Research Paper By Faten Salama
(Teenagers and Youth coach, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Out of nowhere, by the year 2020, where people have their plans, goals, and resolutions, it was announced by the WHO that we are facing a global pandemic called COVID-19
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. Figure1
During this time where everything went unclear, companies started laying off staff, cutting down their salaries. Most of the countries went for full lockdown, life was almost in a pause.
People started to lose hope, getting frustrated with the world condition that goes upside down, we all are working from home. I decided to enforce my coaching skills and try to help those around me in my organization as our industry which is aviation is one of the most affected ones with the COVID-19, by scheduling coaching sessions to the head of the departments taking all the precautions for social distancing, mask, and sanitizing.
The first couple of sessions were so tough on me and my clients as their stress level were very high, the main session goal for almost all of them was how to manage the crisis, and what would be the worst-case scenario, each department head needed to come with a plan in downsizing his department, needed to be wise enough to choose quality over quantity, who is the staff to keep and depending on what will be his selection criteria and who is the staff to lay off.
During these sessions I used the below questions:
- How do you feel about the current situation?
- What’s right about this situation that you may not be seeing it?
- What would it take to change this?
- What are the options you have?
- What else is possible?
- If you are about to tell one of the other department heads something, what would you say?
- What are the things that you have in hand now?
- What could be the best-case scenario?
- What could be the worst-case scenario?
- What can you do to stay mentally tough?
During this stage that took almost a month to come with a full plan from each department head to be presented to the board, I noticed that regardless of how experienced they are in their domain and how strong they are in their personalities, but all of us are ex-pats here in the company, knowing the risk that we all are facing that the company may shut down any point of time since this was the first time in the history of Sharjah international airport, United Arab Emirates. To see an airport without passengers, without airplanes, without flight calls, an airport with no operations. My clients were frustrated and me as an internal coach I allowed myself to acknowledge that yes, the situation is difficult, I let myself to share my feelings as a part of the team who is having also issues on both personal and professional level as my role might be one of the good to have functions and I may be laid off at any point of time.
I basically built my coaching process in 4 main pillars since I am dealing with executives:
- Active listening
- Showing empathy
- Reframing their current prospective
While the situation was getting tougher, the airport still not operational however the stress was a bit controlled as in my coaching model FATEN, where the N refers to nurturing where I showed support and care by conducting an online training session for ‘’mental toughness’’, my clients became more strong, followed the earlier plan on downsizing their respective department, however, the most powerful part was the compassion that they showed to their staff, which made them feel more powerful and they didn’t let the situation overcome them.
Higher management decided to continue the coaching sessions during the lockdown, the decision was such a surprise for me as they hardly believed in it, however when they noticed how things were getting better they were too eager to continue.
During the second round as agreed with the management, I need to coach them on how to stay mentally focused during this tough time.
As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us. – James E. Faust
As I learned in the coaching skills about gratitude, and how powerful this tool is, my approach during this stage with my clients was to keep them on the positive track, retrack them from any negativity that might come on the place, and by using the correct powerful questions to make them appreciate and be thankful to what we have now.
As gratitude had a magic touch on our well-being since it reduces the toxic emotions and all frustration that all of us in the company are equipped with during this time of uncertainty. Especially our executives bringing their morale up would have a great effect on their people that would by default anchor the whole company stability as they are the ones who are in direct communication with the team also of them being decision-makers who shouldn’t decide stress.
Since I started reading a lot about positive psychology where I figured out that gratitude can be an effective yet powerful tool for my clients, since I personally started practicing it daily after many changes and issues happened in my life during the covid-19 lockdown.
During the sessions in this stage the below was the type of questions I used:
- How do you feel today?
- What would you like to discuss?
- What will be the best outcome for today’s session?
- If you can, would you please close your eyes and describe to me the best-case scenario?
- What do you have in hand?
- How do you feel about it?
- Do you hear from X (referring to one of our ex-colleagues who got redundant)?
- How is his situation?
- What do you feel about it?
- What are you grateful for?
- How many hours are you really busy during working hours?
- How can you make good use of the rest of the hours?
- What else can you learn?
- What skills would you like to develop, and you never get time for it before?
- When was the last time you logged in for MLZ (my learning zone, the company learning portal)?
- What are you grateful for?
In the reflection of the above questions, we reached a turned point where even with the pay cuts that we all have, where we were forced to choose between the needs and wants, some of us had to move our kids to cheaper schools, move to smaller houses to cut the cost, there was still a bright part. There was still hope that we will be back, keeping ourselves committed to the plans, keeping ourselves motivated and positive for what will come next.
When my clients started practicing gratitude daily, where the top gratitude among all of them was, being safe and healthy though we were inside the airport serving customers who have been repatriated from the country, very sad and hopeless. This made my task even easier as when we were going for the walk around in the airport I was able to see how their way of handling the situation was different, how there was in conducting the briefing was full of energy and power, how was the shift in their attitude just because the coaching process made their mind more clear and they were able to face the challenge by reframing their perspective and looking at the bright part of the situation.
A journey of 6 months, I would never think of getting it done as I learned from Sunita it’s not an easy task to be an internal coach, especially that I faced many challenges by 2019 to explain to my management about coaching and how important it is especially for executives. Now by enforcing the power of coaching, applying it using the right approach and tools, being able to help and be the change that I always want to see in the world, I admit that 2020 yes was different but yet a very influencing year for me and many other coaches.