Leaders – Go Reconnect with your Coaches (Whoever They Might Be…)

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By Dan Hawkins, Founder and CEO, Summit Leadership Partners

As a former corporate executive, I have experienced two economic crises (9/11 and The Great Recession) that were probably the most stressful and challenging years of my career. Each tested my skills, resilience and fortitude. None of those crises compare to what executives are facing today globally, socially and economically. The volatile dynamics of employee well-being, regulatory intervention, and financial turmoil are unprecedented.

As an executive coach, I have been connecting with my coaching clients far more than ever in the past several weeks, but what we talk about now isn’t the usual agenda items. These leaders are highly successful people who are facing extraordinary circumstances full of uncertainty; and the stakes are high. They know how to run their companies and do not need to discuss their developmental goals and progress right now. They are CEOs and senior executives who need someone to be vulnerable with to share their doubts and concerns, hear what others are doing, explore new approaches, practice in a safe place, and then get back into the game.

Rules of engagement during crises change, creating unique windows of opportunities to develop yourself, demonstrate critical behaviors (empathy, compassion, decisiveness, etc.) and reestablish your legacy and leadership brand with your people. How you lead, behave and react and where you spend your time will leave a lasting impression on everyone around you so ensure it is a positive one. To do this effectively, I believe all leaders should have a coach for greater insight and accountability. These coaches can come in many forms – they could be a retained executive coach, a colleague, an HR partner, or even your spouse. You need to connect with your coaches, whoever they might be, to help you lead and pivot during these challenging times.

Keep in mind, however, that the coaching relationship during a crisis is different. It should be as follows:

  • More frequent contact but shorter in duration – 30-60 minutes weekly. My sessions are often unscheduled and are instigated with a text “have a few minutes to chat this afternoon?”
  • Reflective on how they are really doing right now. I like to ask my coaching clients how they would rate their performance in the prior week and what would they do differently next time.
  • Clear on the topic for coaching at that moment – Is it making a difficult decision? Communicating change? Struggling with competing tradeoffs?
  • Generate new options or approaches. We often will brainstorm some best ways to handle these difficult situations or simply prioritize what matters most to this leader. Employee safety? Values? Money? Public Perception? The Board?
  • Agree on the next steps – Both should leave the call with a few actions. I often ask, ‘so what did we agree to and how will we know if it worked’?

Leading through a crisis is tough, but it is through adversity and difficult times, that we can grow the most and craft the legacy we want to leave. A coach, in whatever form that works for you, is needed for this growth. How are you connecting with your coach?


 About Summit Leadership Partners, LLC

 Summit Leadership Partners advises boards, investors, CEOs and senior leaders on strategically scaling business through talent and organization assessment, coaching, executive team performance, leadership development and organization effectiveness. The exceptional consulting team has held top leadership roles in successful companies across the globe. Summit is located in Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, New York and San Francisco. Visit Summit online at www.summitleadership.com, and follow the company on LinkedIn and Twitter.