A Call to Coaching in Crisis

By Pam McLean, Ph.D.
April 09, 2020
A socially distanced  network of people


This COVID pandemic is an extraordinary and deeply unsettling tide that is sweeping across our global community. We are experiencing disruption at magnitudes we couldn’t imagine last year. Otto Scharmer encourages us to see this as a time to shift from ‘ego to eco’, from individualism to community -- acknowledging the reality we are deeply intertwined and the actions of one impact all of us. David Brooks of the New York Times aptly writes, “this virus is a test” -- we can succumb to selfishness and survival or find new meaning, deeper connectedness and a renewed attention to the care of our communities amidst this crisis.

Perhaps our work as coaches is more relevant than ever.

Indeed, we have crossed a threshold into a new, murky reality. But as our eyes are adjusting to these conditions, we are beginning to see the impact each of us can have in our communities and webs of connections when we reach out and offer to make a difference. Now imagine that impact at scale -- the sum of a collective effort on the part of coaches to support those within each of our reach. 

Let’s approach this with intention. Let’s search for the learnings inherent in this pandemic that brings our global world to our knees. Let’s reconsider what matters most and find some ease in the newly discovered knowledge that we can’t control everything. Let’s use the skills and internal resources we’ve cultivated in everyday ways for the greater good. 

To serve a greater good at this turning point, we can return to what we know makes a difference:

  • Be a Potent Presence. The small act of being fully present in every interaction -- ‘making a difference’ in every conversation. Where are those daily occasions for you?
  • Be a Fierce Unlearner. Life has been turned upside down. Instead of wishing routines would return to normal, what if we practiced letting go and experimenting with how to be in new routines, fresh ways of being. What could you let go of that would open new doors?
  • Be Everyday Empathic. Grief, gratitude, anger, lightness, sadness, appreciation, fear and more -- the range of thoughts and feelings among all of us has rarely been the roller coaster it is today and our ability to simply ‘walk in the shoes of another with wearing them’, without wanting to cheer someone up -- this is golden. How does your conscious attention to empathy deepen conversations?

Seeding eco instead of ego. Thinking systems. Seeing systems. Thinking unity rather than polaritization. Looking for interconnectedness in our human web. Staying home for the sake of everyone. Finding ways to support those who serve you who are unable to do so for now. Where are the places and what are the ways each of us might practice more we and less me in our lives?

It’s up to each of us to ask ourselves, “who do I want to be for those in my life and in my community at this pivotal time?” Perhaps it includes a little more presence and empathy, a willingness to let go of knowing and an attention to our broader ecosystem in whatever our work is today.

About Author
Picture of Pam McLean, Ph.D.
Pam McLean, Ph.D.

Hudson's Founder & Chief Knowledge Officer, and a preeminent authority on coaching and transition and change in the adult journey, Pamela McLean, Ph.D. has been at the forefront of the field of the emerging field of coaching for the past 30 years.