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When you are working in the field of wellbeing, remember Aristotle’s sage words: “We are what we repeatedly do”. If you set out to change the wellbeing status of yourself or others all at once, you will fail. Take some lessons from improvement science (Taylor et al, 2014) and resist the desire to achieve everything at once. The best way to get impactful and sustainable results is to make tiny continuous changes, which will add to exponential wellbeing in the long term.
What matters in the immediate is repetition of both the process of identifying ‘what number am I/we’ and making small changes that will facilitate the wiring of your brain to wellbeing thinking, which then turn into wellbeing actions.
The interpretation of the world with a wellbeing lens alters the semiotic meaning (Hoffmeyer, 2014) that you and your clients develop from stressful experiences. As a trainer and a coach, you facilitate this change in ‘observational attention of the mind that can effect neuronal activity’ (Rock & Page, 2009, p. 9). Ultimately, this also changes emotions and behaviour, which will mediate any impact stress may have on the physical body too. Guiding your clients through absorptive, anticipative, adaptive phases to achieve transformational change in terms of their wellbeing takes time, patience, and practice. You will get there if you also look after your ‘self’.
During your sessions, it is helpful to take the team through an exercise during which they can experience the fluidity of wellbeing. One way of doing this is after locating best self and peripheral spaces and deciding on the number of collective wellbeing, lead a discussion on the stressors that they are experiencing, such as those with organisational change. Ask them to notice what happens to their individual number and how this might influence their team number.
The process demonstrates the requirement of team members to appreciate how external events may quickly impact upon them and remind them not to let things slide.
Another reason why it is good for the team to appreciate this phenomena relates to understanding wellbeing and burnout/compassion fatigue. Wellbeing is heterostatic. It is prone to deregulation and stressors can disorder and impair human ability to cope, which ultimately may lead to damage (Antonovsky, 1990).
4. Use the CMM in Team Coaching
Bringing a sense of coherence to the team is your next action. We already know that having a salutogenic mindset contributes to wellbeing on an individual level. When your team has a collective salutogenic mindset, it supports the team to flourish during challenging times.
Explain what this means and why it is central to their wellbeing, then explore this with them using questions that will surface knowledge relating to each component. Capture their responses. This forms their emerging team narrative and is useful if you are writing a report or conducting a study as part of your work.
Questions for the Team
How is your team making sense of what is going on?
What has your team set out to achieve?
What has your team achieved in the past?
How does your team interact with other teams?
What influences your team?
What failures has your team learned from?
What could you learn from?
How is your team managed?
Who contributes to the team?
How do they contribute?
What could be contributed?
What assets does your team have at its disposal?
Who or what could support your team?
What is your team’s purpose?
What is the interpersonal purpose?
Why is your team important?
What has your team learned together?
How has this helped individual members and as a collective?
Can your team suggest what is likely to happen in the future for the team?
This process also facilitates establishing the ‘interconnectedness’ and ‘interdependence’ within the team as each team member brings something (interconnectedness) and requires something (interdependence). Interdependence is often emotional in nature and will help you to establish the emotional intelligence of a team (something that is often overlooked but is vital to shaping team culture). Both interconnectedness and interdependence aspects are identified as strengths in coaching practice and viewed as the GRRs of the team.
5. Develop GRRs
Finding out what the team GRRs are is fun and energising. It is very rewarding to witness the change in people as they start to catalogue the assets that are available to them. Whether or not you have identified a GRR, which will act as a buffer to stressors, will depend on whether the GRR helps the team to make sense (Antonovsky, 1990) out of the countless stressors they may be experiencing.
There are a range of ways you can do this:
A simple list: what/who/how
A simple list and a plan to implement what/who/how with team members accepting responsibility for something
By the time you get to identifying GRRs, there should be a fair amount of shared intrinsic motivation to improve and sustain wellbeing. This is an important phase to be in, because we know that when motivated intrinsically, there are the additional benefits of enhanced performance and self-esteem (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
In order to work with a group of people, you need to begin by explaining the different stages of the process, not just the best self process, but also the coaching process.
Preparation: Prepare the group from the outset by asking them to participate in establishing psychological safety for the sessions: these will form part of the group values and norms. Ensure that, as far as possible, each holds the other in positive regard so that they can share their experiences in each of the spaces.
Be aware that some in the group will have assumed unconscious roles and may exhibit different aspects of who they are when they are within the social influences of being together.
Not always, but often, the group you are coaching may be dysfunctional. This may be because they are overwhelmed by stressors so that their behaviours can be identified as being in the peripheral spaces.
Identity: Whether this is the case or not, after you have co-produced the norms and values that establish the psychological safety, it is a good idea to ask the group to describe the identity of the group so that if they were not part of the group they would immediately recognise it. The identity descriptions should be based on their perceived signature strengths (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). You are doing this to begin the process of orientating them to their best self.
