Coaching Leaders During a Crisis


Coaching leaders through complex change during a crisis requires a different set of skills.  Coaches must identify how the leader is coping emotionally with the crisis and how the change is impacting them.  How a leader reacts to change can have a huge impact on their future success and their ability to achieve goals.

The role of the coach is to uncover where they are now (belief state) as a result of the current crisis and to identify the personal and professional concerns and challenges facing them.  The coach determines the leader’s readiness to change by assessing their willingness to take action.  If the leader is not ready to move forward, the coach will focus on addressing obstacles or emotions such as disbelief, anger, disappointment, fear, and depression.  Coaching someone who is experiencing extreme change and loss takes patience and understanding in order to help them move through the process.

We are living in chaotic, uncertain times and not all of us have the past history or experience to rely on for making critical decisions.  Your client will need your help and support to define the priorities facing them and the guidance to make necessary decisions to move forward. As a coach, you will uncover the client’s blocks to critical thinking such as time pressure, fear of rejection, doubt, resignation, fear of more work, and lack of confidence.

Mary Lippett’s model for Situational Mindset helps us look at our mental agility and select the right mindset to successfully cope with situations in our changing world.  Developing a situational mindset encourages critical thinking skills to allow us to examine current circumstances, collect comprehensive data, analyze opportunities, risks, and impact, and discover goals and outcomes.

The six mindsets include:

1) Inventing mindset – Out of the box thinking

2) Catalyzing mindset – Analyzing the competition, growing the business

3) Developing mindset – Reviewing plans, schedules, goals, improving systems and processes

4) Performing mindset – What is the cost-benefit analysis? How can we improve?

5) Protecting mindset – Do we have the staff, skills, and engagement?

6) Challenging mindset – Are our current assumptions still valid? Do we need to create a new business model?

Helping your clients view change through a different mindset helps them to unblock their critical thinking skills and move towards making better decisions and implementing new goals and actions.

Here are some tips on how to coach leaders during complex change:

  1. Approach each phase of your coaching work with a structured coaching process in mind.  In each coaching phase — entry, contracting, data collection, goal setting, action planning, and supporting implementation –ask, and help the client determine, “What critical challenges are we addressing here?” and “What is the mindset that will help you address these challenges?”
  2. Use your client’s current challenge as your entry point.  Help your client determine which leadership mindset will help them assess the current situation, identify goals, and define action plans to address immediate needs.
  3. Learn to use different tools and techniques in your coaching.  There are many effective tools and techniques out there that can impact your client’s willingness to change.
  4. Help your client look for short term wins. Early wins will help motivate them to address long term goals.
  5. Develop a learning mindset as a coach. Learn new approaches, models, and the art of questioning, integrate new approaches through practice, feedback, and reflection.

As I said in the opening paragraph, coaching leaders through complex change during a crisis requires a different set of skills.  I developed the Executive Coaching Certification Program (ECCP) to provide participants with the right tools to design and implement an effective executive coaching strategy.  Through the live, online training sessions, participants learn how to master the art of coaching by asking powerful questions to engage the coachee and help them achieve their development goals.

Dr. Nancy Zentis is the CEO of Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and OD Advanced Skills Workshops for ongoing learning.

IOD is recognized as one of the top organizations offering OD Professional Development –

If you would like more information regarding our OD Certification Programs, please contact us at


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