The pandemic has changed most of our lives in significant ways, many of them permanent. Needless to say, the post-pandemic work culture has shifted as well, making support systems like coaching even more necessary. Even though executive coaching was prevalent before, the Covid-19 crisis transformed how companies view coaching programs and leadership development. Now, more than ever, the emphasis is on systemic work, bringing teams together to drive organizational growth.
At the personal level, some of the changes brought by the pandemic have been:
- Forced isolation and remote and hybrid work affecting performance
- Additional housework, unwanted by many irrespective of gender
- Overnight shifts in travel and real estate industries affecting employment
- Anxiety and fear of one’s health, and in extreme cases, survival
- Strong feelings of uncertainty and impermanence of life
These mental and emotional aftermaths of the pandemic influenced work culture in some significant ways, such as
- Great Resignation
- Work from Home or in hybrid mode
- Cycles of spurt in employment followed by layoffs
- Looking for Meaning of work
- Tools to measure remote work productivity
In some, the pandemic caused them to rethink, reframe and re-create their lives.. Some organizations took responsibility for the wellbeing of their workforce and brought in measures for coaching leadership styles. We were fortunate in working with some of these organizations. This is what we learnt from working with them about what coaching can do in times of uncertainty bordering on fear:
1. Sharing experiences vulnerably and courageously
We started with three webinars with ~150 people in each organization. About 30 participants shared their pandemic experiences and in several cases how they coped and emerged stronger. Group sizes could have been smaller, and the sponsors preferred the large group virtual town hall interaction to test whether the process worked. Based on the feedback, 3 smaller teams of 15 were selected for the next levels of interaction. Each of these teams had people who worked together in some ways. The teams were cross-hierarchical and cross-functional.
2. Creating meaning and purpose amidst chaos
Each of the teams was led by a team coach to create an intent for themselves first and then expand that to the team as would be meaningful in fulfilling an organizational purpose, from a list that sponsors had generated with the larger group. The purpose was related to employee wellbeing, especially emotional wellbeing, bringing together work and life priorities, providing greater freedom of choice while at the same time improving performance.
3. Building Safety and Empathy
Team members were encouraged to express themselves freely and vulnerably sharing experiences as were relevant to the shared purpose.
4. Communicating Collaboratively and Generatively
Teams then explored what could be challenges in reaching the shared purpose. The team interacted with stakeholders outside the team to elicit viewpoints and how their shared purpose impacted these shareholders. Team coach supported a reframing inquiry process of the values and beliefs of team members.
5. Supporting Learning & Growth
The inquiry and exploration of their belief and value systems and the reframing resulted in greater awareness about their individual selves, other team members, other stakeholders in the larger organization, and in learning about how to move forward to act on the awareness.
All this added together created a greater sense of wellbeing and work culture, which made the work people did more purposeful to the employees, resulting in better performance.
These 5 steps form a systemic team work process adapted from Coacharya’s proprietary SPEED process. This can be adapted to the culture of the organisation and the values of individuals and their teams.