Support your mental wellbeing

Blog 1 in a series on How To Be Coached when you’ve been recommended workplace strategy coaching or executive coaching from a neurodiversity specialist coach.

** Note the names and any identifiable details have been significantly changed to protect the anonymity of the individuals concerned.

Josh** had just had an ADHD diagnosis and started out on some sessions of workplace coaching to support him with challenges he was having in his new job. Sessions 1 and 2 ran in a similar way. Each time, he’d quickly get angry and then tearful, then tell his coach that he didn’t really need her help and that his new girlfriend was coaching him better. His coach kept questioning whether he could speak to his GP about a referral for some counselling or therapy. This wasn’t  actioned and the client was referred to a male coach instead to see whether that would improve his coaching engagement.  

How to be coached

I’m afraid I can’t tell you how the coaching ended, but from the sound of it, going to a male coach may not have changed anything, sadly.This is because it sounds like Josh** had focused on his diagnostic assessment for ADHD but hadn’t also taken his mental welfare into consideration.   

Prioritising your mental wellbeing sounds really obvious, doesn’t it? So, before I go further, for the record, I’m not a therapist and I don’t pretend to be. When I’m approached by people looking for coaching, honestly, I don’t ask for their medical records, but like any effective coach I do need context for the coaching. Coaches tend to check how the need for learning and development is supported by the client’s equal consideration of their health and wellbeing.  

Working with a Coach

Working with a coach can require some vulnerability and openness to learn

I remember that before I met my coach, I was mulling things over in my head:

What do I have to do to be coached?

What are going to be my duties as we go along?

Will I have stuff to prepare in advance?

Will I have homework?

Will I be judged/graded in the conversation?

At that time, I was possibly at my peak of feeling fit and healthy. I was running, doing yoga, meditating (even when standing up on trains in my commute to work)! But life is life, coaching is coaching, and my own experiences with respect to my mother’s illness and fast approaching death cropped up as topics in coaching when I was trying hard to work on my leadership development, too. My coach checked in with me on those sessions when I’d dissolve into tears. It was his ethical duty but it was all okay; I’d already got some counselling on the go. It meant that he and I could work on the professional stuff and my therapist and I could look at the personal things arising from grief. Working with my coach and counsellor in parallel on this also meant that I could look at ways to keep myself safe when I was working with vulnerable clients or on topics that were sensitive areas.

Yoga

Staying healthy isn’t just about being able to do a plank

So what does this mean for you in your efforts to find a coach or work with a coach you’ve been referred to?

Mainly, it’s to make sure that you support your mental health as much as you go heaving weights in the gym or playing netball. If you know that you are:

Prone to having episodes of low mood

Feeling excessively anxious

Often avoiding 1:1 conversations that go that bit deeper

Aware that you might have ‘issues’ with positive/negative transference (this is something we all tend to have when we meet people in dialogue who activate positive/negative experiences of ‘significant adult figures’ throughout our lives) then it’s a good idea to approach your GP about having some counselling/therapy. You can either do this before you have any coaching at all or start having it a little bit before so that you are more prepared for how to deal with coaching. Perhaps tell your counsellor that you’re going to have some neurodiversity workplace coaching too and they can help you get ready for a coach talking in a very straight way by asking questions that remove your ‘roadblocks’ to learning new work techniques.

Here’s a success story for you that confirms how supporting your mental wellbeing is critical for coaching outcomes:

Vivek** started on workplace coaching having had a diagnosis of ASC at a very difficult time in his studies. He had been having Schema therapy and was working hard on this alongside his coaching. Thanks to his effective use of therapy, he was able to know the boundaries between the therapy and the neurodiversity coaching, and only took the practical, solutions and goals to his coach and the emotions and mood matters to his therapist. It led to his being able to learn lots of neurodiversity strategies while knowing he could rely on the safety of taking any difficult feelings that came up in the coaching work to his therapist.  

Support

Getting support for your mental health can help shed light on why some things at work are so challenging

Look at how Vivek’s coaching experience contrasts with Josh’s. Yes, Vivek** was having to find the time to see his therapist and coach, but this time and money seemed to be well spent. Poor Josh** was not able to use therapy to find out what was going on for him and make the most of the coaching to help him work more effectively. Psychiatrist Carl Jung said that ‘until you make the unconscious conscious, it will continue to direct your life and you will call it fate’. Josh** didn’t increase his awareness of what was going on for him through some talking therapy. As a result, his ‘fate’ was likely to be one where he continued to find aspects of his work difficult. He may have even quit the coaching.

I hope this blog has helped you have more insight into how being coached requires you to take on doing ‘internal work’; this work will be partly awareness on how you’re feeling, whether you are going to need some counselling support before starting some coaching or to run alongside and help you double up the learning. Coaches will help you think about this when they talk with you before you commit to the coaching contract.  

However you decide to start prepping for your neurodiversity workplace coaching, make sure you really want to learn new ways of thinking and working, and have the right psycho-emotional supports (from yourself and others) to get on with it and maximise the return on investment. Of your time and money.

Because you’re worth it. Even if you don’t know it yet, I do. 

Emma A