Below is an illustration of just such an activity with the Royal College of Physicians Future Hospital Team.
The strengths of the FHT Team were identified as:
Project management skills
Researcher resource investigator
Vision and belief
Can do spirit
2. Use the Best Self Model
Who are the Team on the Wellbeing Scale?
As with micro and meso, you now begin engaging the team in sharing descriptions of how the team presents in each of the seven spaces.
In order to capitalise on the first activity regarding team identity, begin with the best self. Doing this has the added impact of having an anchor point for the team to orient towards during the rest of your sessions with them, and if they have lost sight of who they were as a functioning team, it is a powerful reminder of what they can recapture.
1. Work through the Best Self, Midpoint and Periphery Spaces
Use the same wellbeing domain headings of “Thoughts, Emotions, Behaviours and Physical Presence” to guide them.
Physical presence is important but may need a little explanation. Physical presence for a team relates to the energy the team exudes. For example if you were to be in a room with an Olympic team, just the way they stand, hold their heads, or make eye contact will influence your response. If they have just won gold, you are likely to be in awe of their presence. If they have just been disqualified, you are likely to be saddened by their presence.
Work through the first two spaces slowly, inviting team members to write/draw their descriptions either on flip charts if you are working face-to-face or on shared screens and text capture if you are working on-line. Then go to the midpoint at Space 4 and ask them to describe this pivotal place where eustress tips towards distress.
Appreciating their ‘Best Self’, ‘Mid-Point’, and ‘Periphery’ Spaces enables the team to be mindful of how each are faring. It also contributes towards fostering a sense of camaraderie and fellowship.
Below is an illustration of team best self and peripheral descriptions. After running these with a few different teams, you will begin to see patterns of who teams are in the spaces. You will also gain insight into potential GRRs that may help.
In the image above, the team’s best self descriptions included:
Their peripheral descriptions included:
2. Ask the Team: “What Number Are You?”
When you have worked through the three spaces (Best Self, Midpoint, Periphery) with the team, ask them to decide, as a team, what their number is. This can be calculated in a rough but accessible way by asking them to figure out their individual numbers, then either choosing the model number for the team or the median number for the team. This does not have to be done through robust research methods. Your aim is to get them to realise that they have a collective wellbeing and that each team member either contributes or detracts from that. By providing a common wellbeing language and a simple “What number am I? What number are we?” helps team members to share that they are struggling without the need for any in-depth outpouring of emotion.
The infographic below can be used to encourage your clients to continually ask “What number am I? What number are you? What number are we?”.
There are two ways in which you will gain significant impact from your work as a wellbeing practitioner: one is through your training events (workshops/courses, which we will cover extensively in Wellbeing IV), and the other is via team or group coaching.
Historically, ‘team coaching’ has been seen as something that facilitates the achievement of a set of goals or targets that can only be delivered by a group working as a team. For you, as a wellbeing practitioner, the overarching goal is to get the group of people you are working with to have shared wellbeing as their goal. Once this is established, other collective objectives (such as outcomes relating to changes in service delivery/production, design/event management, etc) have a better chance of being achieved.
Ideally you will be able to combine a training event with coaching in order to:
“Increase collective capability and performance of a group or team, through application of the coaching principles of assisted reflection, analysis and motivation for change.”
Clutterbuck, 2010, p. 273
Bringing the group into the coaching/learning environment is something you may well be familiar with. This is something we explore in more depth in Wellbeing IV, where you will learn how to devise your own programmes and conduct research with the Best Self Model.
The significance of you moving through a process from micro (using the model for yourself) to meso (using it with one other) to macro (using it for groups) means that you are able to connect it all together in a wellbeing system that recognises intergroup and system dynamics. In this context, group members will not only surface stressors affecting the whole team, but they will also help you to construct a new sense of wellbeing using the interdependence and interconnectedness (Lewin, 1947; Edmonson, 2012) of the group.
In the shared coaching environment, learning takes place in different ways. By sharing experience drawn from real life situations, we can take part in group questioning through reflection and reflexivity. This is known as a ‘deep approach’ to learning, which means we have the opportunity to change some long-held and often hidden assumptions about how we are managing wellbeing.
This kind of work carries with it a degree of emotional labour for you as a coach and for the group. Remember to ask yourself, “What number am I?” Be self-aware and take action to manage any stress or tension you are experiencing. Check in with the group regularly and ask them, “What number are you?” Take time out and then get back to the work in hand.
The person I coached in this example works in the higher education sector. At this point in his career, he was a professor and deputy head of school. He was experiencing a situation where he had been side-lined for promotion, and a colleague was now head of school. He cared intensely about his work and was deeply hurt that the promotion he felt was due had passed him by. His former colleague, now his boss, had begun to exclude him from important meetings. There were planned redundancies across the university, and he was now in a position where his job may be insecure.
