11 May 2020

Executive Coaching in a Crisis

One of our highly experienced Learning Specialists and Executive Coach, Eamonn Eaton, shares his thoughts on how Executive Coaching can help you lead during a crisis.

Executive Coaching in a Crisis

The sudden emergence of Covid-19 and its rapid escalation to a Global Crisis requires a level of leadership that many senior business managers and leaders have never experienced in their career or during their lifetime. The current environment demands leaders who can display resilience, remain calm and find a depth of courage from within to respond in an agile and timely way to effectively lead their organisations into the new normal. As they do this, they must remain positive, realistic, motivated and in control providing strong leadership for their teams, customers, suppliers and the general public. Simultaneously they are realigning their own expectations, handling their own insecurities, coping with change and trying to portray hope and optimism in the new future. This is the time to ask how coaching can help senior business leaders tackle their inner dialogues and unlock self-limiting beliefs that could increase their impact and effectiveness.

Why people turn to coaching

In my experience, people turn to coaching for many reasons including career advancement, maximising their potential, achieving career change, managing transitions, unlocking their true potential. In many cases, I often meet people who are seeking support in coping with some form of workplace tension, interpersonal dynamic, a barrier – physical or emotional – that’s impacting performance or future potential. These situations usually fall into one of the following 3 categories:

  1. There is a real crisis, and the individual is aware of it.
  2. There is a real crisis, and the individual is not aware of it.
  3. The individual believes there is a crisis where one does not exist.

In my experience, coaching really helps business leaders who find themselves in one of the 3 situations. Working with a coach, they can explore and focus on options available to them to handle the emotions involved in parallel with developing a solution through an outcomes-based approach. By working on a combination of the practical steps or actions the business leader needs to take to achieve a successful outcome and also attitudinal changes they need to make to remove any psychological barriers preventing them from taking them, they can develop strategies to recognise and manage emotions enabling them work to maximise their effectiveness in handling the situation.

In the current Covid-19 environment, all 3 factors are present. All business leaders are aware of the crisis; however they may not have taken the time to think through and explore the magnitude and long-term impact for themselves, their teams or business. The senior business leader may be caught in survival mode and may not have had time to reflect on all dimensions of the crisis and how the rapid shift to a new context may have highlighted or exposed some personal challenges or development areas. And finally, their internal dialogue may be creating problems where none exist and if left unmanaged, may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Coaching can provide the senior business leader with the support in a safe environment to recognise their emotional reactions and develop strategies to respond to these. Coaching can also provide the opportunity to formulate and stress test practical steps and a plan to address challenges during and after the crisis.

Coaching for Motivation

One of the side effects of a crisis situation like the one we all find ourselves in at the moment is a change in our personal motivation. The impact of this on senior business leaders can have a disproportionate impact on how they respond to the situation, can colour their judgement and also subconsciously influence their decision making. David Mc Clelland, the motivational psychologist, describes 3 factors that combine to motivate individuals:

  1. The need for power
  2. The need for achievement
  3. The need for affiliation

The Covid-19 crisis has caused a shift in these factors and as a result, has changed the balance for senior business leaders. We are all motivated by a balance of these factors; however senior leaders whose personal motivation is anchored in power or achievement could be challenged by the loss of control as the crisis emerged and gained pace. Coaching can provide a safe environment to explore the emotional void where the senior business leader can understand why their personal motivation may be impacted or deteriorating. Coaching sessions help get behind the brave face that leaders often hide behind as they struggle to lead their business and teams, while dealing with the impact of the situation on the personally.

The time is right for coaching

If this article has stimulated your thinking, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I taking time to truly think about the impact that Covid-19 is having on me and my ability to remain calm, be resilient and display courage in my leadership as this crisis unfolds?
  • Do I have someone I can trust to be non-judgemental and an environment where I can truly discuss my emotional reactions and inner dialogues about the current reality and how I will grow to lead in the new future normal?
  • Is this the right time to work with an executive coach who can challenge my thinking and explore my emotions, in order to help me consider options for transitioning to the new future?
  • Is there a senior leader in my business who might benefit from coaching in this crisis and the help and support this could bring for them personally, their teams, customers and their business?

I believe that wrestling with the crisis has the potential to both build resilience and open a window to wisdom.


Want to keep up to date with all the trends & insights from the world of work and learning? Follow us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/harvest-resources_2/