Leading Through Crisis Using The Five Coaching Conversations

Coaching is always an important leadership skillset, but it’s especially critical in the midst of a crisis like the one we are all experiencing right now due to coronavirus.

As we reflect on what’s going on in the world right now, it’s safe to say that leaders and teams alike have never been through anything like this before.  Collectively, we haven’t had the time or the opportunity to learn how to work seamlessly in this new environment as well as we’d like because we’ve all been thrown into the proverbial deep end of the pool.  How do we lead, manage, and succeed through this time?

Coaching is all about helping people perform to their potential.  And when is it more important to help people perform well and even realize their potential than in the midst of an environment such as the health and economic crisis we are all now experiencing?

If you are a leader trying to make sure your people have what they need to continue being successful in an unprecedented situation, you need tools – specific ways of leading your people in such a way that they have the ability, motivation, and confidence to continue to do their jobs as well as possible.  And, at the same time, it’s important to reassure your people that you care about more than just keeping their performance at an acceptable level throughout this crisis; that you also truly care about their personal well-being and are sensitive to their unique needs as we all seek to navigate these uncharted waters.

We believe our Five Coaching Conversations model provides an extremely useful framework for coaching others through ambiguity and change, specifically addressing how to effectively coach and lead others during times when:

  • change pushes us out of our usual comfort zones to a place where we feel relatively inexperienced to take on the challenges we are faced with
  • there is a lack of clarity on what options we have to move forward and remain productive
  • a general sense of anxiety deflates our usual confidence and overall motivation to remain productive


Teams may be questioning themselves, asking, “Am I doing this right?”, and “What should be done?”  The more ambiguity, the scarier and more anxiety-inducing the challenges may seem.  And to make all of this even more challenging, each person you lead has different needs, both because of the fact that we are all wired differently, and also because we are all experiencing different circumstances and challenges right now.

One key to keeping your people fully engaged and high performing is to make sure you are varying your approach in order to meet the various needs of your people in this current context.  And we believe that means making sure you are using each of the following approaches with your people on a regular basis:

  • EXPLAINING things like changes in priorities, actions being taken, expectations that have been adjusted, and new approaches to work when people are feeling anxiety that is rooted in their inexperience with this sort of crisis.
  • EXPLORING a range of options for solving problems in the midst of all of the uncertainty people are facing, using two-way dialogue to unlock the sort of creative thinking that leads to effective solutions to all sorts of challenges.
  • ENCOURAGING people who may be experiencing dips in their usual levels of confidence and overall motivation by asking good questions, expressing empathy, establishing connection, and offering reassurance.
  • EMPOWERING people who have successful experience in dealing with crises in the past by getting clarity on specific, desired outcomes in the midst of this crisis and then giving them wide latitude to achieve results.
  • ELEVATING people and even the business as a whole by embracing the idea that every problem is also an opportunity, then innovating in ways that will position your people and your company overall even better than before the crisis.

As leaders, there is no more important time for you to set the right tone and provide the appropriate support for your team than in the midst of a crisis. Being intentional with your coaching approach during this time can go a long way with regards to how your people perform through the crisis, and also with regards to your credibility as a leader once we all eventually come out on the other end.

Click here for a PDF resource for coaches and leaders when applying The Five Coaching Conversations model during times of crisis.


The Five Coaching Conversations: A Research-Based Model for Maximizing People’s Performance and Potential is the #1 new release on Amazon for leadership training, business management science, and management science. 

April 13, 2020