A ‘pandemic’! We have heard that term time and again over the years. While the impact of pandemics have found mention throughout history, nothing ever hits home until one experiences it first-hand. Sadly, the inevitable has happened. COVID-19 has ravaged the world, changing the lives of people forever, and the effects are likely to reverberate for generations. Families have been torn apart by grief, people have lost their livelihoods and students are losing hope of realising any real opportunity. Although we have always dealt with such issues before the contagion, when the pandemic actually hit, everything changed. No longer were we able to speak with a close colleague with a swivel of our chair, or freely meet each other outside of work. The same support network we subconsciously relied on at work, all but disappeared. The pandemic made the mundane, relevant — the concern unmanageable. Everything went wrong all at once for everyone, and that is indeed unprecedented in our lifetime.
People need each other now more than ever. Such events bring the best, and unfortunately, the worst out of humankind. One thing I have observed is that everyone needs someone to support them in some way. In essence, many people would benefit from a professional coach. This is now very evident, the need polarised by the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of human contact has created a yearning for connection. We, perhaps due to routine, failed to realise this until we were locked up in our own homes peering at our computer screens for what little connections we could muster. We were abruptly disconnected from our families at work.
When the lockdown was announced in various parts of the world, the best of professional coaches rallied around to give their support to help coach people from a multitude of backgrounds — NHS staff, students, single parents, care workers and the list goes on. Being present there and getting a real sense of fulfilment on having helped someone through the smallest of problems is addictive. The world of coaching was introduced to many for the first time, by practitioners as well as recipients. Coaching made its mark, and I am glad to say the pandemic brought the best out of many people to make that happen.
Most of us have been accustomed to working online in some capacity. However, online coaching was not something I had entertained. For me, coaching was always best done in person — face-to-face experience with individuals and teams. Well, the pandemic changed that.
‘Working from home’ has attained a whole new meaning. People have stopped to reflect on the direction their lives are taking, and most importantly, on what they value most — time with their families and themselves.
Not mourning the loss of the daily commute and readily accepting the opportunity of an extra lie-in, people soon realised they were more focused and had time to think. It didn’t take long for them to adapt after discovering all the benefits that working from home could bring. After all, human beings adapt to change quickly. Thus, the new remote-working world was born. Connecting people beyond borders paved the way for those who otherwise would never have met, to communicate and join in the deepest of ways.
Online events brought together people with the same struggles. Support groups thrived, drawing a multitude of people from many countries and walks of life, to share their common grief and joy. These connections, not otherwise accessible, became more than acceptable. In turn, through these connections, coaching opportunities were born.
While the new online life — that most of us had to embrace — only gave some of us a different method to continue to work, for others it opened a door that would otherwise have remained closed.
Those who would never have considered coaching as a means of confronting their limiting beliefs and solving their problems, were now reaching out to those around them for support. In some strange way, people who felt insecure about sharing their challenges openly despite the freedom offered by a face-to-face environment, were able to open up sitting behind a screen in the relative sanctuary of their own homes. Perhaps, they were able to disassociate from the norm. This, in my opinion, played a big part in many people opening up to coaching and experiencing this new way of solving their problems by finding their own solutions. People working from home now have access to coaching like never before, which is very exciting indeed.
I recall my first experience coaching online since the start of the pandemic. In familiar, yet equally unfamiliar territory, I found myself greeting my coachee with mild trepidation. “What if I can’t make a connection online as I have done at the workplace?”. “What if they find the session unhelpful?” My limiting beliefs went into overdrive. Till then I found it easy to read any situation face-to-face. I could read facial expressions and body language with no problem. I almost had to relearn these skills. As a coach, I realised that I have to work a little harder to catch those facial expressions or the murmur of uncertainty in my coaching client. While it was challenging, it was not impossible. Ultimately, I had to relax. I had to remember that the person on the other side is also dealing with the same anxiety. In reality, we were in many ways in the same boat. We had a shared experience before even starting to acknowledge each other.
For those coachees who are feeling strained by the online world, I would like to say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Be you, relax and keep a tranquil, open mind. Feel excited about what may come next in your coaching session.”
As we settle into this new reality, I realise that online coaching is a valuable offering. Not only for us as professional coaches, to improve our craft, but for millions of professionals who would otherwise not have been able to experience the richness of connection. Given the busy world we live in, people would never have considered for a moment how coaching could help them solve the most straightforward issues, or how the power of coaching could allow them to solve their problems.
Watch Judy’s story and discover how coaching can help leaders and teams in your organisation reach new heights
Coaching is a powerful tool to unleash the potential of human beings, who experience heuristic ways to solve their challenges. The human resource is central when it comes to supporting the wellbeing of the staff. People are not resources, but human beings with emotions and needs. Coaching supports their growth and development on a multitude of levels. Now more than ever organisations need to focus on supporting the mental wellbeing of their people by creating and providing coaching capability for each and every employee to access.
Coaching conversations are powerful, and those who experience a great coach do genuinely have a life-changing encounter. Not because they experience something they’ve most likely never considered, but because they realise they have the answers to their challenges.
The act of thinking and speaking does help powerful connections develop. Assisting people to make those connections is one of the joys of coaching. When people make that connection, they experience a moment of realisation; a moment I call the ‘spark’. That moment — when they stop in the middle of a sentence, with their eyes all lit up, and start speaking free form, almost as if I, as their coach, never existed — is truly special. Such a moment of realisation helps the mind see a doorway. A doorway, that one may not choose to walk through, but one that outlines options. This doorway represents a whole new world of thoughts, ideas and possibilities and promises unique experiences. At this point, the coachee sees an opportunity to progress and move to the next stage of growth and development.
COVID-19 has given us a lot to be concerned about, and rightly so. Our lives have changed forever. The things we took for granted have all but disappeared. With concern, however, comes hope. A hope that in our remote places of work, we can share through the gift of coaching.
So get involved, offer support to people in the organisation and help them discover the wonderful world of coaching.
In 2020, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) celebrates 25 years as a global organisation for coaches and coaching. Dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, ICF provides independent certification and builds a worldwide network of credentialed coaches across a variety of coaching disciplines. Its 41,000-plus members located in 147 countries and territories work towards the common goal of enhancing awareness of coaching, upholding the integrity of the profession and continually updating themselves with the newest research and practices.
In India, ICF is represented by five vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi, ICF Mumbai and ICF Pune.
The author, Zia Malik from the United Kingdom, is a professionally trained coach in business and personal coaching, accredited by the International Coach Federation as a PCC. A Certified Enterprise Coaches with the Scrum Alliance, and an experienced agile trainer, Certified Scrum Trainer CST he has worked as an enterprise coach in a range of industries including fintech, aerospace, pharma and retail, working with individuals, teams and organisations. He believes organisational change does not just mean adopting new processes and ways of working nor does it have to do with new ways of thinking. True transformation requires challenging beliefs, and that means changing people from the inside.