Of course, our thoughts remain with those who have lost loved ones, friends and colleagues during this awful pandemic and gratitude beyond words goes to those in our health and social services who are showing such bravery and self-sacrifice in their deeds.
Together, we will get through this and across Europe we are starting to see early shoots of a gradual movement towards ‘normality’, whatever that might look like post-COVID 19. Still some way to go, but there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.
In this blog I suggest how coaching can support leaders going through one of the most challenging times in recent collective memory.
I am sure the focus of many, including in my most recent sector Higher Education, is keeping the ship afloat whilst in such uncharted waters. For many businesses, maintaining contracts, delivering services and goods, an extremely rapid examination of expenditure versus costs (leading to some hard decisions on staffing), keeping communications going and maintaining the morale and focus of talented staff have been upper-most in mind. I expect that many leaders are also dealing with their own anxieties- not just about the business, but coping in extreme situations that perhaps even the most clairvoyant Business Continuity Plans could not have envisaged. The speed at which this crisis has unfolded globally is quite astonishing – and the adaptability of many businesses and services to the impact has equally been extraordinary.
Who would have envisaged our reliance of Apps such as Zoom (or similar) and the rapidity in which it has been adopted in order to support business continuity and ensure vital lines of communication. Leaders are also not only having to manage their teams and adapt to available technological solutions but are also suffering immense personal pressure and stress. Many find themselves not only dealing with all of this but having to home-school, forage for food, adapt normal routines to manage in times of shortage and write quizzes for social online gatherings! It is no surprise that the focus is almost hour by hour, day by day with little thought to the future. The expression I have heard again and again from leaders is that they feel completely ‘overwhelmed’ and that they feel both physically and emotionally isolated.
But we will emerge from this period and, like all human ‘crises’ in the past, whether they be pandemics, wars or financial melt-downs, there will be a future and there are also businesses and service improvement opportunities. In the last financial crisis, there are numerous examples of businesses that actually thrived. I notice today that a famous brand of ‘deliciously’ made cakes has seen a massive increase in sales over this period. I propose that now is exactly the time to seek coaching to help leaders both deal with the present but, importantly, plan and prepare for the future, leveraging the opportunities for the ‘new normal’. As Andrew Connors, Head of Higher Education at Lloyds bank recently blogged, leaders should, “be open to the opportunity to transform your operating model, to grow your people and to future proof”. Wise words indeed.
Coaching offers a powerful intervention to support leaders and individuals at this time. It can really help in cutting through, and offering support, for those feelings of being overwhelmed, offering individual and tailored solutions. It can help leaders and business owners to look to the future and see beyond the trees to the woods beyond – precious and meaningful time spent with a coach in a confidential space where anxieties and fears can be explored, addressed and ameliorative actions put in place. But, as importantly, a space where you can be free to let your creativity flow and see the bright future that could await the business/organisation. It can help both reassure the leader, enable them to envisage the future, help a transformation of the business model (learning from experiences in this crisis), clearly identify the talent gaps and development needs within your organisational staffing and provide what Professor Amy Edmondson coined, a psychologically safe place where all this can be achieved without fear of negative judgement.
In my view, a combination of a Solutions-Focused coaching approach (seeking to build on strengths of a business rather than weaknesses, solutions rather than problems) and encouraging positivity in mind-set will play an important part in helping leaders both address current anxieties and enact plans for a brighter future.
Find out more about my coaching offer at: https://richbeaucoaching.co.uk/home/