The Leadership Coach: A Rock By Your Side In Unprecedented Times

As part of The Leaders Club we are here to support you. With this in mind Joseph Ogbonna, one of our team of fantastic leadership coaches, shares how leadership decision making is a hot-topic right now and how a leadership coach can be a rock by your side in unprecedented times.


Unprecedented times

The current pandemic has created one of those situations when leaders are asking more of themselves, their employees, stakeholders and the wider society.


Leaders across the spectrum who get it right at this time, will reap a reward, primarily if those who rely on them suffer less disproportionately.Their judgement and decision-making under pressure is being put to the test and will continue to be in the next few months.Their focus, clarity of decisions and execution, mostly through their employees, will be their best guide.



The current complex crisis is most problematic because the scale of uncertainty with many moving parts is enormous – the virus itself, the spread of the illness it causes, the impact of that illness on the community and the workforce, the impact on company revenues and jobs, the impact on the wider economy, the in-country government’s response, the response of other governments. These are constantly changing, as we have seen in the past week. How is a leader to make the correct split-second decisions in these circumstances. about closing shops, managing workforce absences, laying off staff, changing production lines, changing product lines?


Decision making: Head, Heart and Gut

It is said that most people make decisions from emotion (heart and gut) and justify it with their cognition (head), except if they have learnt to get the head to engage with the gut to verify the factual basis of the decision, a subject covered by Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking Fast And Slow”.


“Most people make decisions from emotion (heart and gut) and justify it with their cognition (head).”


Did you know that the ancient Egyptians regarded the heart to be the source of good and bad decisions and would therefore bury the heart separately from the body and discard the brain?

The new study of neurocardiology is beginning to provide a fuller appreciation of the complexity of their interconnectedness, as Grant Soosalu, Suzanne Henwood, Arun Deo researched (Head, Heart, and Gut in Decision Making: Development of a Multiple Brain Preference Questionnaire).


Moving through this pandemic, specific challenges for attention are likely to include

· Living the published corporate values in all actions, by all in the organisation.

· A clear, credible response to the crisis, in reassuring customers, employees and other stakeholders of continuity or of closures, where that becomes inevitable. For the Education sector, this would be students, parents, central and local government, alumni, funders.

· Activation of a business continuity process, which may have been prepared for other crisis, adjusted for the scale of the present circumstances.

· Reliance on IT infrastructure and the IT literacy of employees and customers who would need to use those services – closure of shops to depend on deliveries, would require an IT literate customer base.

· Well-being of staff who may be just working from home or self-isolating. Most teachers always work within premises so remote working with students and parents will be new.

· Identifying new services to existing customers or gaining access to a new customer segment. This may require acquiring expertise or developing it in-house. Supporting students to study, be assessed and receive feedback online, would consolidate knowledge for some developing new skills for others. Educational institutions with a good capability could support others who are struggling.


The leader who has practiced and has experience of decision making under pressure may be more prepared to handle the process and the stress it is generating, more than one new to leadership position. The correctness of these decisions in this pandemic with so many ‘moving parts’ in an unprecedented situation, will only become evident in the aftermath. One could model scenarios from the identified parts, and base decisions on them using projected data. This would admittedly be an intelligent guess at the point of making it.


A Trusted Partnership

A professional leadership coach is a partner at your side who wants for you as much as you want yourself, your organisation and your people. An objective cheerleader who challenges you to be better and do better. If the leader doesn’t care, neither will the coach. A coach differs from a mentor, as a mentor must have experience of a similar role.


The coach’s focus is the individual who has a role; not the role itself. For example, the coach’s role with the CEO is the role they play in helping the person that is the CEO, not the role of the CEO. This enables the leadership coach to hold an outside perspective, be someone whom the leader can work with to bounce ideas around and to gain encouragement and challenge in equal measure, in what can often be a lonely place.


Coaching impact is most evident in focus, clarity of thinking and action of the client. The leadership coach comes into their own when the leader is required to ask more of themselves than before and to accomplish what they really want, more easily.


In conclusion, a leadership coach can help leaders ask more of themselves in

· Self-knowledge, which is crucial for leaders currently, to leverage their strengths. They must lead themselves in uncertainty first, before leading others effectively.

· Preparation and rehearsal of responses to crisis situations including, managing own well-being.

· Accepting uncertainty, operating effectively within it and supporting employees to do the same.

· Keeping in mind that the decision is about people.

· Taking decisions strategically and being open to opportunities for the re-building that will follow.

· Trustworthy and empathetic communication with employees, customers, stakeholders and the wider community.

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