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The value of coaching in a crisis

Sam Isaacson Sam Isaacson

Development and support teams are vital in the current business landscape. But coaching has an important part to play in helping leaders build resilience and new thinking skills, explains Sam Isaacson.

We've recently conducted research into the value of coaching in business resilience and crisis management. To further our thinking, we invited a group of business leaders to share their thoughts during an online roundtable session.

Attendees shared with us that coaching provides leaders with time to think, which adds real value, particularly during this challenging time. While organisations are looking to make better, more-measured decisions, those with broader visions of what coaching can do to encourage long-term, innovative and systemic thinking are benefitting from seeing coaching deliver fast results and a strong return on investment.

We've summarised key points of the roundtable discussion below:

A heightened awareness of wellbeing coaching

In current times, there's an increased focus on wellbeing and resilience. One foundational principle of coaching is offering support, and that was reflected in the research and among those who attended our virtual roundtable.

As organisations adapt to remote leadership, new ways of working, market forces and business continuity plans, employees are dealing with conflicting thoughts and emotions, including heightened expectations over productivity, over-exposure to technology, information overload and boredom.

Equally, coaches carry fear, anxiety, and concerns for their own resilience, while still being challenged to often do more than their job. New joiners, in particular, have been thrown in at the deep end in challenging circumstances, and coaching conversations are helpful to support them in becoming part of organisations.

Impacts of wider systems

Volatility in the wider environments that organisations interact with has caused some reluctance to take up coaching, despite it being valued due to the increased pressures on productivity.

Drop-in sessions with external coaches have proven particularly helpful, and organisations are seeing the benefit of shorter, more focused discussions. The increased reliance on technology is also driving organisations to explore centralised, reliable platforms to support the management and delivery of career coaching.

Increased demand for wider coaching skillsets

Under lockdown, that vast majority of coaching is being conducted remotely. Video calling can be particularly intense for coaches for several reasons. One example is the use of silence, which is a skill that can take a while to feel comfortable with and to master. While this can bring a sense of vulnerability, phone coaching can be an option for those who find video intrusive, but organisations have found a variety of ways to upskill coaches in online work:

  • Providing coaches with documents highlighting good practice
  • Leading webinars designed to upskill coaches in wellbeing and remote coaching
  • Holding weekly organisation-wide reflections and learnings on health and wellbeing
  • Offering ad hoc, one-to-one support to coaches in an on-demand manner
  • Providing dedicated supervision sessions focussed on wellbeing
  • Explicitly empowering coaches to feel the freedom to ‘coach the whole person’, even when this has not been the coaching culture up to this point

Flexible support for employees

Some organisations are offering employees group-support sessions, allowing them to talk about any fear or anxiety they are feeling within the current climate. This offers a sense of togetherness with others experiencing the same emotions.

Others have found it helpful to have coaches pro-actively get in touch with employees to have an informal conversation. This carries the benefit of making people feel that they’re not forgotten about, along with positively using internal capabilities, without the pressure of a stated outcome.

Returning to the heart of coaching 

There is a need to empower coaches to change the ground rules, by returning to the foundations of coaching. Sometimes, listening is just as effective as being knowledgeable. In fact, this part of the coaching relationship is even more important during the current circumstances.

Being listened to is powerful in itself, without the pressure of developing a detailed action plan. Particularly, with more senior people, being flexible to deliver more dynamic, shorter coaching approaches (for example, 30-minute weekly sessions), rather than 60 to 90-minute monthly sessions, has worked well.

As we will eventually reach a time of renewal, organisations and coaches should be actively learning now in order to use that in the future.

Get a deeper analysis

We're happy to share more findings from our research into the value of coaching, and to support you in expanding coaching within your business.

To discuss this further, get in touch with Sam Isaacson.

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