By: Hank Provost
Working with one of my senior CEO clients in a coaching session this past week, I raised the question around whether she had the time and resources to continue our work, given the current pandemic crisis. Her healthcare organization was under extreme pressure to perform at a time when the clinic employees were in physical danger of infection, patients were clamoring for services, and the corporate staff were all working virtually to keep the organization afloat.
I felt this CEO might let me know that she would be focusing on the crisis at hand and putting our coaching on the back shelf. Why not? Many leaders might think that their top priorities should be focusing on the crisis, showing their customers, patients, employees, or associates that they were on the job, strong, independent, leading the way. All of the qualities we would expect from leaders in crisis.
Somewhat surprisingly, my CEO client reminded me how important our relationship was and how unfortunate it is that inexperienced leaders forget their coach in times of challenge. I wondered what it was this experienced leader finds in our coaching relationship that was now even more important in this time of crisis. So, I asked.
My CEO client talked about several ways that our coaching would be supportive for her leadership in ways that would not be possible for her through other relationships. She noted the following:
1. Upsetting assumptions that she might be holding on to about leading, when the traditional assumptions about how she leads might not fit anymore.
2. Softening the isolation that she is feeling when everyone is looking to her for answers to problems that have no clear and obvious solutions.
3. Talking through radical strategies that may not have been possible even a few weeks ago.
4. Testing reality that she holds against what may really be going on in the world around her.
5. Creating a safe and vulnerable space where she can express concerns that she can’t always share with her team, employees or constituents.
In times of crisis a leader’s need to show strength and invulnerability can overshadow our need for continuing support and counsel. All leaders, employees, customers and communities are facing moments of reality never experienced before. Leaders do not have to face the future alone.
If you are working with a trusted coach, keep them close. If you don’t have the relationship of a trusted coach and counsel, there may be no time more important than today to consider putting that relationship in place for yourself.