Isik | Kitty Tacoglu | Waldorf's picture Submitted by Isik | Kitty Ta... June 9, 2020 - 2:15pm

In this virtual conversation hosted by Jeff Hull, IOC fellows navigate how to help their clients shift the mindset about the pandemic from a sprint to a marathon.  The group discusses how they can, as coaches, first “put the oxygen mask on themselves” and then assist others to make the transition to a “new normal”  in a Covid-19 disrupted world.

Jeff Hull, PhD
Director of Education

Vania Castro
Tracy Fuller
Eileen Coskey Fracchia
Isik Tacoglu
Keyaunoosh Kassauei
James Lamberti
Christine Scordato

Charles Darwin once said “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”  Having just emerged from a sprint - the world is trying to skillfully run a marathon as the pandemic drags on.  We are all hoping to quickly come up with strategies to adapt to this “new normal.”  

While this phrase has been widely used in many settings, there are, to date, no clear indications of what “normal” we will return to...or when.  We will have to continue our journey through the storm by asking the right questions rather than seeking hard and fast answers. By asking good questions, we help our clients be wiser and more adaptable in the long-term.

“How do you want to look back on this time?” Tracy Fuller inquires. And she continues, “by asking our clients to craft a future vision they may find opportunities in the challenge, exploring, “What will be my legacy?”

Tracy notices that the concept of pride comes up often in this inquiry; she notes coaches may leverage this response by asking, “What are you proud of so far?” or “What would you like to be proud of looking back at this time?”

Eileen Coskey Fracchia thinks the best way to raise awareness in a client during pandemic times is to first understand whether the client is ready to explore long-term goals or if they have very real issues to deal with in the short term. Questions to consider:

  • Situationally:
    • What is happening in your world right now?
    • What is taking your attention/focus?
    • What do you need right now?
    • What are the top priorities--for yourself, your team, your company, your family, your community?
    • Are there other people in your world who have strengths/resources to help you?
  • Strategically:
    • What does moving forward look like?
    • What are three things that you are doing – or could be doing – to move forward?
    • What do you know about yourself or your organization that could be helpful now... and moving forward?

Keyanoosh Kassauei encourages people to be patient with themselves during this time noting, “It takes coaches time – even when trained with skills to help people - to get back to feeling normal or adjusted to the situation of long term disruption. To build trust and safety with others, we need to be in a good relationship with ourselves.” Questions she poses:

  • How do coaches adapt?
  • What resources do coaches have at their disposal to help clients adapt?
  • What about self-care and wellness?
  • How can we apply technology and digital strategies to bring physical, emotional and spiritual wellness to our coaching spaces?
  • How do we measure our adaptability during the challenge of pandemic?

Our Lessons Learned

Goals: Establish short-term to achieve long-term

While there is no blueprint for pandemic times, coaches agree that there are practices to help clients -- and themselves -- move forward.  

  1. Assess resources: raise awareness of clients’ strengths and values as well as the other inner resources they can call upon. This exploration helps us understand what we can control.
  2. Inquire actively: ask curious questions to assess reality focusing on both the short and long-term.
  3. Evaluate readiness: Assess client readiness: “What are you prepared to do differently?”
  4. Engage with patterns, rituals and routines that provide a sense of agency and control.
  5. Re-focus and re-frame: When tradeoffs have to be made, ask, “what are you willing to give up for this goal?” or “Does the goal need to shift?”

Self care and self compassion are essential

James Lamberti notes, “The pandemic is a physical stressor, so leaders are thinking about care, wellness and compassion more.”

Vania Castro suggests: For the long term, leaders must recognize the need to proactively foster a culture of self-care not only for themselves, but also at their organization. Model and build a culture not just by what you say, but through intentional acts: put people first, treat profit as an outcome rather than the main purpose. Her key question, “how will leaders alter their practices to reinforce a self–care culture for themselves, their organizations, and humanity when it counts most?”    

Jeff Hull adds that ‘somatic leadership’-- leadership behavior that tends to the energetic and physical element of individual and team behavior -- is increasing as a trend. He says, “Previously leaders might resist this concept as ‘woo-woo’ or soft. However, now leaders  understand that physical energy is a key driver of performance.  Ironically, physical distancing has made us more aware of the importance of physical, emotional, and social connections.”

Address fear

Many of us have noticed that fear has become pervasive during Covid times.  It can be useful to help our clients learn how to feel the fear yet carry on.  

Christine Scordato recalls Susan David’s work on emotional agility in which she recommends we focus on emotions as data rather than truth or directive, by asking: “what is our fear telling us?”

Also, recent Gallup research shows that compassion is one of the essential qualities for leaders. It is especially important now since many of us directly or indirectly know someone impacted by the pandemic.  To work through fear, she suggests:

  • Cultivate compassion, but first have self-compassion.  This can be easily practiced by  being honest about what you need to feel better, more grounded, stronger.
  • Mindfulness is another fear-releasing practice for clients and coaches alike. One way to  practice mindfulness is to set aside a period of time to disengage, to breathe or sit still in order to recharge.   

Show them what it looks like

Isik Tacoglu reminds us that leaders set the tone and need to be aware of the cascading impact they have on their employees and organization. When coaches help them increase their emotional intelligence, it enables leaders to have greater empathy and self-awareness.  They are then able to consciously craft the message to have a positive and empowering impact.

Navigating Resistance

Keyanoosh Kassauei explains that resistance can prevent individuals from adapting to any change, but especially when adjusting to a massive disruption.

Consider working with the following inner reflections (self-talk) to help ease resistance in yourself and your clients during long-term upheaval:

  • I allow love and success to flow through me.
  • I am worthy of practicing self-love without the need of anyone else doing that for me.
  • I practice self-compassion by listening to my inner being and staying grounded.
  • I forgive myself for things I cannot change.
  • I intend to focus on staying curious.
  • I live in the present and focus on problems one at a time.
  • I accept what it is.
  • I surrender to not knowing.
  • I utilize internal scripts that make me feel empowered and creative.
  • I am gentle with myself.
  • I invite inspiration and creativity into my life.
  • I start every day with a clean emotional slate.

Enabling Acceptance

Acceptance, as Isik Tacoglu describes, helps create new openings and opportunities.  Letting go of “old”, pre-pandemic expectations allow new pathways for creativity and solutions to emerge.  The question then becomes “What can I create?” rather than “What can I control?”

Some of the strategies these Fellows use during this time include:

  • focus on ways to give back to your communities
  • invest in our businesses
  • connect with other coaches and enrich our practices by learning from each other as coaches

Jeff Hull notes, “explore your clients’ readiness to surrender and accept what is real.  Hold the door open for resourcefulness that empowers them to get creative for the long run. It will be important to remind ourselves and our clients that we are not sprinters anymore.

 Eileen Coskey Fracchia sums up the inquiry with a powerful question for us all, “What courageous things do we, our clients, and all leaders need to do now, in order to achieve goals for a better future?”



What a lovely thinking and writing team.


Thank you IOC for continuing to provide a platform for colleagues to connect.  I have been inspired to listen, share and take action.   [email protected]