Coaching Has A New Relevance During Covid-19

Posted in : Coaching in the Moment on 5 June 2020
Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd
Issues covered: Coaching; Coronavirus; Leadership; Remote Working; Psychological Safety; Resilience

Things fall apart the centre cannot hold. Commentators frequently invoke Yeats’ lines when describing a chaotic situation. Most of us have  emerged from those early chaotic days of converting our co-located teams to 100% virtual. And we’re managing. Or are we? This new working world demands a different standard of leadership from us all and coaching has a surprising value at this time.

The pressures on teams are considerable. As leaders, we need to create stability, and manage both for well-being and results. Our organisations are seeking to build agility to survive and even thrive in a global economy that is struggling to function. Our team members are facing their own challenges at home. Harvard Business Review reported that the pandemic has caused  a lack of clarity about team roles. Fading interpersonal connections, coupled with overwhelming workloads are leading to low morale. These drivers create strains between leaders and their teams.

Leaders need to work all the harder to build a bridge between remote team members. They need to actively support individual team performers. Coaching is one of the most important leadership skills for these times.

Coaching in the Moment during Covid 19

The Challenge

With homeworking likely to remain the norm for 2020, how do managersadapt their skills to adifferent style of remote coaching?

The Solution

Embrace remote working to coach your people. Use the  technology well, focusing more on well-being and virtual leadership  with shorter coaching sessions.  

Takeaway Actions

Use remote coaching to help stabilise your team. Create a psychologically safe environment.  Increase individual coaching to ensure long-term well being and results. 

Use remote coaching to stabilise your team

Research on emotional intelligence indicates that employees look to their managers for cues at a time of dramatic change. If the leader communicates stress and helplessness, this adversely affects the team. Instead, create clarity around short term goals. Focus on the controllables.

When using remote technology such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, check team members’ wellbeing by noting their participation and responses.(See previous blog Managing and motivating remotely: 7 tips for success). Then follow up by providing one to one coaching, mindful of the fact that people transition through change at different speeds. Some may still struggle while others are ready for the new normal.

Create a psychologically safe environment

Uncertainty and anxiety can thrive in a remote working situation.  Effective leaders need to acknowledge the stress and worry that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances while also affirming confidence in their teams and in the future. When teams’ interpersonal foundation, i.e. working together, is taken away, the normal rough and tumble of disagreement, debate and healthy conflict is harder to manage. Leaders need to actively ensure that everyone gets a chance to raise concerns, ask questions and suggest new ideas. Take extra time in launching new virtual teams to build mutual trust and strong team values.

Individual Coaching

The traditional coaching theme of career development may be less important in the current environment. According to recent research carried out by Grant Thorton in the UK, leaders reported that the primary focus in coaching during the pandemic is wellbeing. Other Grant Thornton coaching themes include:

  • Resilient leadership and virtual leadership
  • Ensuring the organisation can respond quickly to changing circumstances
  • Mitigating the impact of negative newstories

In terms of coaching formats, the new preferred style is dynamic ‘bite-sized’ and regular coaching moments rather than longer sessions.

As we work through the different stages of the Covid 19 change curve from initial denial, resistance, through to acceptance and exploration, coaching styles and challenges continue to change. We need to be agile to continue to add value as coaches as people explore and commit to the new world of working arising from the seismic changes. A more participative, developmental coaching approach using a tool like the GROW model is quite an effective way to help managers and employees feel supported and work together through these changes. 

And to finish with Yeats, “All has changed, changed utterly”. Coaching can be a reassuring constant in these challenging times.

Any queries or manager coaching challenges, please contact Karl O’Connor or Cariona Neary at


This article is correct at 05/06/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd

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