Coaching Leaders Through an Extended Crisis

October 29, 2021
Table of Contents

It’s been almost two years since Covid-19 took over our lives. What was once being termed as “once the pandemic is over” has now transitioned into “this is life as we know it.” From hoping to go back to normal life as we knew it pre-pandemic, we have now come to learn to live with this virus and make this our new normal.

Since then, with multiple waves disrupting our lives and several ways in which people have been coping with the uncertainty, corporates too have gone through many changes – from adjusting to a work-from-home model to transitioning to a hybrid work culture. And not to mention with so many businesses having had to close doors, these couple of years have not been easy. 

In the midst of these many changes, leadership roles have also gone through their own journey and transitions. We discovered with the help of two articles by Forbes & HBR, there have been contrasting approaches leaders have taken in managing their teams, with the ongoing pandemic in the background.

If you’re into leadership coaching, this may be particularly useful for you to see how as a coach you can show up for your clients as they deal through these continually challenging times, by being aware of varying approaches. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Projecting Enthusiasm vs Calmness

A sect of leaders believe that people at the time of threat require a calming influence and not a motivating influence because people are already aroused, even if they don’t outwardly show it. Thus, leaders would fare better to avoid energetic cheerleading and showing too much enthusiasm.

The other side of this is leaders taking on the approach of being fairly active and enthusiastic in their interactions with their team. This re-assures team members who may be apprehensive and encourages those retracting into isolation to not blend into oblivion and instead, play an active collaborative part in dealing with the ongoing crisis by showing up with zeal & vigour and turning challenges into opportunities.

Outward Orientation vs Inward Orientation

Leaders on one end of the spectrum adapt to focus on the challenges of their work and the externals that are threatening them – the reason being that this kind of focus mutes unproductive emotions such as fear or anger in a time of crisis. This kind of outward orientation is terrific for problem-solving and learning and is more solution-oriented at the time of ongoing troubles.

On the other hand, we’ve seen leaders, in times of turmoil, aside from being solution-oriented towards the crisis, also help employees discover their own personal purpose which may have changed completely from what it was pre-crisis. Getting them to prioritize whom they are trying to serve and what they need from the manager to be effective requires more inward clarity.

Leaders in this league take a more ‘inward oriented’ method to help employees figure out their needs and inner challenges. This helps the employees personalize their work’s purpose before aligning it with the organization’s vision or mission statement, which is often so grand that employees have difficulty connecting it to their daily tasks.

Competence vs Collaboration

A key feature of in-extremis leadership is a special relationship between the competence of the leader and loyalty shown to others. Under threat, people’s focus on their leader’s competence skyrockets – they look for a leader who tells them exactly what to do, like a physician describing a treatment plan to their patient. 

On the flip-side, we saw during the pandemic that when companies had to shift from a conventional office setup to a fully remote one, many leaders took up a collaborative method of working with their employees – one which we see continuing even today as circumstances keep shifting and changing.

They created a two-way approach to working that made employees feel involved in work & decisions rather than feeling isolated, by encouraging them to contribute and communicate their ideas and issues without apprehension. This creates a safe work space and a feeling of belonging – which ought to be a priority whether or not there’s a new, ongoing, or no crisis!

We see with these few opposing yet effective approaches that there are a variety of ways a leader can take their team forward at a time that’s new, challenging and unpredictable. Is there a wrong approach? Yes & no. It’s not that a particular approach is wrong but whether or not it is suited to the innate qualities of an individual leader.

As a leadership coach thus, it would be imperative to recognize how your clients as leaders are responding in such circumstances in their respective leadership roles. Here are some ways you can guide them:

  • Bring in awareness: As a leadership coach, one of the most fundamental things to take care of would be to help your clients bring awareness to their own way of being, before guiding them on their way forward as a leader. Only when a leader is aware of their own strengths and limitations can they direct their team in a manner appropriately aligned with them.
  • Help them expand their awareness: Upon bringing in awareness, the next step would be to coach your clients into expanding their current state by discovering what is working in their favour in terms of understanding their strengths, limitations and outputs, and what’s not. Helping them get this insight can give them clarity on what they could do more of or improve and what would be better off being dropped when things are unpredictable.
  • Get them to consider taking on different views:  An essential and often overlooked aspect during an ongoing and extended crisis are the long-term plans and goals of the company. As a leadership coach, it would be vital to remind leaders that while the immediate concerns are of course to be met at once, the long-term must also be taken into consideration and shouldn’t be left on the back-burner to be picked up as an after-thought.
  • Bring in a holistic approach: In the midst of a continuing challenges and instability, leaders do have the responsibility to ensure their company ship continues to remain afloat and prevent it from sinking – either due to employee sentiment, business concerns or cultural upheaval.

Taking a holistic approach that’s beyond just business is going to be vital. Look at your clients’ physical, mental, emotional psychological and spiritual aspects – all these would make it well-rounded & holistic.

If you see leaders themselves under personal stress, perhaps suggest them to create time out for meditation to calm down? Or bringing in 30 minutes of daily physical activity or even getting out of the house and getting a change of scenery.

All these things will be paramount in establishing a strong foundation to empower them to take on bigger challenges from a place of strength and stability.

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author
Content Marketing Manager @Simply.Coach

Ipsita Nayak is a full-time writer-editor-content strategist and a part-time NLP coach & yoga teacher. She believes conventions are overrated, has a disproportionate need for solo time over social time, and loves a good mix of sci-fi and trashy TV in her free time!

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