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1 April 2020


Navigating and supporting others through the 'new normal'

I recently took part in a webinar hosted by WBECs, with David Peterson and David Goldsmith, on how coaching can help through the COVID-19 crisis, and found the key messages from it helpful in shaping my thinking as an individual and a coach. It was also useful in a discussion I had with a new client, who is accessing coaching to help him prepare for the challenges ahead as his organisation reviews its structure, driven by market challenges.

I thought it would be helpful to share the key messages from the webinar, in the hope they may be of use to you in shaping your thinking to the challenges you may also be facing. 

The webinar focused on 'the new normal' and what coaches should consider when supporting clients trying to navigate their way through such new ways of working. 

It proposed looking at 'the new normal' using the following perspectives:

1. Daily disruption

2. Daily discipline

3. Virtual is vital

4. Community and Connection

5. Optimism/Inspiration/Vision and Value

1. Daily disruption:

Physical distancing and the importance of a social connection are key elements of the disruption of the new normal. Leaders need to respond rationally to change and be supportive emotionally to those they lead. They also need to switch from being 90:10 business /emotion to 50:50, to support people through the uncertainty we now find ourselves in.

It is better to take fast decisions that you recognise you may adjust later than take no action at all for fear of having to change it later. 

Check your contingency plans (personal and work-related). Are you ready to put them into action, should you need to? Also, use the disruption to step back and reflect on where you are, and use it to motivate you to make changes to your life and routine.

2. Daily discipline:

Set up a place at home for work and try to keep it separate from the space you use when not working.

Whilst doing this, establish a reliable routine as to:

a) When you work

b) When you exercise

c) How you make use of the commute time you have gained

d) Regular meal-times, ideally with the family

e) Make time to step back and reflect

f) Make time for friends and family via phone or videoconference

g) Proactively create routine rather than reactively responding

Plus, if you feel overwhelmed, take time out to breathe and relax for a while.

3. Virtual is vital:

Videoconferencing is emerging as the format of choice during the present crisis. With this in mind, set up a good workspace for this purpose and ensure that you have good sound quality and get to know how to use the technology (i.e. Zoom, Hangouts, Goto meeting, Skype etc). If you find that your bandwidth is poor, you can adjust your settings so that you can use the video for visual and your phone for the audio.

Plus, practice good videoconference etiquette: 

Make eye contact when talking on camera and avoid undertaking other tasks in parallel when videoconferencing – be present.

For group video sessions, keep your camera on so people can see you. Again, be present and do not multitask, take time to create normal social interactions/engage in small talk, be tolerant and cut participants some slack (if someone doesn’t want to have the camera on, for example).

4. Community and Connection:

Look at how you can engage socially and be open to interacting with others on new channels.

Use more shared documents and tools, such as Chat and Instant Messaging. Set boundaries, as being virtual doesn’t mean you are available 24/7. Respect working hours and personal time.

Some organisations are more virtual-ready than others, so help others to understand how to work virtually. Psychological safety in virtual teams starts with empathy. As such, check with people as to what is on their mind and what they need from you to work at their best.

5. Optimism/ Inspiration/Vision and Values:

This can be a dark time for people, and stability comes from a clear vision and values, which can be the foundation on which good communications can be based. Using agreed principles to make decisions will make explaining those decisions easier as people will then understand how you arrived at them.

Many people are responding to the pandemic as if it were a sprint, though it is probably more of a marathon, so adjust your pace and make sure you have the reserves for short sprints only when they are required.

There are paradoxes in how you need to work. On the one hand, you need to be more supportive, whilst on the other, you may have to make some tough decisions. If you make decisions based on principles and explain the principles and show the thought that went into them and your decisions (and then implement them with compassion), you are more likely to get understanding from the people impacted from those decisions.

We need to stay flexible in our approach and be able to adjust based on what comes along. While doing this, create a practice of gratitude and show what you are grateful for, as it creates more of a bond and shared optimism with others. 

In addition, recognise the commonality of shared experience, in working at home, for example, whilst also looking after and schooling your children. Such a shared experience will build the relationship that resolves business challenges.

Prioritise to make the best use of your time:

a) What matters to me now?

b) What matters to the business?

c) What is important now?

d) What is important in the long run?

I have captured the recent webinar content fairly verbatim. I hope it is useful to you and I welcome your thoughts and comments on it. I also ask that you to get in touch if you would like to discuss the above further, or would like a chat yourself, to see if coaching can help you find your way through the current situation.

David Alcock

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

If you would like to hear more about coaching and how to make it work for you, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and to share this blog with anyone that might be interested in learning about executive coaching, how it works and whether it could be of benefit to them.