Coaching in the Time of COVID- An argument for Revitalization (2020)

Murray Palevsky

Coaching in the Time of COVID- An argument for Revitalization

Re-entering the arena of coaching or consulting after the initial COVID-19 lockdown and confinement has its own special set of challenges. In light of this, one of these challenges may be related to how companies and its leaders; coaches and coachees; re-engage in the process.


People may find it challenging to be coached after the emotional trauma and the pressure of lockdowns. Others may question the cost of coaching and/or consulting and whether there is value of doing so at a time when there is a keen focus on companies to regain lost revenue.


Physical isolation and confinement may have a numbing or even a paralyzing effect on a person’s ability to communicate. Others may feel passively aggressive and even outwardly intransigent or reluctant about engaging with the challenges of work.


Coaching for a new start


One of the thoughts that came into my mind was to look at the group coaching activity as a new beginning or a fresh start. Group coaching specifically can be a way of counteracting the sense of isolation and bringing people together under a common journey. An introduction to the group coaching process that emphasizes this new beginning can be a unique opportunity to look at oneself with fresh eyes and combat the inertia caused by COVID. This can promote new ways of thinking and creative discussions around ways of working going forward.


The damage done to the psyche by months of confinement should not be underestimated but neither should the resilience of the human mind. New and renewed contact with people, even if it is virtual, can be seen and thought of as new and vibrant reconnection after a hiatus.


This type of post diluvian versus antediluvian thinking can promote a reset. Re-engagement and the forging of relationships can be an exciting way of setting an agenda.  It can be an opportunity to take chances and exhibit intrepidness to explore relationships both old and new.


Seeing other people and their situations in a changed business environment can also be an opportunity to trigger insights and possibilities that were not seen before. New green shoots in the form of ideas, concepts and motivations can energize the mind and inspire creativity. Fossilized strategies can be a backdrop for developing new successful ones or re-invigorating ones of the past.


Role of the coach in virtual group coaching


From the perspective of coaching, the work that is done virtually has its challenges. Coaching calls in the present virtual environment on top of all the operational calls that people must attend to make it especially challenging in balancing workload and family responsibilities. Lack of physical presence and contact also make it more difficult to create the conditions for connection, mutual accountability and change.


Group coaching can be a more invigorating and enriching alternative to challenge and support individuals to make changes to their lives. It provides a transitional space in which individuals are:


  • exposed to different insights
  • challenged by others to confront feedback
  • engage in vicarious learning
  • become embedded in a renewed community of peer support and mutual accountability


In addition to group coaching, encourage your clients to connect separately with each other either 1:1 or in group chats to further the discussions that have occurred in their coaching groups and help follow up their action plans.


It is also important to see the coaches’ role as being something of a Cassandra. By this I mean, that the coaches be aware of how easy it is for participants to “forget” the insights taken from a group call. Their role should also be to follow up and ensure that they make good on their commitments. Follow up on what has been discussed previously is critical as a sequel to and confirmation of an agreed upon and adopted action plan. Virtual coaching has the additional advantage of starting a conversation in the present context of lockdown and creating a relationship that can be easily continued and segued into face to face sessions when conditions allow for them and vice versa. This gives coaching professionals a head start in the sense that it becomes the continuation of virtual contact as opposed to the inertia of starting from scratch.


In the end, group coaching sessions can add value and act as a clarion call. The desire for change is meaningless without the actions that must follow it. The COVID virus gives us a chance to experience a changed world which may in fact make it easier to undergo personal change.


Photo by László Glatz on Unsplash

KDVI Research Lab, 2020

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Article Comments

Hanneke Frese

Nov 3, 4:27 PM

Murray makes an excellent case for the possibility that personal change may be easier in the time of COVID. We are all in the same boat after all, and the virus can well be experienced as an equaliser. An experienced coach can hold participants in a group who may enter with a sense of bewilderment but then find that there are ways to feel comfortable with feeling vulnerable and sharing that with each other. It helps to broaden out the communication frame which may have been narrow in all the zoom calls, focusing on existential business challenges. How fortunate coachees would be to find a new community where things are uniquely different ... to make a fresh start ... to have a new sense of ownership of how we give meaning to who we are, how we show up, what leadership style we chose. Thank you Murry for making the case so eloquently!

Ann Houston Kelley

Nov 5, 11:27 PM

Wonderful essay in support of a key value creator during this period of the Pandemic.

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