He commissioned coaching with me to help him to cope with what he described as ‘an out of control situation’ and for help to manage the stress he knew to be affecting him in work and at home.
The profile below relays some of his descriptions of the polarised spaces. Also included is some of our coaching feedback, which incorporates a summary of the situation and GRRs as actions that were identified as forming part of his power of return.
The image above shows how Professor P took the pathway from the periphery to the place of being his best self during the course of several coaching sessions as follows:
17th November: Self-scored 4
8th December: Self-scored 7 (periphery)
10th December: Self-scored: 4
He identified his periphery (Space 7) as:
Stressed. Not sleeping. Feeling overwhelmed. Self-doubt and dark feelings. Frustration. Rumination. Disengaged.
Somatic stress. Shoulders tense, IBS. Weariness.
Behaviour changes, shouting, overindulge in eating/drinking.
Angry. Becoming overemotional or just empty. Nothing left.
He identified his best self core (Space 1) as:
Having and sharing ideas. Feeling positive. Having a desire to move forward. High energy. Connecting with others. Opportunities to learn.
Receiving positive responses from others. Included and inclusive.
Pleased with myself. Knowing my work can change things, knowing I am capable. Being galvanised by challenges, leading others. Selfless.
Not about money or status.
Best Self Profile: Professor PL
Factors that move me to the Periphery: Notes received from the client
I am in role transition. Experiencing a sense of bereavement due to loss of the role I had. Experiencing internal conflict as this is not my choice, the role is being taken away. I feel as though I am being stepped over. I am in conflict with a former colleague who is now my boss, I feel undermined. Having no clear direction. No sense of purpose. Lack of visibility and recognition, and of being heard. No reward from ‘key’ figures. Being in an environment of uncertainty when that uncertainty directly affects my ability to lead, take charge, make sense of, and determine future actions. I think she now sees me as a threat, but I am not.
Feedback and actions: To the client
The Wellbeing Scale
Determining a way towards your best self during this time in your career is something we have been doing during the last two coaching sessions. We have identified some of your strengths which form some of your ‘generalised resistance resources’. The activities and actions agreed between sessions utilise and focus on these. Our next session will be all about becoming reflexive to the triggers and activating GRRs sooner.
Homework to Develop your SoC
When you do this exercise, notice what number you are before and after.
Think about other times when you have been ‘in role transition’: what strengths got you through?
Think about when you have experienced bereavement in the past: what strengths have you used to get you through?
Think about a time when you have not chosen the things that happened to you: what strengths got you through, and importantly what benefit did you gain from this?
Think about a previous time when you have been in conflict with someone: what strengths did you use to resolve the conflict?
We identified these GRRs as integral to your power of return and linked these directly into your workplace.
GRATITUDE. Say thank you to three people every day for something they are working on and tell them you are looking forward to seeing the final results. Include your boss in this. Thank him for his support, direction, clarity, email him, it can be brief.
Notice all the effects your new behaviours are having on others and on yourself, write about it in your journal.
With regard to ‘your vision’ for the future of the School, now talk about it as ‘our vision’ and start collecting ideas, suggestions from your boss and include it as a shared vision, give thanks to those who contribute and acknowledge their contribution to others.
Use this format as the starting point to all your meetings with your new boss and with your team:
“I would like to share where I am up to”
“I would like to bring you up to speed”
“I would like to ask for your advice on where to take this bit”
“I would like to have your steer on how we communicate our vision about X to the rest of the team”
Prior to Your Meetings
Practice holding the meeting with a trusted colleague, friend, or even your dogs. Be your boss in the meeting and think about things from her perspective, think about her style and the language she uses. You are not looking for praise, you are her equal and her colleague. Be aware of opportunities to develop a new role for yourself and your team.
Practice breathing for grounding yourself.
Remember your strengths.
Remember on this day you will make progress. The outcome will be one that you want, so think about what you want.
You may want to arrange some practice sessions with your peers before you work with your clients. If you are a member of the Coaching Network on LinkedIn, you can join Coaching Circles. This is a space where coaches develop their practice (for free) with their peers.
We are now moving to your coaching practice where you are coaching one-to-one. You will have experienced the best self coaching method through your self-coaching. Now you can draw on this to appreciate what it may be like for your clients.
Start the process from Unit 3.4 again from the beginning. Ensure you have created a safe psychological space between you both. Explain the method you are going to take your client through. This will form part of your coaching contract with your client and will enable you both to know what to expect from each other and the sessions you plan together.
When you have agreed your contract and established a safe space, then you can begin. Draw out the Best Self Model and start to co-construct a profile with your client. Begin with the polarised spaces of 1 (best self) and 7 (periphery). Ask your client: “Who are you in these spaces? What are you thinking, feeling, doing, how is your body communicating to you?” Ask them write down their descriptions and to use visual imagery to elaborate on what the spaces mean to them.
