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Coaching in the Time of COVID-19

By: Maria Newport • 3 months ago •

What they don’t Teach you in Coaching School

Drought, floods and even bushfires feel like a distant memory with Covid-19 emerging here in late January and the subsequent lockdowns across Australia and New Zealand in late March, this year. We have been lucky here in Australasia, benefitting from the knowledge of what has happened elsewhere and being geographically distanced from global hot spots.

New Zealand locked down hard and fast and are in the enviable position of having lifted restrictions, except border controls, declaring the country “virus free”. But, as Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has warned, “We will almost certainly see cases here again”.

In Australia, there have been only 102 deaths of 7,290 known cases - far lower than anticipated. However, we are subject to Stage 2 restrictions with variances between states, with an anticipated easing of restrictions in July. So, we are not out of the woods yet.

The pandemic has also meant disruption to the global economy on a scale not seen since the Second World War and the biggest contraction of the economy since the Great Depression.  But hopefully we will be in a position to return to normality faster than other countries.

So, beyond the potential threats to our physical and fiscal health, how are we faring amidst this crisis? What is the role of coaching now? What do we need beyond coach training? And what might the hope be for the coaching profession?


McCrindle have conducted a survey exploring the social impact of the pandemic, particularly how it was shaping the sentiment, behaviour and the outlook of Australians. In April, many felt uncertain to some extent about the future (91%) and most believed It would take time (between four months and two years) for things to return to normal. Many also felt anxious (45%), frustrated (37%) and vulnerable (29%). Less than a third of the population was optimistic and hopeful about the impact of the pandemic.

My own clients have generally been experiencing an underlying, low-level concern about a disease of which which little is known and for which there is no vaccine yet. They are also stressed about: working from home; leading teams virtually; increased working hours; restructuring and redundancies; financial concerns; overseeing the education of children; domestic conflict; physical and social isolation from family, friends, colleagues and community. Particularly impacted are those with pre-existing medical/mental health/ relationship issues and/or those separated from friends and family overseas.

What is the role of coaching?

Coaches are familiar with “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’.  Not easy though, when coaches and clients are feeling less positive and energetic as they might have been pre-pandemic.

Unlike therapy, we are not qualified to treat clients as patients for clinical issues and we are ethically responsible to refer clients on as appropriate.

I have personally benefitted from becoming an accredited Mental Health First Aider this year and recommend this training for all coaches, given the high likelihood you will need to support clients in real time who are not coping with stress, anxiety or depression.

This training can increase coach knowledge of mental health, decreases negative attitudes, and increases supportive behaviours toward those with mental health problems.

To coach clients effectively motivation is key.

A lack of energy, optimism or belief in self-efficacy will undermine even the most capable or confident person.

I am seeing this firsthand with clients across the spectrum, regardless of seniority, expertise, experience, gender, background or financial situation.

There is a need now for coaches to help clients prioritise health and wellbeing as a precursor to coaching for development and performance.

Beyond coaching skills, what do we need?

Eat our own dog food –Business Development Training, Coaching/Mentoring/Supervision

Most coaches are experiencing similar challenges to their clients –unprecedented change to their businesses (e.g. loss of face to face work, inability to travel), the need to pivot and adapt (e.g. redesigning online and virtual programs), accelerated up-skilling and capability sleeping well, getting enough exercise and have a development (e.g. delivery via interactive videoconferencing tools), and impacted well-being and work/life balance (e.g. working from home with family obligations or working in isolation).

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) Business Development Series (BDS) is a virtual program designed specifically to help coaches build, sustain, and expand successful coaching practices.

Being coached/mentored or supervised by colleagues, helps build greater empathy for our clients’ needs and greater credibility when we model the agility needed to face business disruption, transformation and change.

Be our best selves

Coaches also need to have coaching presence to support clients effectively. Coach training will only get a coach so far who is not personally disciplined around the following:

Information hygiene –stay informed about the pandemic and current affairs, but choose your information sources wisely. With the advent of social media, the potential for disinformation and a negativity bias is a real issue. Refer to credible authorities and evidence-based peer reviewed research.

Professional development –regardless of how long you have been coaching, adopt a growth mindset and build capability through accredited training courses (where you can also earn CCEUs for coach credentialing). Many are being offered online at discounted rates at the moment. Maria Newport is the Managing Principal at Newport Principal Talent Management Consultant, Regional

What is the hope for the coaching profession?

The ICF’s vision is that coaching is an integral part of a thriving society. A profession of resilient, capable, credentialed and ethical coaches is key to helping individuals all over the world achieve their personal and professional goals by rebuilding communities and economies.

Now more than ever leveraging professional associations, like the ICF and its communities, member benefits, resources, research and the ICF Foundation can help coaches be the change they want to see in the world.

✓ Health and Wellbeing – ensure you are eating and sleeping well, getting enough exercise and have a daily mindfulness practice. I recently invested in a wearable fitness tracker, which provides real time data re movement, calorie consumption, heart rate, sleep quality, breathing, etc. Health insurance companies in the US are giving their insured’s wearables based on research that they support healthy lifestyles and may lower potential claims.

✓ Self-care – many of the things we enjoy have not been possible this year – eating out, travelling, socialising, etc. Find the time to do simple things you enjoy (e.g. positive experiences that foster engagement, relationships, have meaning and give a feeling of accomplishment), even if they are outside, with less people and closer to home to increase happiness and wellbeing.

Maria Newport

Maria Newport PCC, is the current President of the Australasia Chapter of the International Coaching Federation ( and Managing Principal of Newport O'Connor (, a boutique consulting firm that specialises in HR strategy and management, leadership development and executive coaching, based in Sydney.

She has been a trusted advisor to global organisations and professional service firms for over 20 years, advising and coaching senior leaders on: accelerated performance and productivity; sales and business development; practice and people management; change and transitions; dispute resolution and conflict management; career development and work/life balance.

Special interests include wellbeing/resilience and diversity/inclusion - having survived and overcome an IRA bomb attack on her London office, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, a serious health issue and now Covid-19!

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