6 Ways To Build A Client’s Resilience

by Contributor 0

Over the last year, many of my HE coaching clients have been discovering how to manage chaos, change and uncertainty. They’ve been learning how to be more resilient at work. As coaches, we can support our clients to be more resilient by spotting the resilience themes when they occur in coaching, highlighting client strengths, encouraging sustainable resilience and supporting our clients to take action.

Here are 6 coaching resilience strategies.

  1. Listen and observe to the clues
  • Is resilience the issue for your client? Sometimes lack of resilience is obvious from the wording your clients use, g. ‘I’m struggling to keep going’, ‘I’m not coping’. Or perhaps they are describing overcoming a challenge. Other times, it’s more subtle and you sense it from observed body language, or voice tone. At other times, when you mentally step back as a coach, you notice the resilience theme subtly weaved throughout your client’s whole story).
  • Coaching tips: In this VUCA climate, it’s especially important that coaches notice signs of resilience, or a lack of it in your clients. Then, if your observations hint at client resilience –  or lack of it   –  you can reframe or check your perceptions.
  • Notice the clues that might reflect a client’s lack of resilience:
  • ongoing exhaustion
  • inability to adapt and embrace change at work
  • struggling to say ‘no’ to work demands
  • constant overworking
  • inability to manage upwards, obstacles or innovation requests
  1. Maximise successful examples
  • Clients often minimise their own resilience successes, such as those times when they are actually coping. They might dismiss these moments as, ‘business as usual’ or, ‘just getting on with it’. Yet these stories, whether they are from work experiences or wider life, can, if made more conscious,  help clients feel more resourceful. Make use of the success stories your client shares about coping,  as useful resilience examples to feedback.
  • Coaching tip: Use the coaching skills of reframing to highlight your client’s resilience success. I sometimes say to clients, ‘It sounded to me like you were rushing over that example, but I think you’ve actually shared a really interesting story about your own resilience’.
  • Also, challenge your clients to see that resilience includes noticing and celebrating their own successes, not just striving to handle the next challenge or change.
  1. Develop sustainable resilience
  • Many clients with busy working lives, keep going until they drop! Especially in this changing work climate with ongoing demands. But true resilience is sustainable. It’s grounded in wellbeing, skilled time-management and in learning to say no. Otherwise constantly persisting and doing too much can potentially lead to burnout.
  • Encourage your clients to see the benefits of sustainable resilience. Attending  to their wellbeing, learning to say no and having excellent time-management skills brings so many benefits; clients will likely have deeper resources of energy and a greater capacity to handle challenge and uncertainty when it comes.
  • Coaching Tips: As part of their resilience learning, ask clients to explore how they attend to their wellbeing and how effective their time-management approaches are. Ask: ‘What wellbeing strategies do you use? ‘What time-management strategies do you use? What works well? What are the benefits? What might you do more of, or differently? What small steps could you take to improve your wellbeing (or time-management)?
  • Ask about their ability to say no when work gets too much: you could invite your clients to journal about how they feel about saying no to more demanding tasks and to overly challenging deadlines at work.
  1. Resilience ebbs and flows
  • It’s often said that the one constant in life is change. The same goes for resilience – it always changes. You experience it, you keep going and then suddenly, a new challenge comes that floors you. Clients who expect themselves to be at their best and thrive at all times or to adapt to new work challenges immediately, are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves. Support clients to see that resilience is something dynamic and therefore it’s acceptable to have low points of resilience.
  • Coaching Tip: If your client’s resilience is low, guide your clients to learn from times when their resilience was better, or perhaps when they were thriving.   Ask Solutions Focused questions, ‘When have you been more resilient at work in the past? What was working well on that occasion? What were you doing that helped you be resilient?   Remind them that resilience does ebb and flow and can return with time, practice and self-care.
  1. Resilience in action
  • Resilience combines working both on your mindset and on your actions. Reflection and mindset work is not enough; action is needed. Resilience is often learnt through action, so encouraging coaching clients to take regular small steps that build resilience is essential.
  • Coaching tip: Support clients to learn to take small steps for change, to experiment with their resilience within a few days of speaking with you. I often discuss this action topic towards the end of a coaching session, asking: ‘What resilience action would you like to experiment with in the next few days? Or more directly, ‘What small steps will you take to build your resilience in the next few days and weeks?’
  1. Context is everything
  • Resilience at work should ideally be supported by a range of services that make work safe and fulfilling: good equality and diversity practices,   embedded health and safety and even change-management training.
  • Resilience learning needs a balance of challenge and support.  Perhaps your client works for an unsupportive employer? For someone who doesn’t support their resilience? Perhaps your coachee feels like they are struggling every day without support?
  • Helping your clients to see their work context clearly is essential. It’s part of a systemic approach to coaching.
  • It’s useful to ask your client how their employer supports them to be resilient. The answer might help your client step up and ask for their needs at work and notice or access workplace services that exist. It also helps them make decisions about whether they want to stay, or move on from a specific team, department, or employer.
  • Coaching tip: Once you’ve gathered your client’s perspective on their resilience, ask about their work context: ‘How is your employer supporting your resilience? ‘What tells you that?’ and, ‘ What’s the balance between challenge and support at work?


This blog and the HE Coaching twitter chat supports coaches who want to develop their client’s resilience. We aim to achieve this through exploring the following questions:

  1. What are the signs of resilience and signs of lack of resilience in your clients? What impacts on resilience at work?
  2. What strategies do you use to help build your client’s resilience? Can resilience really be learnt?
  3. Ideally who is responsible for supporting resilience at work – e.g.  individuals, employers, managers or/and teams?
  4. What is the risk of building personal resilience, without attending to wellbeing or time-management?  What is the risk,  if you only build your resilience alone  at work and not with colleagues?

Resources and further learning

About the author:

Andry Anastasis McFarlane is an Executive Coach, Trainer, Consultant and Author with over 15 years’ experience of running a UK Learning and Development Business. Her work  on resilience, and her first book  The Really Resilient Guide has been featured on BBC Radio and iMagazine.



f: @TheLearningMoment