Late last year I was delighted to start delivering an innovative talent development programme for a multinational technology company here in Ireland. This initiative was to prepare their workforce for digital transformation in the near future, which would demand new technical skills but also social capital skills, including communication, critical thinking, team working and emotional intelligence. Ironically, this programme has been paused for the moment, while we consider how it can be redesigned (or digitally transformed) to be delivered as a remote programme.
Little did we realise just how quickly we would all have to adapt to digital transformation being thrust upon us as a result of the global pandemic and physical distancing.
In-person coaching sessions with individuals are transformed into skype or whatsapp calls – clients are happy to continue working together in this way and we still feel connected.
Team coaching with existing clients is continuing via Zoom (security issues notwithstanding) and again client teams are fully engaged – the experiential techniques that we might use with clients when in the same room are being adapted to work using whiteboarding, digital post its, breakout rooms. Sometimes I’ve been working with clients using their preferred platforms such as Teams, Webex, Gotomeeting – you name it I’ve tried it.! I’m always happy to experiment & try new things – within reason.
Many of us who are self-employed or running small businesses are grappling with new technology – but at least we might have the option of continuing our business in some way supported by technology. It’s much more difficult and potentially impossible for those providing personal services such as florists, hairdressers and cleaners to survive at these times – we all know fellow business owners who are really struggling at the moment and are thinking of them.
Being proactive as much of the coaching community is, we are looking for ways to support the wider community and to give something back – there are great initiatives here in Ireland such as connectacoach.org offering free coaching to support frontline workers.
We are also looking for ways to continue our work, to keep our business and income flowing as much as possible, and looking at what people and businesses might need most at the moment or in the weeks and months ahead.
A group of coaches that I work with have started an online book club for professional development topics including psychology, neuroscience and the wider impact and potential for societal change – which is timely given the transformative nature of this pandemic.
This time at home has its challenges – we have to be conscious of the underlying stresses and worries in all aspects of our lives – responsibility for home schooling children, finding work space for everyone, dealing with loss of income, challenges with technology and staying connected.
However many of us are taking the opportunity during this time, to slow down a bit if we can, to take time to reflect and work on ourselves, to use the “down time” to stay connected with friends and family, and to focus on what we need to do each & every day to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy & well. From our cocooning, hopefully we will emerge transformed ourselves in some positive way.
The big challenge for all of us is now that we recognise just how interconnected everything is, how do we cope on a day to day basis with “the wisdom of uncertainty” and the “not knowing”. We want to get back to what we had before, but we can’t predict what the new normal will look like. We recognise just how little control we really have – only over ourselves and our thoughts and actions – and this can be scary.
Working remotely can be a lonely place – especially if you’re running your own business. I consider myself lucky to be a member of a profession that listens for a living so we have plenty of support from each other – from my conversations with colleagues there is a common theme emerging. As coaches, we are usually positive and optimistic in nature – we look for the silver lining and the opportunity to reset – and we encourage practicality and to focus on what we can control. However we also need to acknowledge that there is for all of us as humans a deep down anxiety about our future, and sadness about the sense of loss for us as individuals and for our wider communities. We need to be kind and compassionate to ourselves and our colleagues dealing with this transformation and having to adapt to so much change so quickly.
So perhaps the key to ensure we can cope with this enforced “digital transformation” is not to worry much about the technology, but to have someone who will listen empathically to your deepest concerns and hopes for the future, and perhaps to be that person for someone else.