We are living in a time in which we are rethinking much of what we take for granted in our daily lives. The pandemic has sparked contradictory emotions, created uncertainty about the future and changed our ways of interacting with others. The measures of distancing which have been implemented to protect health in many countries worldwide, have dramatically altered our social interactions. In stressful and uncertain situations, people react intensely physiologically and psychologically. Most often we hear about the “fight or flight” response, but some of the pioneering work in health psychology by Shelly Taylor has also identified the “tend and befriend” response to stressful conditions, which refers to the tendency to affiliate with others, to help and support each other, when threatening circumstances arise. Our work on the impact of another recent disaster — hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — showed the deep sense of connection with others provoked by the shared trauma; the solidarity of a community surviving together and the empathy for the suffering of others.
Ironically, in the current situation of a threatening pandemic, the stay-in-place and quarantine measures in many ways block us from precisely these relational contacts and gatherings, which would be beneficial to our health in times of crisis. One of the first articles published on the mental health consequences of the pandemic was in early 2020 in the Lancet, and it spelled out the risks of quarantine. It recommended several ways to limit the impacts of isolation, one of which is to realize that it is an expression of altruism toward others. These days we do not shake hands, we have even stopped the elbow bumps, we avoid getting close to anyone outside, and see people rushing to the other side of the street when we pass each other on our brief daily walks. The masks we wear when in public hide our smiles. But we adjust — we greet each other in creative ways, we learn to notice how the eyes smile above the masks. We drop off meals on the porches of elderly neighbors, we offer our professional services and create neighborhood volunteer groups to protect and support the vulnerable people in communities.
We are being challenged to rethink the definition of what it means to be together and what unexplored options there are to connect — the creative ideas about celebrating together virtually and at a distance are abundant. People are also reflecting on the qualities they would like to see in their relationships. They are finding new depth in friendships and conversations. The physical separation, the existential questions provoked by the crisis, the time for reflection, have encouraged people to talk about what they find meaningful, how meaning has changed, and what most matters to now.
How can we nurture the supportive, fulfilling and resilience enhancing aspects of social relationships especially in the context of a crisis requiring social separation? How can we melt those barriers erected by the computer and plexiglass screens — at first eliminate them symbolically, and later dismantle them physically. And perhaps, we can take some of those changes in depth of dialogue, warmth of empathy, mindful listening, collaborative creations — which are now fostering meaningful relational worlds — into our lives as we move into post-pandemic times?
The resources we have chosen this month offer timely ideas for fostering relationships, dialogues and resilient communities, and discuss their implications for coaching. They can be relevant for deepening our own relationships, being in the dialog with coaching clients, and for supporting clients in exploring their relations worlds.
The health benefits of social support have been confirmed by health psychology over decades of research, which shows that social support is a buffer to stress and significantly increases life expectancy. It has beneficial effects for mental health and physical health including immune function, telomere length and the microbiome. The focus research article in the Coaching Report is a systematic review of the research on the benefits and challenges of social ties in times of natural disasters.
Director of Research
Institute of Coaching
The most essential, and possibly the most reliably present, characteristic of all disasters is that they exert strong impact on social relationships. Two very different, at times conflicting, dynamic processes emerge in their aftermath: the initial outpouring of immense mutual helping and solidarity, followed by a subsequent sense of loss in the quality of interpersonal and community relationships. This review of recent findings in the area of disaster mental health confirmed two major patterns of social support dynamics following disastrous events resulting from natural hazards: a mobilization of received social support and deterioration of perceived social support and sense of community. Social support is a critical resource helping people cope with natural disasters. Its psychologically and socially protective functions for survivors and their communities unfold in a complex matrix of benefits and liabilities.
Coaches frequently encounter stress symptoms in clients. A science-informed protocol to help clients evaluate stress and relieve stress is a valuable focus area for coaching.
We dedicate this dose to Tony, an exploration of one of his recent papers. Tony and his close colleague Sean O’Connor wrote the 2019 paper — A Brief Primer for Those New to Coaching Research and Evidence-Based Practice, published in The Coaching Psychologist. In appreciating this dose, Tony’s work lives on through all of us, as we develop an eye for coaching science.
