ATD Blog

COVID-19 Leaders Need Coaching Now More Than Ever

Monday, April 27, 2020

There's another symptom of the novel coronavirus brewing in businesses across America. Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 crisis forced the cancellation of all face-to-face meetings, team off-sites, and training courses.

Weeks and months of planning, preparation, and strategy are in limbo. Goals are being pushed aside as leaders struggle to meet new priorities and the constraints of a 100 percent virtual world.

Leaders and professionals who support them (like coaches and talent developers) are asking, “Now what? Do we simply cancel, or postpone, or what?” How can people in organizations, especially teams, still do the work considered essential to meeting company goals that were set before COVID-19 and that are still likely important to the long-term strategy of the organization?

Four Best Practices to Help Your Clients and Their Teams Right Now

Navigating the competing priorities leaders suddenly face in a COVID-19 world is a delicate balancing act. This is not a time for coaches or TD specialists to lean back. It’s a time to lean in and reach out. Leaders and their teams need us. They are looking for perspective.

1. Just Do It, Now
Reach out to your team leaders now; don’t wait.

Show empathy. Ask them about and acknowledge their personal COVID-19 challenges. Connect at a deeper level with each person through your presence and compassion.

Acknowledge the leader’s strengths. Ask them how they can be their best leader selves.

Remember, during a crisis leaders’ strengths and weaknesses are amplified. How they manage today will be remembered long after this crisis passes.

2. Pivot
When you sense the time is right, shift the conversation to strategic business topics; for instance, you could ask, “How is your team doing?” or “What do they need right now?” Add your perspective.


What is the crisis strategy for now? How can strategic decisions be made that empower people to act collaboratively and independently while working remotely?

3. Prioritize
Do a reality check. For example, “We have a three-day team face-to-face session scheduled two weeks from today. What do we do now that we are suddenly thrust into accomplishing teamwork in a 100 percent virtual environment?” Invite a conversation about what’s realistic and help decide next steps.

  • How important is it to accomplish the original purpose of the face-to-face session?
  • Has the purpose changed? Are priorities different now? If so, how?
  • What are your current priorities? Given what we now know, how do we need to pivot?

Offer to brainstorm options and next steps. Ask what would be most helpful to them and their team right now. Help them summarize their next steps. Offer your ideas about specific ways you can support them. Ask, “what do you want or need from me now?”

4. Create Virtual Connections
Work with the leader to quickly set up a videoconference with core team members.

Use this time to help people feel connected and valued. Help the leader identify each team member’s personal and professional needs and determine how to support them.

Draw upon your deep knowledge/skills about how to design and facilitate team meetings in a way that builds psychological safety and a sense of community.

Help the team leader and members:

  • Increase their sense of belonging. Acknowledge personal challenges during this time of crisis and recognize their contributions. Offer support.
  • Reduce uncertainty and ambiguity. Help clarify the team’s immediate goals, roles, timing, next steps, and more.
  • Solicit their ideas and input. Offer insights on how to stay connected with the team to get work done together.
  • Develop a calendar for frequent check-ins. Use videoconferencing to connect and monitor how people are doing personally and professionally.
  • Help the leader assess formal and informal structures that convey a sense of fairness. This includes a well-balanced distribution of work during this time of crisis.

Final Thoughts

Leaders and professionals supporting them can take meaningful action right now. Whether it's to make just-in-time decisions or innovate new ways of getting work done together, encourage them to:

Embrace Technology: Find new ways to connect and stay connected and feel grounded through virtual conversations.

Capitalize on the Power of Collaboration: Stimulate new thinking that leads to new ideas and moves those ideas forward.

Consciously Meet People Where They Are: Access and share your own humanity—embody your capacity to be agile, innovative, compassionate, and generous.

What we do now and the new capacity we develop during this time will serve our teams and organizations in new ways into the future we can’t imagine today.

If you have questions or need a thought partner to help you navigate your “now what?” conversations, I’m here to support you. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Additional Resource

About the Author

Dr. Laura Hauser is a relentless catalyst for building healthy work cultures. She works with leaders, their teams, and professionals who support them, to expand their mindsets, hearts, and behaviors to survive and thrive in today’s complex business environment. As an internationally recognized team coaching thought leader, her proprietary Team Coaching Operating System® accredited by the International Coach Federation translates her cutting-edge research and decades of practical experience into powerful models and tools.

Laura is one of the few coaches who holds the distinction of PhD, master corporate executive coach (MCEC) accredited by the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches (ACEC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC) accredited by the ICF.

ACEC’s mission is to elevate recognition of Corporate Executive Coaching as a critical profession and for corporate executive coaches to be seen as transformation catalysts for the 21st century, creating organizations of the future.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.