Coaching, Covid-19 and Trust

Like many intelligent, driven executives in their mid-thirties who aspire to senior leadership, Lasha was offered a package of coaching, alongside a 360o assessment as a means to develop his self-awareness and leadership skills. Lasha had established himself as the COO of a €50M business that counts 300 employees and 70 shops, with responsibility for sales, delivery and support functions.

With strong values and plenty of ambition, Lasha had reached the level of leadership where his natural energy and personal drive needed to be tempered with greater facilitation, delegation and empowerment of his team. He also needed to develop more sensitivity to the politics (often called ‘organisational savvy’) and broaden the range of situations where he could operate at his best. He also needed to devote more of his time to strategic thinking.

Sound familiar?

Five days after the start of our coaching, the Prime Minister announced a complete lockdown to fight the now infamous Covid-19. What happened to Lasha’s intention to delegate?

Displaying remarkable courage and commitment, Lasha stuck to his decision to delegate more and gave full autonomy to his direct reports to cope with the crisis as they thought was best. He only gave them two instructions: “be agile” and “work as a team”. He took his hands off the steering wheel and said he would check back in a month. This was the start of a successful transformation journey for Lasha, his team and the business.

There is no doubt that the coaching Lasha received played a role in the success of this transformation. When I reflect on this story, it seems to me that trust was at the heart of the success, in several ways.

Trust in self

Coaching creates a framework that allows the coachees to increase or reinforce the trust they already place in themselves. From their coach they get unconditional support and encouragements, which they perceive in various conscious and unconscious ways. Like all coaches, I believe that my clients can achieve the goals they set for themselves.

In our story, Lasha needed a massive amount of trust in himself to not revert to his historical style, as we all do in crisis situations. Our initial coaching conversation enabled him to visualise the leader he wanted to be, and he found the focus and energy to apply his vision in spite of the unexpected circumstances.

Trust in process

Seen from outside, the architecture of a coaching programme may appear quite simple. However, the nature of the ‘contract’ and the nature of the conversation puts the coachee in the driver’s seat. Coaching also allows for commitments to be made and the client also knows there will be an opportunity for them to report on their actions. This review mechanism often provides the required push to actually change patterns of behaviour.

Good coaches think of themselves as a ‘tool’ within the coaching process, albeit an intelligent one. Trust will form the foundation of a successful coaching engagement, both in the coach and the coaching process. Although I was allocated to Lasha, without any selection or filtering conversation, he was reassured by my experience and my track record, and our first coaching session set the tone with mutual trust being established quickly.

Trust in others

It can be said that, as a general principle, good leaders trust others. As you push yourself and you develop as a leader, the need to trust that others around you can cope with the consequences of your own change grows in equal measure.

Lasha believed that his team was able to handle the pressure, to be creative enough to put new offerings to the markets within weeks, and to be resourceful enough to respond adequately to the anxieties of the staff, as the country was going into full lockdown.

Lasha announced clearly that he was delegating decisions to his team. To be crystal clear, he wrote a letter to the CEO, copying his direct reports, stating the extent of the delegation he was introducing. In doing so, he expressed officially and transparently the trust he had in the individuals and in the team.

Within the next few months, Lasha created enough space in his diary to lead cross-country strategic initiatives, share his new vision with the whole staff and be invited to national TV programmes to lead thoughts on teleworking. Last but not least, he feels much less stressed.

Lasha and I had a gentle disagreement on who to credit for his radical change. Lasha credited me, while I credited him. Let’s give the credit to trust and to coaching then.

If any of the themes in this article resonate for you, or you’d just like an exploratory chat with one of our coaches, feel free to get in touch with us. We’d be delighted to hear from you. With leaders facing new challenges every day as the effects of the pandemic rumble on, we’re finding that more and more people are seeking the confidential and supportive environment that a coach provides.

Learn more about how Coode can support with Executive Coaching

Claire d’Aboville is a member of the Coode team and an accredited international Executive Coach with 12 years coaching experience and 30 years in global multinationals. She coaches at C-level and below.

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