Coaching is an important skill that all good managers should have in their tool-kit. In coaching you bring a structure and powerful questions to help the coachee think through situations, see different perspectives and understand themselves better. Coaching empowers people to make their own decisions and brings more commitment to actions. Coaching is action driven and as well as greater self-awareness coaching should bring increases in productivity and a drive towards business results.
Coaching is a valuable tool to be using right now, but what do coaching conversations look like in the COVID-19 environment? Are they the same as before or different? For me at this time coaching is a way to help your team to make sense of the situation and express their emotion, it can help them to find meaning, maintain their motivation for work and life and find new measures of success. Ultimately coaching is a way for you to drive connection and trust when the usual opportunities for social connection are gone.
Coaching at this time should encompass these 4 Cs:
Being curious means embracing your own ignorance about what is going on for people and not making assumptions. Everyone is experiencing a different version of the crisis and has their own shifting emotions on a daily basis. Being curious means approaching people with humility and interest. Be curious about what is going on for them and don’t assume that you know all the answers and can necessarily relate to their exact experience. Curiosity needs to happen before empathy does. Without curiosity, instead of empathy we end up labelling and projecting emotions onto the other person. To be an effective coach is to step out of judgement and assumptions and these skills are more critical than ever right now. Avoid generalisations and make time for fully understanding what is happening with each of your team members.
What to say:
- What’s going on with you?
- Tell me more
- What are you finding challenging?
- What are you enjoying?
To show compassion means that we approach others with kindness and care, we are able to step outside of ourselves and see things from the other persons perspective. This is about empathy, yes, and connecting to the feelings of the other person, but it goes further than that and is about an ability to set aside company targets and finances and prioritise the needs of the other person. To coach at this time means to help people to connect with their emotions rather than pushing them away. It is about letting people know they can honestly express themselves and their worries. This compassion should come through in your coaching and company communications. Deliver communication with a sensitivity to the fact that people may be depressed, fearful, isolated and frustrated. Employees will remember how they were treated at this time and trust and loyalty will be built or broken. How are tough decisions delivered? Is communication one way or two way? Do you know what is happening with your team members and how they are feeling? These are questions every manager needs to be asking.
What to ask:
- How do you feel?
- How is this impacting you?
- How is your family?
- How can I best support you?
There is an opportunity to use this time to improve the quality of our workplace relationships. A coaching style is not all one way, the coach needs to open up and show some of themselves to build trust and connection. In a manager-employee relationship this can be more challenging but it is vitally important; vulnerability is a key way to drive connection. When we are able to fully be ourselves and open up to another person, we show who we really are and not the professional demeanour we try and present in the office. This time working from home is forcing us all to be more real. We are inviting each other into our homes and allowing our colleagues to see our personal space, with all the craziness, the kids in the background and pets making noise. It makes us human. This is an opportunity to not just open up our homes virtually but to also open up ourselves. In many ways this is an easy time to be vulnerable because it is ok to admit that you are not ok. Everyone is in similar boats so we are able to accept others struggles and challenges easier. Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness. It helps us to connect to one another in new ways and build stronger bonds. Hopefully this will continue after the COVID crisis and we will all feel more comfortable talking about our discomfort.
What to do:
- Share your own emotional journey
- Discuss challenges you are facing
- Take time for personal discussions
- Share openly, listen attentively
In crisis situations, when every aspect of the business is impacted, it can be a great time for creativity. All the rules are out of the window so your team may feel more comfortable about suggesting new ideas, making changes and thinking outside of the box. We are all at home and many of us have more time on our hands; in these moments of slowing down we start to think about what we enjoy, what we don’t enjoy, what works, what doesn’t and new ways of doing things. The forced working from home has made us rethink the need for offices, physical space and daily commutes. Many companies have started to look at their business model differently and see new ways of operating in the future. The businesses that thrive after this will use this an opportunity to pivot direction, overhaul outdated policies and procedures and treat their employees differently. In your coaching conversations you should tap into the hidden creativity in your team members and find their ideas on how things can be better in the post covid-19 world.
What to change:
- Let people know you are open to change
- Make time for brainstorming and new idea generation
- Consider the impact of the current changes on your business long term
- Act collaboratively in your management style
There is no one right way to coach, remember it is just a set of techniques to help the other person to understand and express themselves in a better way. You don’t need to have a professional qualification to start being a coach. Ask questions, stay curious, step out of problem solving and listen hard.