Coaching in Times of Crisis: Helping Clients Navigate The Unexpected

Techniques and methods for building self-awareness, using the ICF core competency of Evoking Awareness, and using client-driven techniques to improve your life.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

This podcast was inspired by the ICF Executive and Leadership Coaching Community of Practice's 2023 video "Coaching in Crisis - Second Order Coaching with Tom Kolditz." 

In an era where navigating through crisis is the new normal for both leaders and individuals, understanding how to coach our clients through these unique challenges is important for professional coaches across all areas of specialization. 

Many of the insights we’re sharing in this podcast episode come to us from the work of Tom Kolditz, the Director of the Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University–a comprehensive, evidence-based, university-wide leader development program. His work is not just about theories but practical strategies for effective leadership in crisis situations, and his insights stand out as a beacon for those guiding others through tumultuous times.

While much of this language surrounds the work of business leaders, there are deep insights here for coaches looking to expand their repertoire and work with different kinds of clients who are facing crises. 

Leaders Need Coaching When Faced With a Crisis

Leadership coaching under pressure is less about theoretical knowledge and more about action. Leaders face a unique set of challenges in crisis situations, making it crucial for coaches to focus on practical and effective guidance in order to meet the challenges of the day.

Key Aspects of Leadership in Crisis

Empirical Approach: There is a lack of empirical data in crisis leadership, making it difficult to research as a field. By taking stock of the experiences of soldiers in war zones and studying leaders in dangerous sports, we can gather a more reality-based perspective on leadership effectiveness in extreme situations.

Understanding Needs: A pivotal role of a leader in crisis is to understand what their team needs from them. It's about moving beyond mere tactics to a deeper comprehension of team dynamics and needs. Coaching skills such as active listening and asking powerful questions comes into play here.

Motivation vs. Calm Confidence: In crisis, the traditional notion of motivation takes a backseat. Leaders need to adopt a stance of quiet confidence, focusing more on listening and understanding the team's feelings and thoughts in order to operate effectively.

More Resources:

5 Ways to Show Up As A Leader In Times of Crisis

Dealing With Burnout and Stress: Real Solutions for Leaders

Building Up Trust and Competence

Leadership in times of crisis is not just a mental or strategic challenge; it's a physical one. Leaders must reduce the social distance with their teams, demonstrating their own involvement and showing that they also have “skin in the game”.

The most influential leadership quality in a crisis is competence. Leaders build trust by showing their capability to navigate through tough times. That capacity (and competence) can be built over time. A leader's loyalty to their team is paramount. Understanding and addressing team concerns in an honest way fosters a trustful environment where team members feel valued, in the know, and not disposable.

Role of Coaches in Developing Crisis Leaders

Coaches play a crucial role in shaping leaders for effectively handling crisis situations. From fostering authenticity to helping leaders figure out how to be physically present and supportive, coaches are instrumental in developing strong leaders who can guide their organizations safely through a crisis – whether it’s financial, circumstantial or an outside threat.

Understanding the Ring Theory in Crisis Management

The Ring Theory offers a profound framework for offering comfort and support in times of crisis. Imagine a series of concentric circles surrounding the crisis, with those most affected at the center.

At the heart of the crisis are those directly impacted, forming the innermost ring. As one moves outward, each successive ring represents people less directly affected by the crisis.

Those in the inner rings, closer to the crisis, should have the freedom to express their feelings and vent without judgment. This makes sense as they are having a direct experience of the crisis.

The primary role of those in the outer rings is to provide help, understanding and support – not advice or judgment.This means prioritizing listening over speaking and refraining from giving unsolicited advice. 

Coaches are on the outside ring, which means lots of active listening while providing support and acknowledging the emotional experiences of those most affected.

By focusing on practical strategies, understanding the human element in crisis leadership, and providing much-needed support, coaches can empower all clients to navigate through their toughest challenges, and emerge with greater confidence and competence.

Ready to Become A Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our life coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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