The helpful similarities between effective crisis management and coaching
As we all settle in for the long-haul, organisations and their leaders are battling to set strategy despite uncertainty and communicate with compassion and empathy despite taking business critical decisions that will inevitably impact people’s lives. This new normal feels like long-term crisis management.
As coaches, whether we are working with leaders in organisations very close to the epicentre of international efforts to battle the virus, or with those in businesses further removed that are simply trying to navigate their way through it, there are several aspects of effective crisis management that we can use to support our coaching practice.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘born crisis leader’, nor do I think there is a ‘born crisis coach’. We need to use the same skills and competencies, just under greater pressure, for a longer time and with a higher degree of self-awareness. The self-awareness is particularly important as, unusually, we are living through the same events as our clients and therefore need to be careful to ensure we don’t become entangled. However, assuming we can do that, then we already have the coaching skills we need and that are so valuable to leaders and their teams as they steer their organisations through unprecedented times.
To help us do that, I think there are three useful similarities between effective crisis management and coaching, both of which require:
- The creation of time and space to reflect on the current situation, gain perspective and insight. When leaders are given time to think, they can let go of the pressure to have an instant solution and instead access their ability to think creatively and empathetically – impossible when suffering from cognitive overload and in ‘survival mode’
- Cognitive discipline to help develop the decision-making principles that will underpin your response; to identify the intended and unintended consequences of your actions and mitigation activities. A coaching approach is critical to this process, enabling leaders to see round corners and discuss potentially high impact scenarios in a calm and measured environment
- Emotional Intelligence – in a crisis, leaders are called upon to deploy their emotions and communicate in a way to effect a particular outcome. Those who are self-aware and aware of others, who understand concepts around emotional contagion, who know that their behaviour will be modelled by others, will find the softer aspects of crisis management easier to master. As coaches, this is our bread and butter. Working with clients on mastery of their emotions and developing the tools and techniques required to sustain them under pressure.