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Key points about Executive Recovery and Wellness Coaching

The development of a health challenge by a client, (especially where that health challenge has a strong lifestyle and behavioural component) presents a new context for executive coaching, talent management and executive performance

Almost all Executive Coaching takes place within the context that an executive coaching client is able to deliver, maintain and increase a known and ‘usual’ level of performance in relation to their executive responsibilities and leadership role. Executive coaching is focused on improving and increasing this effectiveness, capacity and performance as well as retaining and maximising executive talent and performance for the organisation.

Too often the coaching response to a client health care challenge is to see it primarily as a medical problem that falls outside of the coaching remit itself.

However, while performance, effectiveness and capacity are still usually the main concerns of the delivery of executive coaching, the health challenge changes the fundamental context of the executive coaching relationship.

The client must necessarily include into their professional and personal performance the fact of their health challenge and the potential to profoundly change their entire life. As most health challenges are progressive, i.e. they get worse unless dealt with; dealing with them becomes a priority for both the client and the organisation.

Both parties have to be invested in finding ways to reduce the negative impact of the health challenge, develop recovery to wellness pathways and maintain shared performance goals.

There is a need to integrate, on an ongoing basis, the fact of the health challenge and its potential for recurrence. In this way the maintenance of health must become the priority agenda of the executive coaching as all other agendas lead from this including the requirement of the organisation to protect and support it's talent.

Once the client has established a new balance, then the role of the executive coaching programme is to support the maintenance of well-being as it relates to the demands of performance.

All of the above takes place within the executive coaching context where relationships with peer executives, board members and senior managers will all need to managed and integrated.

Leadership from this perspective, where those that the client is responsible for leading are also potentially impacted, needs to also be integrated.

The challenge in the Executive Recovery and Wellness Coaching relationship

A typical executive coaching assignment might be to work to develop improvement in leadership skills within an overall satisfactory performance environment.

It is quite different to embark on an executive coaching assignment where a client is facing a personal health challenge that will impact on all aspects of their functioning and where they are expected to maintain or return to a leadership position.

The overall outcome the coach and the client are working for, has to include the health challenge. While their health is likely to impact on their performance and performance is a key consideration for the organisation, the client's main challenge is their health and whether they can get back to a state of wellness and optimal functioning. If they cannot, then the consequential loss for them (and the organisation they work for) is most likely severe and serious. It may result in the inability to work, poor performance and serious illness leading to incapacity.

Expectation of standards and best practice are more rigorous in Executive Recovery and Wellness Coaching

Whilst all professional executive coaches hold the highest standards, when a person’s health is at stake, it holds executive coaches to a different kind of best practice bar.

Executive coaches must provide for themselves a guaranteed commitment to the client’s success.

They need to be comfortable and willing to accept their partnership with their client may be crucial in the client’s life path in a way that most Executive Coaching assignments do not embrace. A regular coaching assignment that does not work out well may lead to a consequence for the client that would not be perceived as life threatening or sustaining.

They must be quicker to recuse or replace themselves when they discover they are not a good fit with a client.

They need to have trained in the specific knowledge domains and coaching skills and contexts needed to be able to integrate a client’s health and well-being into a coaching assignment. In addition the Executive Coach must have the well rounded knowledge and skills to confidently work with clients in this way.

What then is expected of Executive Recovery and Wellness Coaches?

Some of the knowledge and skills an Executive Recovery and Wellness Coach require are:


  • Knowledge of the unique ways clients may resist change in respect to their health that seems obviously necessary and desirable and coaching strategies to assist them
  • Knowledge of the continuum of the development of health challenges
  • Knowledge of stress and resilience and how they link and can be adapted to behavioural health care challenges and recovery pathways
  • ​Knowledge of the factors that may inhibit or interfere with successful recovery and maintenance of wellness
  • Knowledge of treatment and recovery pathways of relevant health challenges

Coaching skills and contexts

  • Coaching strategies and adapted coaching tools to support the client's ability to develop and adapt a recovery plan
  • Being able to integrate the emotional content and experience arising out of the health challenge as it influences performance
  • ​Ability to integrate the client's current and future understanding of their life purpose within the context of their health challenge
  • Assists client to reintegrate their executive role within the context of the health challenge
  • Assist client to re evaluate and integrate their core values, life purpose and meaning within the context of their professional roles and work life balance *

* Clients usually find their view on work life balance has shifted when faced with a serious health challenge. They may be less willing to spend time at work and wish more time with their families. Or they may wish to reconfigure their commitment to a business or professional role or project in a different way with an emphasis on where they now feel they are most useful and can make the most important impact. They will need support and coaching to manage the tensions that may arise from a conflict of demands on them and the pressures of stress.

Professionalism, Best Practice and Ethics

  • Professional Executive Coaches able to include health challenges need to have engaged with training appropriate to the area in which they propose to practice.
  • Engage with support and supervision from a coach supervisor who has the specialised ability to support the Executive Coach working in this way
  • Keep up to date with developments in the fields of neuroscience, behaviour change research as it relates to human wellness, illness prevention
  • ​Ensure their own fitness to practice through self-reflective practice about their own health and wellbeing behaviour
  • Where Executive coaches have their own experience of a health challenge and subsequent recovery the ability to maintain appropriate boundaries between their personal experience and the needs of their clients within a recovery to wellness context
  • Assist client to re-evaluate and integrate their core values, life purpose and meaning within the context of their professional roles and work life balance