How great coaches build brilliant habits

Positive habits are not built overnight. But with inspirational leadership, can organisations play a more fundamental role in improving the health and wellbeing of their employees? We explore the role managers can play in coaching their people to achieve personal and professional ambitions, and in doing so, build healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ as the adage goes, and neither are positive habits. But with inspirational leadership, can organisations play a more fundamental role in improving the health and wellbeing of their employees?

We explore the role managers can play in coaching their people to achieve personal and professional ambitions, and in doing so, build healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

The difference between coaching and managing

Coaching has gained momentum over the last decade, altering the emphasis of good management from a practice that reflects on past performance, to one that is future-focused. It is anticipated that this momentum will continue, as executive coaching emerges as a tool not only embraced by those experiencing challenges, but into an accepted and expected corporate practice.

‘The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there’- John Buchan

As a personal development tool, coaching helps employees work towards goals by unlocking their potential. Unlike the role of management – where you are overseeing the work of your employees, delegating tasks and directing them to achieve specified results – coaching is a critical function of management that puts employees in the driving seat. The focus shifts from solving problems for them by providing the answers, to a relationship that facilitates exploration. Fundamental to this relationship is the technique of asking questions in a way that sparks insights and points individuals to their own resources, and in time, enables them to transform their ideas into action.

Coaching in an uncertain world

Many businesses have found that coaching is an increasingly useful tool when it comes to supporting people through challenges and times of uncertainty. However, as we find ourselves in the depths of 2020 – a year that has challenged so many people both personally and professionally – creating new habits and routines will form an essential part of our resilience to the adversity ahead. And managers have a vital role to play in helping their people adapt.

With 65% of Millennials who left an employer stating that they would have stayed longer if management had shown interest in them, or simply asked what they need to keep them there, the ability to listen and coach are management skills more vital now than ever.

“Rapid, constant, and disruptive change is now the norm, and what succeeded in the past is no longer a guide to what will succeed in the future. Twenty-first-century managers simply don’t (and can’t!) have all the right answers. To cope with this new reality, companies are moving away from traditional command-and-control practices and toward something very different: a model in which managers give support and guidance rather than instructions, and employees learn how to adapt to constantly changing environments in ways that unleash fresh energy, innovation, and commitment.”

The Leader as Coach, Harvard Business Review

Supporting habit change makes sense

Increasingly, employers are taking an active role in supporting the health and wellbeing of their people; three-quarters of respondents to the Aon Benefits and Trend Survey 2019 agreed that employers are responsible for influencing employee health and changing behaviours.

With health costs for business forecasted to grow at almost three times the pace of general inflation and the top five health risk factors worldwide (high blood pressure, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, bad nutrition, and poor stress management) connected to poor personal habits, helping your people to thrive by supporting their health and wellbeing makes good business sense.

Coaching your team to healthier habits

When it comes to forming positive new habits, coaching can provide managers with the ability to inspire and motivate real change in their people, helping their direct reports to become more aware of their strengths, and to confront the mindsets and behaviours that sabotage them. As part of open and non-judgemental dialogue, coaches can guide employees towards increased self-awareness – helping them to explore the habits they have developed, the reasons why, and the impact they have on their health and wellbeing, as well as personal and professional success.

Research shows that taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing produces better outcomes for both employers and employees. Taking this into consideration, let us look at an employee’s financial wellbeing for example. As an employer, the bottom line in terms of benefits is providing them with a pension. However, this passive approach to financial wellbeing does not address potential anxieties that an employee may have about their current financial situation – such as their spending habits, money worries, and concerns about their future. With anxiety and depression costing the global economy losses of $1 trillion, it makes sense to utilise a more preventative approach to employee wellbeing by providing access to financial guidance and information services for example.

So, when it comes to finding out how to help your employees thrive and develop positive habits, it is time to dig deeper; utilising tools that can help everyone be happy, healthier and wealthier together. As a manager, is pays to take on the empathetic techniques of a coach; asking open questions in a safe space, and listening as a means to facilitating personal exploration and problem-solving around the five pillars of wellbeing:

  1. Physical – encourage reflection on the impact of poor diet and a lack of sleep
  2. Social – identify barriers to social connectivity
  3. Emotional – recognise what good mental health looks like and acknowledge the challenges
  4. Professional – identify goals and explore routes to success
  5. Financial – address the sources of money stress

Aon – working with leaders to improve the health and wealth of their teams.

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