COVID-19 Pandemic Pushes Leaders to Evolve Faster and Be Better

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Coaches play a critical role in supporting leaders during a crisis, helping secure the infrastructure that invites individuals to be more intentional, connected, and well-resourced in moments of challenge. For some of my clients, this has looked like helping them break down a weekly schedule, set boundaries for work-life, and figure out how to turn difficult moments into opportunities.

For others, coaching during the pandemic has continued to help them explore something deep and powerful that was already being revealed in their working world. What the pandemic has done is expedite this revelation, exposing the default mental habits of many and, in some cases, accelerating the leadership that might have taken months or years otherwise. 

Here are the stories of three real leaders – Carol, Kevin, and Talia – who have used COVID-19 to shift their perspectives, cope with unforeseen circumstances, and turn them into opportunities to become more productive and intentional in their professional lives. While their names have been changed to protect their anonymity, I hope that their stories will inspire you, as they inspire me daily, to help grow yourself during this challenging time. 

The high-powered scientist battling a fear of failing.  

Carol landed her dream job late last summer. The job has an incredibly ambitious mission and asks that she work long hours, grow a team, and truly step up and lead in a bigger way than ever before. For a few months, we have been working on helping her overcome a sense of inadequacy that makes her feel like she needs to deliver the perfect work to an imagined crowd of critics analyzing her every move. And now, while all eyes are on the scientific community to deliver, the feeling threatens to paralyze her. For Carol, the pandemic has laid bare what we had already been uncovering for months, namely a pattern that does not scale in her new environment and is causing her to shrink in the face of mounting deadlines. 

The opportunity: Carol realized that now was truly the moment to face her fears and tackle this old pattern head-on. By uncovering the source of the fear and leaning into a series of new exercises that help her speak up in meetings, take bigger risks and clearly communicate her value, she is able to rise to the challenge before her and focus on the important work at hand. 

The VP of Sales who had to lay off 50% of his workforce.  

I started working with Kevin two years ago when his company was in a major growth sprint. When the company hit rocky waters last Fall, they had to conduct their first round of layoffs. At the time, Kevin let HR take the lead on a plan for the layoffs that resulted in deeply damaged company morale. When he discovered that this quarter, they would have to again cut the workforce dramatically, he was unsure as to how to handle these conversations from a distance while being as expedient, humane and respectful to staff as possible. 

The opportunity: Kevin paused to consider what he knew his team needed, as well as what he knew about empathetic leadership, and decided to take the reins this time, laying out a plan. He and his Founders conducted individual zoom meetings with every member of his team to communicate the decision, and then followed up with all company meetings and other messaging to communicate the changes and allow time for team members to acknowledge each other. As a result, he said, “was like night and day.” The remaining team felt energized and even the departing employees said they were grateful for how the process was handled. Kevin knows now he can put the human at the center of the equation and buy long term gains with extra time and attention paid upfront to sensitive transitions. 

The operations manager at a major tech company trying to be future-focused. 

And finally, Talia. Talia leads a huge team at a major tech company and, on a normal day, she struggles to make any kind of time for strategic thinking. When we started working together, Talia’s version of long-term planning was to squeeze in one 30-minute strategy session a quarter. Between balancing the needs of teams, daily fires and new crises, a demanding boss, and a job where she continues to get volunteered for special task forces, Talia was already spread beyond thin when the pandemic hit, and now she’s coming loose at the seams. When I ask Talia about starting to put aside more time for strategic thinking, she says, “it’s no longer a matter of choice: If I don’t step back and focus on our future, no one else will.” 

The opportunity: Finally confronted with a problem that was simmering under the surface for years, Talia is starting to get more strategic and brainstorm real ways to take things off her plate. She is getting serious about delegating and asking for help, giving away a massive slice of work to her team – seeing it as an opportunity to empower them, not hold them back – and as a result, she already notices more time for focusing on the future, proposing ideas for the changes that need to come next.

These three leaders were able to find ways to turn challenging situations into opportunities for learning and growth. They asked for the support they needed – from bosses, direct reports, coaches, and their communities – to build a solid place from which they could observe learning and shift into change. I hope that this lesson can be applied to any of us currently facing a difficulty: Use this moment as the quick path to implement lasting change that will serve you and your organization for the long haul ahead.  

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Not just logos, companies who trust us

Feed an interested mind!

Join our Sound Ideas Newsletter
Our leadership development experts create valuable posts, videos, and surveys on leadership, coaching and the future of work!

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge that your information will be used as described in our Privacy Policy.

Join our coaching team

Our expert coaches combine top notch coaching, business acumen and organizational savvy to truly become your leadership “Sounding Board”. Sounding Board coaches are all industry certified and strongly vetted going through a 3 step qualification process and receiving ongoing supervision and development.

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: doc, pdf.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & Chief Coaching Officer

Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.

Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.

Want to learn more about how Sounding Board can help your organization?

Simply fill out the form below and we will be in contact soon. If you are interested in becoming a Sounding Board Coach please visit our careers page.

  • Accepted file types: doc, pdf, ppt.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.