We are now into the fourth week of Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, but already it is obvious our old ‘normal’ has gone and will not return. I have previously explored how mentoring interventions can support the transitions that individuals’ experience as they engage with this new world. However, in this article I will consider how internal coaching and mentoring can actually improve individual’s ability to reinvent and adapt both themselves and their organisations to thrive in the future.
Why can’t we go back to ‘normal’?
Our global society will be reinvented by the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the changes that we have needed to implement to ensure social distancing will need to be in place for a very long time, even with the discovery of a vaccine. Already health professionals are warning of further mutations of the virus emerging, so one vaccine will not cover every strain of the virus.
Office environments will change beyond recognition. Cushman and Wakefield, a commercial real estate company, has been helping nearly 10,000 organisations in China to get back to work. They are recommending the ‘Six Feet Office’, a new concept to encourage ongoing social distancing and better hygiene. However, this is going to require bigger office spaces and still does not go far enough, even with a six feet buffer to prevent the spread of a virus like Covid-19. Working surfaces will need deep cleaning daily and the virus can float for up to three hours in the air.
Many organisations will also need to invest in new air filtration systems, as much of the air in our office buildings is simply recycled and the systems don’t bring in much fresh air. Already plans such as working rotational shifts to keep employees apart or simply keeping people working from home will have to be considered longer term.
The reduction of travel for work (and leisure) has seen a dramatic decrease in some of the toxic emissions that were poisoning the planet. However, it is not just care for the planet in organisations’ future minds, they have also realised that so much routine travel to a place of work and business travel can be cut out completely. We will view the need for travel in the working world completely differently in future, whatever the mode of transport.
How can internal coaching and mentoring help?
There is so much talk of developing resilience and optimism at this time, but this new world order is going to create more havoc in the world than we have known since World War II.
I believe there are several main areas where internal coaches and mentors can really support their organisations through helping to develop the new attitudes, needs and behaviours required to thrive going forward.
How to overcome fear during the Covid-19 pandemic
We are all fearful at this time, however much we try and put things into perspective. This Covid-19 pandemic is on a different scale to anything we have known in our life times and most people feel quite powerless. Ryan Holiday has such a useful perspective on considering the way we engage with fear. He describes our reaction to the pandemic using the Stoic term of Phantasiai, an immediate pre-cognitive impression, a reaction of being scared. However, fear is a state of being, an emotion, a choice, one that can paralyse us if we allow it to. We can’t avoid being scared, but we can choose to self-regulate our emotions and choose not to be afraid.
Internal coaches and mentors can support through these two strategies when discussing fear in their conversations:
- By stimulating and encouraging the desire to learn, particularly the growth of self-awareness during this time of crisis, but also how learning generally can help to alleviate the feelings of fear. Maybe there is some online learning that the coachee or mentee could take, perhaps signposting to a useful journal article or book. Supporting the development of a Growth Mindset, is the key to achieving the new learning required to thrive in a Covid-19 world.
- By demonstrating love; perhaps more difficult in a working context, but by exhibiting compassionate empathy, practising deep listening and paying beautiful attention to their coachees and mentees. Compassionate empathy is the coach or mentor using their emotional intelligence wisely in the support of their coachee/mentee.
How to create adaptive capacity using internal coaching and mentoring
I believe that internal coaches and mentors need to support the development of adaptive capacity in individuals during this pandemic. Resilience describes the degree of shock or change that individuals can tolerate during a crisis. This is important, but it is the extent of an individual’s adaptive capacity that is more critical. So not only how an individual adjusts to the potential damage of the pandemic, but also flexes to take advantage of opportunities or respond positively to the consequences.
The capacity to evolve and develop new thinking will be crucial in creating new opportunities and developing new growth pathways in the economic downturn we will experience. Allowing individuals and organisations to harness a creative mindset to be able to strategise across the various dimensions of the Covid-19 crisis will enable organisations and the people within them, to thrive. Rather than embrace reactive planning type strategies, developing an adaptive growth organisational mindset is imperative. Internal coaching and mentoring are perfect interventions to support this type of mindset adjustment.
How to develop innovative approaches
Part of the role of the internal coach and mentor in supporting the development of adaptive capacity is to create the reflective space required to produce innovative and creative ideas to successfully move through this period.
Unfortunately, one impact of living with the pandemic is suffering from a continual attack on our nervous system from our ‘fight or flight’ reaction to high pressure situations. A bit like running from a sabre tooth tiger in the old days! What an internal coach or mentor can do is to engage the parasympathetic system (the ‘rest and digest’ system) and help individuals to relax and reflect. The internal coach or mentor can facilitate reflective space through the simple use of active listening skills and questioning techniques in an environment of trust and relaxation. By simply supporting the framing of the challenge, helping the coachee or mentee to gather as much data and information together as possible and supporting a relaxed state, the ideas will flow.
How to encourage hope
Without hope, individuals tend to adopt a passive mindset and lose belief that they can thrive in this new world. Without optimism and hope for a future, individuals won’t be energised to take imaginative risks, seize opportunities and face bravely and courageously into the future. The internal coach or mentor is a non-judgmental reality check who can reflect back optimistic and pessimistic viewpoints and stimulate balance and hope.
These are just some of my latest thoughts of how internal coaching and mentoring can help as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds. Our Lockdown Webinars to help your organisation thrive during Covid-19 might also be helpful. Do get in touch if you would like to discuss them further or I can support you or your organisation.
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