A Black Swan Event called the coronavirus pandemic has upended the world as we knew it. From our present position in the “new normal,” we’d like to discuss executive coaching during this unprecedented and challenging time.
Many companies have scrambled to adapt as personal residences have become schools and workplaces overnight, and revenue streams have changed or become untenable. There is an urgency in the air, which on our best days can summon a sense of renewed purpose, courage to face the unknown, and resolution to weather the storm and arrive at safe harbor.
On other days we may experience dread, anxiety and feelings of powerlessness. According to testimony from our partners and clients, many of us can swing between the two on the same day, or within the same hour.
In spite of the present moment, the basic moves of effective executive coaching have not changed. They may, in fact, be more relevant than ever. Establishing a vision, prioritizing communication skills and relationship building, receiving feedback and perceiving blind spots, formulating goals and strategies to improve in required areas – all of these things have remained mission critical.
However, this is a moment where the executive coaching arrangement can directly address an issue that, for many, is enlarged. Namely emotional and psychological stress.
Senior leaders are carrying the additional burden of assuaging their employee’s emotional anxiety. They are being called on to appear as strong, confident, calm and capable. People who can instill a sense of well-being, and “we’ll get through this together” spirit.
In other words, senior leaders are being summoned to answer the call to leadership. We call it “heroic leadership.” Most leaders in corporate environments are aware, even if only vaguely, that how they conduct themselves in this moment may have a significant influence on their employees’ lives and careers, as well as their own.
Having said this, let’s explore a few areas of focus for effective executive coaching during the coronavirus pandemic.
Coach As Confidante
An effective coach establishes rapport with a client, and ideally, a relationship of trust and confidence that may extend over years. In this case, the coach is already a client’s confidante. At the present time, it may be worthwhile for the coach to prioritize a client’s emotional and psychological well-being. This is the foundation from which a client is able to lead and perform at a high level for an organization.
While we still believe that therapists are appropriate for emotional and psychological processing, a coach is wise to set time aside for the client to air out their anxieties and fears about the company, as well as their own performance, that may be keeping them up at night. Is senior leadership in the process of scheduling a series of layoffs? Is the client’s position in jeopardy? Executive coaching during pandemic may require coaches to be vulnerable with their clients and have some authentic conversations to air out negative thoughts and emotions.
Invite The Client To Revisit Their Overarching Vision & Values
While it is true that the best visions can weather many storms and turns of fate, in an event as significant as this one, consider spending time revisiting the client’s original vision for their life and career. What has changed?
In light of how the vision may have changed or circumstances have affected the client – such as illness in their company, family, or community – what shifts have occurred in relation to core values or their order of importance?
Recalibrate Goals & Objectives
In light of changes in vision and core values, priorities may have changed. Inquire which projects to prioritize, shelve for later, or scuttle entirely.
Articulate revised goals and objectives.
Revisit Communication Skills & Executive Presence
Now is a good time to revisit the fundamentals of communication skills and executive presence. Why? Because many senior leaders are being required to manifest heroic leadership. In times of genuine crisis, team members rely heavily upon a leader who can assume a calm and confident presence and rally the team around its core values and vision.
Or the leader may be required to step into the breach and articulate a new vision for the present crisis. Historical figures like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and Ghandi are examples of such heroic leadership.
Even an executive in a small business selling “non-essential” consumer products may be called upon to enter into the frame of heroic leadership. After all, their company is the means of livelihood for everyone who works there, and may be considered a microcosm of the nation itself. Treat your client and their company as such and, with humility and poise, prepare your client to embody heroic leadership through clear, calm executive presence and communication skills.
We hope this conversation about executive coaching during pandemic has been helpful from both the client’s and coach’s perspectives. As always, we are available to connect about coaching for yourself or other members of your team during this time of challenge.