Executive Summary: Coaching needs robust quantitative outcome studies and meaningful coaching effectiveness measures (De Haan & Duckworth, 2012). Coaching effectiveness research needs to develop rigor and status similar to other helping professions (Passmore & Theeboom, 2015) to sustain coaching credibility (Gray, 2011). Currently, most coaching effectiveness studies present design limitations that impact upon conclusions, for example: self-reported measures; lack of random allocation; data being collected in a pre- and post-coaching design (or at three data points). The pre/post designs, which are currently a predominant approach to assessing change over time in the coaching research, can only be used to model linear change, and tend to show relatively small changes over time, as most of the before and after intervention studies.
The aim of our RCT study was to address the above issues in order to contribute to the development of a comprehensive coaching outcome effectiveness model. In our experiment participants were randomly allocated to coached (experimental) and not-coached (control) groups (over 100 participants in each group). A coached group received coaching over a period of 6 months from experienced coaches accredited by a UK-based Business School. We collected data over eight data points for all participants, enabling us to model the dose-curve type change expected over the course of, and following the coaching sessions. Responses were collected from both students and coaches, in order to overcome issues of purely self reported measures.
We examined the shape of change, and variation in the shape of change for coaching outcomes, specifically goal attainment, perceived stress, psychological wellbeing and resilience. Controlling for common factors - quality of coaching relationship, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, hope and perceived social support — we tested a hypothesised model in which the positive effects of coaching upon change in goal attainment, perceived stress, psychological wellbeing were mediated by the increased resilience that coaching promotes. For the group who received coaching we also examined the effect of working alliance on our outcomes.
Our study confirms that coaching increases resilience, psychological well-being, goal attainment and decreases perceived stress. This increase was found to be linear whilst coaching was being undertaken, but was not extended beyond the coaching period — however there was also little loss in the benefits accrued from coaching after it ceased. The positive effects of coaching on changes in psychological well-being, goal attainment and perceived stress, were found to operate indirectly via changes in resilience.
We found perceived social support to be the only common factor that was positively related to changes in well-being. Despite the consensus in the literature about the working alliance to be the best predictor of outcomes, our results only partially support the initial level of working alliance as being a predictor of changes in outcomes.
Our findings may be of importance when demonstrating value of coaching to stakeholders. As coaching outcomes are mediated via resilience we suggest that coaches focus on developing resilience in their coaching sessions. We have also found changes in outcomes — due to coaching — to be still mostly in place three months after completing coaching. The shape of change for well-being, goal attainment and resilience suggests that there are still therapeutic benefits when the number of sessions is higher than six. Our working alliance findings indicate the focus on coachee’s goals to be of particular importance. Finally, we suggest that future coaching research pays more attention to the role of external factors in contributing to successful coaching outcomes.
Empathy is an essential skill in coaching clinicians and leaders in healthcare and beyond. Coachees often seek support from coaches on how to connect, understand, and respond accurately to their clients, colleagues, subordinates and patients. In this webinar we will review research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital that proved that empathy can be taught and learned, and discuss the importance of empathy for coachees in multiple domains including healthcare and business settings. With a solid foundation in evidence-based research, this webinar will provide coaches with information and tips for supporting clients to refine and improve their empathic skills so as to be more effective in their clinical and business practices.
The most essential, and possibly the most reliably present, characteristic of all disasters is that they exert strong impact on social relationships....
In The Art of Dialogue in Coaching, Reinhard Stelter invites readers to engage in transformative and fruitful dialogues in everyday working life, and provides the theory and tools for them to be able to do so....
A Revolutionary Guide for Understanding and Changing the Way We Connect
This highly engaging guidebook provides an accessible introduction to research methods and the research process within the coaching and mentoring context....
In this highly interactive webinar, Dr. Reinhard Stelter will share his approach to “third generation” coaching, which can engender new forms of reflective and transformative meaning-making, and provide valuable reflections based on moments of symmetry among participants. The goal is to incorporate the art of lingering in coaching as a potent form of human connection—applicable in professional and life contexts.
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Based on the highly respected new book Coaching and mentoring research: A practical guide, this webinar will provide coaches an introduction to bringing the best practices of research into their work. Based on 20 years of conducting and supervising research, as well as membership on the IOC Scientific Advisory Committee, Dr Oades and co-authors distill key issues, tips and methods for new or part-time coaching researchers into a practical guide.
The IOC is a global community of coaches.