Giving Clients What They Need in a Pandemic

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In our state of current affairs, we hear terms like “we’re all in this together”, or “stay safe at home“.   While these are generally true and intended to soothe our nerves, we often don’t know how to make sense of the bigger picture, to find meaning in these statements or to find solutions because of something that we hear on repeat from our television.  Yes, we’re all going through a pandemic.  But another factor we’re all going through is that we are holding on to hope. 

I like to quote a brilliant coworker who says “Hope, by itself, is not strategy”. 

Where Do You Begin? How About Care Coaching?  

So what are we supposed to do as coaches, when our clients turn to us for hope?   The fast answer is:  the same as we’ve always done, except with greater care.  

Right now, there is a tremendous shift in what we call “Care Coaching”.  Note: this is not to be confused with the C.A.R.E. model of coaching.  So what exactly, is this care model of coaching?   Don’t overthink it.  The definition is as plain as can be expected.   Allegedly, Care Coaching is different by adding a little care to coaching. Care coaching specializes in aiding clients with difficult emotional transitions in their lives by helping a client that may benefit from a little care in their coaching.  

But as coaches who are well-trained, we don’t need to learn a new skill for this.  We already know a fair amount about empathy.  Empathy is our way of showing we care about our client.  In our coaching programs, it is described as a cornerstone of coaching.  In fact, the caring aspect is a common characteristic among coaches alike.  You are not likely to experience client success – or professional merit – if you can not show an element of caring for another human being.  It just makes sense.  So while care coaching may sound new, it is not.  It is more accurate to say that we are going to be putting the care aspect of coaching relationships and dialogues under a microscope for the immediate future.  This is strictly due to the pandemic and the detrimental effects that COVID19 has had on our client, our communities and in fact, ourselves.  So how does this look when applied to client strategies? 

An Experiential Perspective

Some more experienced coaches believe – and rightly so – that when we have personal experience with a challenge, problem or obstacle, we are likely to be more effective in helping someone else in the same situation.  With this in mind, we need to acknowledge that the anxiety, stress and struggles we are all experiencing mean that this is added experience to our collection because we are all impacted as a result of the pandemic and its consequences.  This, alone, should make us better coaches, able to deliver empathy to emotionally fatigued clients.  

As with all coaching actions, your strategies with clients negatively affected by the pandemic might begin with an assessment.  So, we begin our new client relationships by assessing who they are and what is important to them, but when there is a change, we have to re-assess them.  We ask them good questions and we listen until we hear them clearly.  Then we reflect back to them in a manner of confirming that we’ve heard them correctly.  But in current times, any of our existing clients may be experiencing significant change.  The isolation of being locked down, the frustrations of being opened up and closed down and the general malaise that shrouds the planet is almost palpable.  Or how about the uncertainty of employment?  Our clients have never needed help more, and they’ve never needed such targeted help in the form of empathy (read: care) coaching.   That’s right, our clients simply need to know that we care.   

Empathy is vital in the coaching process.  It contributes toward having an accurate understanding of your client, their perceptions and concerns. It also enhances your communication skills when you pair it with your intuition, sensing what your client wants to know and if they are getting it from you or not as their coach. 

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Not all coaches get the opportunity to use empathy on a regular basis.  It’s always a good idea to look beyond your current skills used in client sessions.  This will make you a more well-rounded coach and at the same time, will provide clients with a service they are hungry for at a time when they need it the most.  Remember, a coach should show their support while maintaining objectivity and keeping the focus of the conversation on you.

Cognitive and Emotional Empathy

Empathy can be further broken down into emotional empathy and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy is that desire to respond in accordance to someone’s emotions. This form of emotionally empathetic response is what causes you to feel sad and have similar thoughts when a friend or love one is experiencing pain. This reaction is automatic to people with high levels of emotional intelligence and understanding.

Cognitive empathy is a conscious decision to show empathy (and sometimes sympathy) to someone who is in pain. It’s cognitive empathy that compels you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and garner a better understanding of their experience. Showing empathy, particularly cognitive empathy, is a strong sign of moral character and emotional intelligence. It’s that difference between feeling negative feelings and sending a sympathy card, and being present to provide an element of care in your service. 

Regardless of how you coach or who your typical client is, we ARE all in this together but there are defined roles for coaches that require us to step into a new role of support more than we’ve had to before.  This is a really important time to be a coach; it’s also an important time to show the general public our skills and how they translate to helping them. 

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