They may find the work tiring or energising. Generally, when people start to describe the peripheral space their energy changes, and you will observe this dynamic first hand.
Your client may share what brings them to these spaces, which may be connected to why they consulted you and be part of the bigger picture of events. For example, your client may be proactively seeking ways in which to remain well and is consulting you in order to deepen their understanding. They may be aware that a stressful situation is looming and want to give themselves every opportunity to thrive during this time of challenge or they are consulting you because they have reached a place of burnout and fatigue and feel as though they can no longer cope with what life is throwing at them. Whichever it is, your relationship with them is one of the GRRs that will contribute towards their wellbeing.
You will populate each of the spaces during successive coaching sessions. As part of the ‘homework’ you ask your client to do, include asking them to fill in all seven spaces, reflecting on each space and writing a summary of each space using the headings: ‘In this space my thoughts are, my feelings are, my behaviours are and my body feels like…’.
At the end of Part 2 of this programme, you engaged with a reflective process of describing who you are in each of the seven spaces in the Best Self Model. You may have noticed that you move naturally between the spaces and that some of your experiences contribute to you remaining in one space more than others. You are building up a best self profile and the depth and breadth of your understanding will develop as we move ahead.
1. Find your best self number
Revisit your best self profile and go through the subjective process of figuring out what number you are on the scale.
When you have your number, decide what you want to do next. Do you want to stay in this space or do you want to move?
Consider how much energetic capacity you have and choose the space you want to inhabit.
Mentally and emotionally revisit the space you have chosen, remember who you are in this space, and use your senses to create a strong motivational force.
2. Use the SoC Model
You are now going to coach yourself towards this space using coaching questions designed around the SoC Model and by utilising your GRRs. The example questions relate to a work setting, but you can adapt these to other non-work settings too.
The following SoC coaching questions will also help you to determine the GRRs available to you
This is where you make sense of the space you are in and can relate it to the other spaces on the scale.
What do I understand about what is going on for me in this space with regard to me being my best self right now?
Are there any external factors that have contributed to me being in this space?
When I wanted to change a situation in the past what happened?
How is this affecting me being my best self?
What might happen next if I do something?
What might happen next if I do nothing?
Write a summary statement of your answers and progress towards ‘Manageability’.
This is where you discern your locus of control in the situation and make choices.
How am I contributing to being in this space?
Where am I using my energy in this space?
What could I choose to do that I am not doing now?
What do I need to do?
What can I draw on to be/remain my ‘best self’?
Who has access to resources that will help me?
Write a summary statement of your answers and progress towards ‘Meaning’.
This is where you will discover how to redefine the reasons behind your actions.
Do I care about my self in this space?
Do I care about what I am doing (for example, the work I do and why I do it)?
Is there anything about the experience of being in this space that will help me in the future?
What is my sense of purpose in this space?
How do I reward myself?
What am I really good at doing/being in this space?
3. Identify and action your GRRs
When you have your summary statements, you need to energise your power of return to the best self space.
To do this, begin to identify a GRR that will either keep you in a best self space or help you to move into a best self space. These GRRs are personal to you. They will help you to handle the stressors you experience. Stressors may be intermittent or enduring. They may be ‘happy stressors’, such as a promotion to a senior role, or ‘unhappy stressors’ such as job insecurity. The key to harnessing your developing salutogenic mindset is to be flexible in your choice of GRR so that you can locate a GRR that will prove beneficial.
For those of you who are experienced coaches and mentors, you will already be guided by ethical codes such as those set out by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). For those of you entering the coaching arena in order to develop your wellbeing practice, it would be wise for you to seek out the codes and ensure you follow them.
Core to your wellbeing practice is that you ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the psychological safety of your clients and yourself in your working with them.
The Self in Coaching and Mentoring Practice
Establishing and creating a good relationship with your clients is very important: not least because you need them to engage fully and be present during each of your sessions. Your client may have been coached before or the whole situation may be new to them. Either way, the ‘self’ that they now present has to incorporate their cognitive, emotional, and physical selves, because you want them not only to think and feel differently, you also want them to back this up with wellbeing-centric behaviours.
When your clients(s) feel content to fully express various dimensions of who they are in each of the wellbeing spaces, you will be able to harness their personal drive and energy to make changes. Your goal is to bring them to accepting wellbeing as an important dimension of ‘self’ identity.
This is associated with a non-threatening, predictable, and consistent context in which you and your client engage. In this environment, your client will be able to show their true self throughout the seven spaces without fear of judgement.
The regard with which you hold your client needs to be evident. Within the coaching relationship, unconditional positive regard is seen as a central tenet to ensuring honesty and trust (Passmore, 2006). Before you begin coaching, you need to establish and negotiate the ground rules of engagement that contribute to psychological safety, and revisit these repeatedly as you progress.
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