you about how you and your colleagues work together? What is important about how you and your manager work together?”
  • “If there were one thing you would change for the better about your job (or life), what would it be? Why?”

Or, use Core Needs assessment and coaching tools to help you give your clients access to the energy that motivates, engages, excites and fulfils them. Once identified, help them see possibilities for filling up their empty fuel tanks. Resilience requires change. Change takes energy. Core Needs supply the energy for resilience.

ACTION ACTIVATES RESILIENCE – While having a resilient mindset and tons of energy are great, very little will improve if your client doesn’t take action. There are resilience-friendly skills and behaviours your client can practice to make a difference for themselves. Help your client take action by:

Reframing – Reframe the thinking that doesn’t help them find solutions and make changes. Reinforcing – Help them find a way to affirm those new thoughts daily until they become second nature (plan for this to take a while).

Pausing – In that moment of overwhelm where the “new abnormal” seems a bit too much, help them gain the ability to pause, breathe, re-orient and re-focus.

Practicing Calm – Help the client begin or expand whatever practices connect them to their body and into a resourceful state of mind.

Energizing – Invite intentional actions that fill up their Core Needs tanks.

Active Self-care – Help them identify small, easy to implement ways to take care of themselves – the “put your mask on first” effect.

Asking for Help Asking for Help – Many clients try to go it alone thinking they will be perceived badly if they ask for needed help.

Planning – Support your client in building a game plan or roadmap for getting to the client’s next objective. These are the behaviours that foster resilience. Encourage your client to get some practice at the skills needed. Suggest action learning assignments that allow the client to experiment, learn and build their capacity for resilience.

TRIANGULATE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW As you can see from the ideas presented here, resilience may have eluded some of your clients because they haven’t put all the pieces in place to practice resilience in their work and personal life. As their coach, you are uniquely positioned to help them see what they cannot, address the hidden thinking that impacts their mindset, find the energy to support change, and combine these with action to sustain the resilience they need to handle the challenges they encounter.