Two business people discuss investment project working and plann
ATD Blog

Coaching for Well-Being, Coaching for Retention

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Much has been written about the unprecedented and widespread employee burnout sweeping through the workplace and its correlation to the Great Resignation. This problem is not limited to retail and healthcare workers. It’s not just a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and our new hybrid workplace. But it is creating a seismic shift in work attitudes and perceptions at all organizational levels.

Deloitte recently partnered with the independent research firm Workplace Intelligence to survey 2,100 employees and C-level executives across four countries—the US, UK, Canada, and Australia—and found that nearly 70 percent of executives are seriously considering quitting their current positions for a job that better supports their well-being. What would be the impact to your organization if you had a mass exodus of your senior leaders?

Many talent development professionals have reworked their talent development programs to focus on employee well-being to combat burnout and boost retention. However, they may have overlooked one important tool that is already in their talent development toolbox: leadership coaching.

The coaching engagement—traditionally an intervention used to address performance gaps or develop a leader to achieve a higher level within an organization, especially at the senior-leader level—can easily be realigned to provide the necessary tools and focus to aid in burnout prevention, supporting well-being and positivity impact retention. While many organizations are focused on enhancing transactional elements of the employment relationship to improve retention, such as salary bumps or perks, a recent McKinsey study identified that what employees really prioritize in their decision to stay with their organizations are more relational in nature—being engaged, sensing they belong, and feeling valued.

In fact, simply being selected for coaching can make a leader feel valued, worthy of the investment, and integral to an organization’s long-term plans. Furthermore, once in the coaching program, a good coach helps a leader reframe their relationship with their job and take control over their own well-being.

Talent development leaders can help their organizations change the perceptions about the potential uses and perceived value of leadership coaching. The best filter that will deliver a strong ROI on today’s coaching dollars is not an employee’s poor performance or behavioral gaps. Rather, the best way to determine coaching candidates is by assessing your most productive, key leaders’ satisfaction levels and their ability to be resilient. It is also the basis for creating a powerful retention coaching program.

At any given time, leaders can be at different stages on the burnout continuum – from a mild sense of frustration, to increasing levels of anger and apathy, to complete withdrawal and total burnout. You should align your retention coaching program with this continuum using three distinctly different coaching approaches. First, when used preemptively, retention coaching can help a leader remain productive, engaged, and able to avoid the job factors that can negatively impact their personal well-being. Second, in an at-risk retention coaching approach, a skilled coach provides tools to help a leader get back on track after demonstrating unhealthy burnout behaviors . And for leaders in the throes of burnout and withdrawal, restorative coaching can rejuvenate well-being and counteract unhealthy behaviors before the leader “quietly quits” or exits the organization altogether.


Skilled coaches use a range of approaches and coaching tools when addressing issues of retention and well-being with a leader. Notably different than when coaching for performance, these five tips serve as guideposts when coaching for retention and well-being:

1. Explore alternatives to leaving the job, including out-of-the-box thinking. There may be a new project or different work that would give the leader a break from their routine and a new perspective on their career and the organization. Explore various options that haven’t been considered previously. If warranted, develop an action plan for a work redesign proposal. Even small and subtle changes can make a big difference.

2. Revisit purpose and values and review what drew the leader to their position and career in the first place. Connecting with what matters most will help the leader clearly see what is important to continue and what they can let go of.

3. Discuss and prioritize routine work. Set new boundaries and develop specific practices that will help leaders recharge their batteries. Getting out of a rut or being able to lift their head to see above the day-to-day grind will help leaders envision a better, healthier future for themselves. Everyday self-care is just as important as any meeting on their calendars. Once the leader becomes more consistent with their self-care routine, ask them to recheck their energy levels each day so that they recognize progress.


4. Focus on gratitude and celebrating success. Coaches can help leaders see the good in their work and the positive impact they are making on the people they lead and their organization as a whole.

5. Address interpersonal issues such as feeling overlooked or undervalued. This may require a dual coaching session with the leader and the person they have a conflict with, so that they can begin to resolve the issue. Moving past a fractured or toxic relationship has many business benefits.

Business and workplace challenges aren’t getting any easier anytime soon. Hybrid work, a fierce war for talent, and the ongoing supply chain disruptions are just a few of the complex issues that today’s employees are tackling. Creating a healthy, resilient, and committed team of leaders and executives is crucial for supporting and leading your workforce in these challenging times. While there are several ways training and development professionals can support leaders, creating a robust coaching program is an effective tool that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The value of adding a well-being coaching component to your organization’s retention strategy can not only increase the odds of keeping senior leaders at your organization, but it can also enhance their performance and productivity and improve their overall work-life balance.

If you are interested in learning more about retention coaching, please download Dion Leadership’s Coaching for Retention e-book. It is packed full of practical advice, helpful tools, and a convincing case study that will support you in creating a coaching-for-retention program at your organization.

About the Author

Steve Dion is founder and CEO of Dion Leadership, a leadership and organization development consulting firm based in Michigan. Steve has dedicated his career to understanding and improving organizational cultures through the creation and deployment of innovative leadership development programs, executive coaching, team effectiveness programs, and talent assessment.

Steve is an executive board member at Fast Company. He is a regular contributor to CEO World, Chief Executive, Training Industry, and HRCI’s HR Leads Business Blog. Always innovating, Steve and his Dion Leadership colleagues recently launched a new research-based training product that supports work-life alignment.

1 Comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
A timely and effective new application of an established practice. I've seen it for myself--this works.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.