With over 11 million days lost a year due to stress in the workplace, it’s clear that employers need to take active steps to help boost their employee’s well-being and lower their stress levels so they can reach their full potential. Coaching is a powerful tool that enables managers to do just that, by creating a learning culture that supports and encourages people to be the very best that they can be. So, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week, here are three ways coaching can tackle stress in the workplace by helping the other person discover a new way forward to maximise their performance.
How coaching can help you tackle stress in the workplace:
Asking the right questions
Asking insightful questions is an invaluable way to help the other person address any deep-rooted concerns or worries. If, for example, you notice someone in your team appearing visibly stressed, engage them in conversation by asking, “What will happen if you stay stressed?” Answers could include lack of sleep, long hours at work and / or worsening relationships at home. Next ask them, “What won’t happen if you stay stressed?” This often triggers responses such as “I won’t be able to achieve what I want to achieve” or “I won’t be able to balance work and personal life.” Finally, finish with the question, “What will happen if you are not stressed” to which they often reply that their energy levels will return, they will feel more in control and be back to their old self. By asking these three questions you are helping the other person recognise the symptoms of stress and the effect it is having on their body and mind. You are also encouraging them to visualise what good looks like to help them take positive steps to change their behaviour and reduce their stress levels.
Listening with empathy
Now that you have honed your questioning technique, it’s essential that you draw on your empathy to listen carefully to the other person’s response. This may sound obvious but all too often, people confuse hearing with listening; hearing is an involuntary, physiological process involving your ears, whereas listening is a learned skill and mental process that uses your body and mind. By giving the other person your undivided attention, you are making them feel valued and important. Be really ‘present’ in the moment and remember to read beyond the words. Only 7% of what we communicate comes from the spoken word – the rest comes from our body language and tone of voice. So, if someone on your team keeps telling you they are fine, yet their body language suggests otherwise, keep encouraging them to open up so you can help them identify exactly what is holding them back.
Building trust and confidence
Trust lies at the heart of every successful coaching relationship. You need to set yourself up for success by keeping the relationship on an equal footing. This can be particularly challenging for a manager who is used to being directive when they are managing their team. Make sure you have your coaching hat firmly on and remind yourself that you both need to have mutual respect in order to work effectively together. You need to create a “safe” environment where the other person feels comfortable enough to confide any worries or concerns. So reserve, judgement and be impartial – your role is to encourage and support them to find a new way forward to lower their stress levels. They need to believe you have their best interest at heart – so confidentiality is absolutely key. Always contract with them, either formally or informally ahead of the coaching conversation so you can agree the rules of engagement.
By adopting these coaching tools and techniques, you will be well on your way to helping the people in your team minimize their stress levels so they can reach their full potential. As a manager, there really can be no greater privilege than helping people become the very best that they can be, for as American basketball coach John Wooden said, “A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life.”