“Remember way back when churches believed they could never learn to do online worship? Way back 3 days ago?” My colleague Mark Tidsworth, a church consultant, posted this on Facebook on March 20 as we began to recognize the way that the COVID-19 crisis would impact every aspect of our lives. Churches, businesses, and individuals discovered that “business as usual” was no longer possible.
For professional coaches, especially those of us who are solo entrepreneurs, the restrictions on physical presence, travel, and finances will cause us to rethink many of the practices that we have taken for granted. This may well be an opportunity to reassess how we do things, try out some new behaviors, and learn some new skills. We have permission to try things that we have never tried before.
The first step, however, is to take care of yourself. To avoid the Coronavirus, stay physically healthy by staying out of crowds, eating right, and finding ways to exercise regularly. As a believer, you will continue to practice the things that keep you close to God–Bible study, prayer, mediation, and reflection.
Second, this will be a good time to reassess the way you do coaching. Like many others, you will probably be impacted financially by this crisis. Some clients will cancel their contracts due to personal or organizational budget cutbacks. You will want to accept these terminations with grace in order to maintain those relationships for the future, but it will hurt. As we lose clients, we can begin thinking about ways to engage clients in different ways:
- If you have not previously coached using videoconference, give it a try. You can coach anyone, anywhere, while respecting health concerns. There are many online conferencing platforms, and many are free or have a minimal cost.
- You might spend some time reviewing your personal network and clients from the past, identifying new ways to approach persons for individual coaching. Are there some trends you see in your coaching with past clients that suggest coaching strengths that you have failed to leverage? For example, you may have been particularly effective in coaching those approaching retirement. Are there former clients entering this stage of life who would benefit from a new coaching relationship?
- Think about setting up coaching groups online. This is a stressful time for most of us and people need support as they deal with changes in work, family, and responsibilities. You might gather an affinity group based on a particular vocation, calling, or need. With the group approach, you can charge clients less and still receive a good return on your time investment. This gives clients facing financial tightness the chance to try out coaching for the first time at a reduced cost.
Third, think about this as an opportunity for personal and professional development. Even coach training programs that have traditionally been provided only face-to-face are now being offered online. There are also a number of on-demand courses available online including those provided by Christian Coaches Network International. This might be a great time to rethink that coach training curriculum that you have always wanted to develop and start putting some specifics together. Maybe you want to get a start on that book you have been intending to write. Most of us usually have a stack of books we have been intending to read. What better time to open up some of them?
Fourth, stay connected with others. If you don’t have a mentor coach, this would be a great time to engage one. If finances are limited, covenant with a colleague for peer coaching that will benefit both of you. You might even find or create an online coaches’ group for mutual support.
Fifth, you might think about volunteering your time as a coach. Check with your church, a school, or a not-for-profit in your area and ask if you can offer your services. You may have to freshen up your “elevator speech” to align with their mission, but the experience of helping someone else during this time would benefit both you and the client. You can cultivate your coaching skills in a new and challenging situation.
One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (NRSV) I do not want to diminish the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in these days. The impact of COVID-19 will be with us for weeks, even months, to come. As a Christian, I follow one who did not have an easy life on this earth but was not afraid to accept the great challenges thrust upon Him. I believe that He expects no less from us and is with us as we discern new paths forward. The One who is faithful calls us to be faithful as well. He is with us on the journey.
Ircel Harrison, M. Div, ACC
About the Author:
Ircel Harrison is Coaching Coordinator with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.