The Resilient Coach

Paula King

“…Nathan was beginning to absorb the negative emotions he was encountering and raised the issue with [his coaching supervisor].”

As a profession, coaches are the go-to people when a client is stuck, or when they want to progress a goal or an ambition. This power to help change lives in a positive way can come at a cost. Executive Coach, Coaching Supervisor, and Director of Kingstown College Paula King, outlines how Coaches need to be aware of the mental and emotional demands of the profession.

Coaching is, in my opinion, one of the most satisfying and joyful professions due to its focus on strengths and empowerment.  However, we also must be cognisant of the importance of managing our own resilience and practicing self-compassion and mindfulness in order to ensure that our own well-being is at an optimum.  Taking time out to reflect on our coaching practice is an imperative and ensuring that we invest in regular supervision is now an expectation of any professional coach.  This is not only a space to ‘debrief’ on our coaching practice but is also a place to re-energise.  I wanted to share a case study with you. My rational is, not only to remind you of the importance of taking care of yourself, but also to introduce you to a powerful resilience tool which you can use in your coaching practice.

Case Study: The Wheel of Resilience

Nathan was struggling in his role as Senior Executive Coach in a multi-national organisation.  The company was going through a major change programme and, as a result, a number of Nathan’s clients were experiencing anxiety as they navigated the sea of uncertainty they were encountering on a daily basis.  Issues discussed in the coaching room increasingly focused on these fears and uncertainties as roles and responsibilities changed and as a number of employees accepted the redundancy package on offer.

Nathan’s Coaching Supervisor noted that Nathan was beginning to absorb the negative emotions he was encountering and raised the issue with him.  This led to a discussion on how Nathan might go forward positively whilst continuing to provide a positive and professional experience for his clients.

Nathan’s Supervisor introduced him to the Wheel of Resilience. This tool incorporates the studies carried out by the Mayo Clinic into resilience and the traits of a person who displays high resilience.  The Wheel creates a powerful visual to assist a person to understand what might be useful for them in order to become reenergised. Nathan’s Supervisor worked with him utilising the following steps:

  1. He explained to Nathan that the zero at the centre of the wheel indicated that nothing was really effective in that domain and the outer circle was a ten where everything was perfect.
  2. He then invited Nathan to ‘journey’ around the wheel marking where he felt he was in that area between 1-10 drawing a new hub.

On completion of the above exercise (see Fig 1) they began to look at actions which would bring Nathan closer to a ten in each area thereby increasing his own resilience and capability of coping with the current challenges he was facing.


Domain Score Action Agreed
Perseverance 4 In order to keep everything in perspective and persevere in a positive way Nathan committed to starting a daily journal documenting his own thoughts, emotions and actions in order to gain some fresh insights. He would then share these with his Supervisor at their next meeting.
Flexibility 2 Nathan was struggling with this domain.  As he worked his way around the wheel he gained an understanding that he himself was probably having far more difficulty in adjusting to the new regime than some of his clients.  He was adapting poorly to the unfamiliar, unpredictable and dynamic circumstances he was currently experiencing. He also realised that he was continuing to practice old behaviours in this new setting and this was proving ineffective and inefficient.  His Supervisor reminded him of the ABCDE exercise (see Fig 2) and Nathan agreed, as an action, to assess his self talk and behaviours in certain situations.
Confidence 1 Nathan would always have viewed himself as a confident person however he was beginning to doubt himself and gave himself the lowest score in this domain.  Nathan was feeling discouraged and was beginning to doubt his own effectiveness as a coach. Working on this domain he decided that it would be beneficial to revisit his strengths.  Even agreeing this action began the process of rebuilding his confidence.  In the session he became visibly happier as he discussed when he was in flow and when he was at his happiest.  He acknowledged that he got extremely positive feedback from his clients and reflected on the joy he got when his clients achieved their goals.
Compassion 8 Nathan enjoyed the discussion about compassion.  He had always been an empathic person with the ability to be aware of, understand and appreciate the feelings and thoughts of his clients. He truly cared about his clients and genuinely held them in unconditional positive regard. He was able to challenge his clients to live their best lives whilst not judging or criticising them in any way.  This was one of the gifts he brought to his coaching sessions  and it allowed him to understand his clients perspective of the world whilst not necessarily agreeing with them.
Humour 5 In order to up his score in this domain Nathan recognised that he had moved into a Circle of Concern.  He resolved to move back to his Circle of Influence through utilising the CIA Model i.e. recognise what he could Control/Influence or must simply Accept.
Honesty 6 Nathan explained that he scored this domain a six because, as he worked his way around the Wheel of Resilience, he recognised that he had catastrophized  in a number of areas and he resolved to bring a daily reality check  through keeping a reflective journal which he felt would assist him to become more grounded and resilient.
Balance `6 Although Nathan recognised that he was having difficulty coping with his current situation he also recognised that there were some positives not least the fact that he had now begun the process of moving forward positively – he felt that this would allow him to integrate well- being elements into his life.
Positive Relationships 3 This part of the discussion proved very positive for Nathan. He gave this domain a low score, not because he did not have positive relationships in his life but rather because he realised he was neglecting them.  He decided to address this immediately by contacting friends he hadn’t seen for some time, spending time with his family and organising an outing with his partner.

When Nathan returned to his Supervisor the following month he said that he was amazed at how much more positive he felt. He was able to work with his clients without absorbing any negativity and truly enjoyed every interaction with them.

Take some time to reflect on your own work as a coach, perhaps try this exercise yourself. You could be your client’s greatest asset, but you must take care of yourself in the process.


Typical Questions asked when utilising The Wheel of Resilience

  • What do you have to be grateful for?
  • What can you decide to be content with?
  • How could you change your perspective on X, so that it made you less unhappy?
  • How could you reduce the impact of the things that make you unhappy?
  • In what ways might this experience make you a better person?
  • How could you be kinder to yourself?
  • What would enable you to be at peace with the world? At peace with yourself?
  • How do you give yourself permission to dream?
  • You say that you are (angry/fearful/frustrated etc) about this. What other emotions have you yet to acknowledge?
  • Which of your values is driving your feelings about this?
  • How much of you is there to go around, between all the people, who make demands on you?
  • Who is in control of your life? What could you do to regain more control?
  • How do you find time for yourself? How could you find more?
  • How could you find peace with your current situation?
  • How do you reward yourself?
  • What did you do today for your emotional well-being? For your physical well-being? What could you do on a daily basis that would make a significant difference?
  • What would make you like yourself even more?
  • What are the things that you value most? How much of your time, attention, mental energy, physical energy and spiritual energy do you devote to those things?
  • To what extent are you living your values?
  • How could you put the fun back into your work (your life)?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • How can you take more care of yourself?
  • What would you have to do differently now to be sure of being mentally and physical healthy in five years’ time?
  • What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?