I have a personal belief that a foundational knowledge of mental health, along with therapeutic techniques, is vital for an effective executive coaching practice. Currently, the vast majority of self-made executive and entrepreneurial coaches, such as many retired athletes and previous business moguls, have had no formal psychological or mental health training nor obtained any certifications in coaching.
The vast majority of self-made executive and entrepreneurial coaches have had no formal psychological or mental health training
Personally, I feel this is a risky practice. These individuals focus on providing coaching based upon their worldview; forcing their mantras as gospel upon their clients.
In order to push the field of executive and entrepreneurial coaching in the direction of evidence-based, client-centered, practices, I want to take the time to talk about how entrepreneurs and executives can benefit from the theories found in psychology.
To begin this process, let’s focus on the concept of Social Interest.
Coined by Alfred Adler, Social Interest, or “Gemeinschaftsgefuhl” in German (directly translating to community feeling) refers to the level to which an individual focuses their energy on the world around them. Adler believed that one’s mental well-being and their level of Social Interest was positively correlated. That is, the more socially interested an individual is, the healthier their mental state would be.
The concept of an individual’s mental health being directly connected to their level of social interest is also pretty logical.
The less time we spend inwardly focused, the more time we are able to spend bettering the world around us.
If someone is struggling with, say, depressive symptoms. They can spend a large amount of their day just focused on the inward struggles they are experiencing. This is the same for any mental health condition, and not even limited to those struggling at a diagnosable level.
So, if mental health conditions cause individuals to focus inwardly, then the more an individual is able to focus on events outside of themselves, the less their mental health symptoms are impacting their life. The less time we spend inwardly focused, the more time we are able to spend bettering the world around us.
But what does this have to do with business?
Why should any of this matter to an entrepreneur or executive?
Well, considering that 1 in 5 individuals lives with a mental health condition, anyone in a leadership position should not only understand how pervasive mental health issues are among their employees, they would benefit from realizing that this can also mean themselves. Which leads to three points.
First, spend time and money on the mental health of your staff. If they are struggling, then your business will be too. Provide services such as EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) and mental health sick days – because, let’s face it, some days we just need to recharge without having to also have the flu. Your employees will thank you, your customers will thank you, your shareholders will thank you.
Second, shine a light on your own actions and perspectives. How are you approaching your work? Are your actions based out of an inward focus; attempting to prove something to yourself and the world? Or are your actions motivated by Social Interest as you try to better the world around you?
Finally, this concept of Social Interest and the importance of our social connectedness is primarily held in mental health professions. Even though the evidence proves this is true, the benefits of spreading this knowledge are slow. This is why it is so very important that coaches also develop their understanding of mental health theories and concepts. Not only to increase an executive’s level of expertise but to provide them with insight that is based on more than a personal mantra.
A passion to help people improve is a rare and noble trait, but intentions alone can’t produce long-term success. It’s important that when looking for a coach, you find one that has the training to help achieve your desired results. If they are not trained to provide what you need, then move on. Take the time to make the best choice for yourself and your company.
If this article interested you, be sure to read the second installment, here.