In this time of deep unpredictability, both for individuals and organisations, it’s even more important to maintain the ‘connected separateness’ with our clients
By Lindsay Wittenberg
By the time this column is published the world may look and feel very different from the world today. All kinds of adverse effects – human, social, economic, financial, commercial, political – may well be in train.
At times it all feels not even as orderly as complexity. Instead, it can feel more like chaos, where there’s no perceptible cause-and-effect relationship at all. I have a strong sense of nature being truly and powerfully in charge: politicians, economists, bankers and businesspeople at the highest levels may be finding that their usual assumptions and approaches aren’t necessarily equipping them for managing this huge risk.
In this climate of deep and broad unpredictability, laced with messages of doom in the media, individual and organisational responses convey some distress. Familiar anchors and frameworks are changing and dissolving. Some are deeply anxious about an uncertain future (tomorrow onwards), others are more accepting that they will deal with whatever comes. Where there’s anxiety in clients, some of it surpasses even the anxiety I pick up about Brexit or the climate crisis.
It sounds like the challenge in the external world is being mirrored, reflected and refracted inside organisations. Already I’m noticing that some clients, who are experiencing unexpected changes in their reporting lines and in their functions (more connected with business performance, for example) seem to be in a state of high alert.
As humans we seek certainty and stability, and in this climate one source of uncertainty (eg, recovery from disappointing business performance) is being compounded by another to an unprecedented extent (eg, the unfathomable impact of coronavirus on sales, supplies and resourcing).
The whole phenomenon is stimulating a new kind of reflection for me, in relation both to my expectations of myself as a coach and to clients’ expectations.
I’m aware that I’m part of my clients’ systems. I notice myself looking more attentively at the trust and safety in my relationships, at how I might contribute differently to both holding the space and enriching the client’s learning as they work through their challenges – and this while I may be struggling with my own uncertainties. I’m aware I may need to step more boldly and more often into multiple perspectives, to discover and create more versatility and adaptability, to up the game for the client on experimenting, learning and experimenting again, to push at the boundaries of their perceived influence, to open more awareness of the resources they didn’t realise they had.
In situations of threat, relationships become ever more important: incessant and increasing demands can create a sense of isolation, and can eat away at confidence. By maintaining the ‘connected separateness’ I strive for with every client, I may be able to offer some of the certainty that seems to be ebbing away by the day in the world outside.
- Coronavirus is taking a hold globally
- It can feel like chaos more than complexity
- It sounds like the challenge in the external world is being mirrored, reflected and refracted inside organisations
- The whole phenomenon is stimulating a new kind of reflection for me
- I notice myself looking more attentively at the trust and safety in my relationships – I may need to step more boldly and more often into multiple perspectives
- Lindsay Wittenberg is director of Lindsay Wittenberg Ltd. She is an executive coach who specialises in authentic leadership, career development and