In a world interrupted by Covid, leaders are faced with even greater and far more pervasive challenges than the “pre-covid” era presented. Now more than ever, leaders need an approach that will help them, their teams, and ultimately their organizations thrive during these turbulent times rather than simply survive them.
Prior to Covid, leaders were already confronted with:
- Rapidly evolving and constantly changing technology
- A larger global “playing field” resulting in greater competition
- 24/7 connectivity and heightened expectations related to performance and response times
- Multiple “generations” from diverse backgrounds all working together
- Shockingly high levels of disengaged employees (the most recent “State of the Global Workplace” report published by Gallup reflects that globally, 80% of employees are actively disengaged at work. Per Gallup this lack of engagement costs the global economy US$8.1 trillion)
These challenges require leaders to interact with their teams in a way that fosters employee engagement, tolerance, agility, innovation, and increased resilience.
In today’s global environment, where technology is making the world smaller and diversity remains one of the most important topics, coaches can no longer remain ignorant of the impact these two tsunamis have on their coach approach and on their clients. As coaches, we need to lift up our heads, so we can lift up others.
The current climate is looking for innovative ways of approaching diversity and cultural differences within coaching. Diversity in coaching is about understanding the mindset of your client within their larger context – be it culture, religious belief, gender, race, or economic realities. As described by the International Coaching Federation, “this includes a paramount emphasis on … the critical distinctions between various levels of coaching agreements, the criticality of a partnership between coach and client, and the importance of cultural, systemic and contextual awareness.”
Recently, I was talking with a new coaching client. It was a usual intake meeting where we were getting to know each other and exploring ways in which coaching may enhance their life. We were about 40 minutes into the conversation when I realized the new client had not used any traditional pronouns while speaking about themselves or others.
A moment of decision; a time when a coach needs to determine the next step or the next question. What do you do in that moment? Wait for the next session and determine the right approach? Or, remain curious and courageous and ask a difficult and direct question in that moment?
With 2020 behind us, social protests and politics remain with us as we continue to struggle living through a pandemic. What we say and do, continues to define us and our legacy as coaches and continues to shape the impact we have on others. Therein lies both the challenge and the opportunity.
Coaches must re-address their coach approach through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in every coaching exchange - adapting and evolving their mindset and presence to their client’s needs. Coaches need to embody the ICF competencies with a laser focus on building DEIB awareness, knowledge, and discipline to be an effective and empathetic coach.
I played the oboe for years. Beginning in primary school and through college, I practiced and practiced, joining the band, the wind ensemble, a church group and even formed a professional trio with a flute and clarinet. Now you may wonder why I open a piece on Coaching with my musical skills? Simple. When I was seeking out a music coach, I searched for someone who understood me – and who understood the oboe – and the distinctive value of the double-reed instrument. Not someone who played drums, not a tuba teacher, but a skilled musician that believed in the beauty and joy of the unusual oboe and related to the unique needs and challenges of the oboist.
It is the same with any coaching, whether it be leadership coaching, career coaching, or life coaching. A client brings their unique perspectives – their differences – to every coaching session. Hence, a coach must see their client, hear their client, and truly understand their client, all while respecting their own perspectives and honoring the coaching process. This is embracing diversity in coaching.
Why is diversity important in coaching? To be an effective and present coach, we must seek to understand the client within their context. A client’s context that may include their identity, environment, experiences, values, culture, and beliefs.