What The Coaches Are Saying – Holiday Edition (2020)

Curated by Elizabeth McCourt

What The Coaches Are Saying – Holiday Edition

In 2020, in every part of the world, we collectively experienced a year like no other, a global pandemic, the likes of which we could not have imagined in our modern world. The lines blurred between work and home, we all worked to stay connected together-apart and perhaps even saw each other in a different way we might never have had the opportunity to experience. As we look toward 2021, the feeling of hope and possibility is clear and what we might bring forward that may be a bit richer, unusual, more colorful and ever resilient. The “What the Coaches Are Saying” Holiday Version are words and learnings from many but felt by all with the hope that it helps those who read find inspiration, connection and good health in the year to come. 


Victoria Bouix – Paris, France

Looking back over the past year, I learned that it is possible to create client intimacy in a virtual environment. I also realized how important it is to hold on to a sense of purpose as we go through times of uncertainty. Being a resource for others, practicing ‘going with the flow’ and focusing on learning has helped me stay sane. My wish for 2021 is to meet family, friends, colleagues and clients again in person and to appreciate being in the moment, fully present and conscious of the gift of being together. My wish is also to remain thankful for the learning and growth from the past year and hoping that we can rise together stronger to meet whatever the future brings.


Jennifer Davis – Hopewell, NJ, USA

My biggest 2020 learning is that “leading with love” is more important than ever. Not only do emotions belong in the workplace, they’ve always been there. As our world becomes more complex and our problems more interconnected, we must come from a place of empathy, inspiration, and purpose. By tapping into the wisdom of our heads AND our hearts, we can navigate this overwhelming time with self-compassion, wisdom, creativity and grace. When we do this, what’s possible? By strengthening connections, learning new skills, boosting our psychological immune systems, stoking creativity and resilience, we emerge stronger and wiser.


Graham Ward – London, UK

This year was all about Connection: connection to ourselves; connection to those who are out of touch, but in our sightline; and of course connection to the internet. We have been cut off, but joined-up in different ways. We have had the gift of time to reflect on a world reshaping itself, but we have also witnessed suffering. The opportunity in 2021 is to take all we have learned to adapt ourselves and our organisations in service of a higher purpose. The system is open, but it won’t be for long!  


Claire Pointing – Brighton, UK

Looking back, 2020 has been a year full of the unexpected for individuals, teams, organisations and society. We have had to adapt and adjust in many ways, ranging from moments of survival to catching the wave of accelerated change. My key learning has been that to thrive in these complex times, the true leaders had the courage to say: “I don’t know….” and the humility to ask “can we work together to find a better way?” For 2021, my hope is that we are not seduced by the illusion of short-term certainty – blindly turning back to “business as usual” or rushing to lock in the “new normal.” Can we tolerate the complexity for a few more months to identify genuinely healthy new ways of working?  My wish is that 2021 is the year of “Business as Unusual” as we proactively work out what we have left behind, what is emerging and what are we missing.  


Nicole Sherf – Frankfurt, Germany

For 2021, my favorite quote, “you discover who you are by acting naturally.


Simon Sijbrands – Broek in Waterland, Netherlands 

2020 was a year where we experienced the true meaning of living in a complex world. Our approach of this level of complexity has failed thus far, as we do not see the connectedness of the many non-linear interactions of the adaptive and evolvable, human and natural elements that compose our current complex challenges: climate change, the impact of AI, the pandemic, etc. Solving them is not easy. In the spirit of Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” A higher level of complexity needs a higher level of awareness and we will learn by experience as long as the experience is not too bad for humankind. Complexity is not something to be solved; we need to re-think of what it means to be human in relation to all other aspects of our existence. (Allenby & Sarewitz, 2011) Let this be our starting point for 2021!


Ann Houston Kelley – Sunriver, Oregon 

From Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . . it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness..” I learned that, in a year of incredible challenges (i.e. the COVID Pandemic, global political and economic unrest, and some toxic leaders), that many individuals and organizations took the opportunity to become the best versions of themselves by demonstrating Leadership for the Future in five key areas : purpose and values; performance and sustainability; collaboration; exemplary leadership; and citizenship. For 2021, let’s focus on more Leadership for the Future.


Hanneke Frese – Zurich, Switzerland

I learned that boundaries are porous and not fixed, both mine and those of others. Assumptions about what has worked, or not, in the past were moved aside for new realities. Waves of emotions in all colours and decibels – vulnerability, transparency, sharing, caring, containing, patience, anger, disappointment, rage and fear all had their time on life’s stage. This year will always be remembered, vividly. For 2021, I wish we can maintain this deeper level of being, that we will know more clearly what to do with all the colours and decibels as we heal. 


Frank Manesse – Gent, Belgium

This year I opened many more times the conversation and was repeatedly told myself ‘you’re on mute’. Something we would not say being together in a physical room. This year I learned to capture, use, and enjoy even more the (silent) music in between the subtitles during the work. I anticipate cherishing this experience and hope to leverage it to keep on practicing ‘being with the client’ with head, heart and gut in 2021. My hope for our coaching community is that we keep on listening to the music and practicing ‘being with the client’ with head, heart and gut in 2021. And if it’s for the world, it might become: My hope for 2021 is that all people across the globe find the courage and patience to listen to the beauty of the music in between the subtitles and cherish those precious moments amongst each other.


Wolfgang Gattermeyer – Frankfurt, Germany

Amongst other things, the lock-downs due to the Corona Pandemic freed up time for reflection, which was scary for some and enlightening for others.


Claire Finch – Leamington Spa, UK

Whilst the pandemic has been global, its impact has been very personal: some organisations have never been busier while others have completely collapsed; some individuals have thrived working virtually while others have been pushed beyond their limits, struggling with isolation and meeting overload. It is more important than ever to ask and understand what is really going on for others, to truly listen and empathise. I have been consistently moved this year by the kindness and care that is inherent in the teams I have worked with: an unprompted acknowledgment of someone’s strength, an offer of support from the most unexpected of places, a shared tearful moment. For 2021, my dream is that the phrases like - ‘humanocracy’ ‘bouncing forwards’ ‘build back better’ - are not hollow words, but real actions. The crisis has woken us up to the real need for more compassion in the workplace, to put humans at the very heart of organisations. My hope is that in the same way that digital transformation has been accelerated, the vision that “successful organisations are intensely human, nurturing the very best elements of emotion, creativity, human connection, and empathy” will also be fast tracked.  For me, that would be a silver lining from this tough and tumultuous year.


Margot Schumacher – Hilversum, The Netherlands

The world turned upside down, sales was plummeting for many businesses, we were scared, worried for our loved ones and trying to make sense of it all.  But there was also hope, new creative innovations and business models came to life, ones that fit the new world better. We found new ways to connect and to be close to the people that matter the most to us. We had profound new insights in the way we want to live our lives. I wish for 2021 that we can bring it all to life and to adapt with our heads high, not thinking of what we have lost, but focusing on the opportunities the new world is giving is.  


Christina von Wackerbarth – Antwerp, Belgium

In 2020, I was first taken by surprise, spending time and energy in creating new ways of living, caring, working then searching for new keys to understand the sudden different dynamics of work, world, family. Keywords chimed with more emphasis: anxiety, loneliness, confusion, distance, uncertainty. A different journey to explore new ways in facing the incredible challenges that came up: tougher questions, more complex answers and a deeper, even more meaningful search together. Much gratefulness towards my fellow travelers -colleagues and clients- for sharing their recent doubts, their growing insights, their changing goals in life and work. I strongly believe there is more search and co-creation ahead and I look very much forward to it!


Graham Barkus – Hong Kong

“This is the end of everything: my business, my finances, my kids’ future. Everything has been destroyed by this virus.”  I found myself trapped in that thought process mid-2020.  The reframe was surprisingly simple, but extraordinarily powerful: “What If?”  What if, instead of being the end of everything, Covid-19 could be the beginning of ‘something’?  What then?  What could it be?  Why would it matter to me, to clients, to others? I have not yet fully discovered the answer.  But, in the thought process and conversations I have found possibility, hope and energy. 


Betina Rama – Uruguay

Sometimes life takes us to places that we did not plan to get to. We can change course if we want to. But we cannot walk the path alone, we need help, and we need to help others. In the end, the only thing we take with us is what we give.


Jean-Claude Noel – New York, NY, USA

King Lear asked Gloucester: “How do you see the world?” and the blind Gloucester answered: “I see it feelingly.” This is how I have seen the world in 2020. I have learned to appreciate even more what we have, not what we miss. This strange year was an opportunity for learning, self-reflection and being ‘in the moment.’ Strong connections stayed alive in this new virtual space and when ‘in person’ they were even more valued. Expanded restaurant terraces in New York gave a new sense of life and Central Park remained a welcome haven. 2021 will hopefully set the return of ‘real hugs.’


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Article Comments

Jean Claude Noel

Dec 28, 8:55 PM

Reading these beautiful perspectives almost made me grateful for this 'strange' year as a reminder that good things also happened within this great group of human beings

Paul Vanderbroeck

Dec 29, 9:12 AM

wonderful words of wisdom!

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