Coaching through Crisis – With Curiosity, Empathy and Serenity

A coach should always be the beacon for a coachee, the rock in the surf, the lighthouse in stormy waters – even more so when coaching through crisis. In normal circumstances, a coaching journey starts with the coachee’s intention to change inside-out. During crisis however, coachees find themselves in a change situation which has been forced outside-in. This results in a generally negative reaction to change rather than the usual positive action on change. Change guru Peter Senge said, “People don’t resist change; they resist being changed”. Since a crisis is a “being changed” situation, most people will turn into a mode of denial, if not depression or anxiety. Therefore, I recommend for coaching through crisis to overly emphasize on empathy and coaching ethics, by letting partly go of rigid coaching frameworks and powerful questioning. When coaching through crisis, the coach needs to become even more a listener – and take partly the role of an adviser. Some people may just want to have a pair of open ears, listening to their stories, problems and concerns. They need someone who resonates their feelings and emotions, without much comments or questions coming from the other side. Other people may want to have the insurance that things will be fine and get some advice. Giving valuable advice, however, is easier said than done – and generally not in the coaching repertoire.

Firstly, the coach must ensure that the situation is fully understood. In other words, the coach must display a high level of curiosity, without being nosy, to find out the underlaying mindsets which brought the coachee into the current state of mind. Those mindsets could have financial, emotional or professional roots, just to name a few.

Secondly, and more importantly, the coach must display a high level of empathy, seeing the situation from the other’s perspective, not mixing it with personal experiences. Everyone reacts differently to crisis situations – and what worked for us may not work for someone else.

Lastly, once curiosity and empathy are in place, the coach may give some advice from a place of serenity. We can only give sound advice if we are in a sound state of mind ourselves. When coaching through crisis, it is therefore important that the coach is either not involved in the crisis or has detached herself/himself from the crisis. As the coaching code of ethics states, a coach should only coach if feeling fit for the job. Hence, this last step of coaching through crisis becomes the first checkpoint for the coach. As coach, ensure that you yourself are mentally and emotionally strong, free from anxiety and full of excitement to help the client during challenging times. Stay safe, sound and serene.

Serenity is the true source of life energy. Unfold the Serene Leader in You – Now!

Choose a COACH who is Credible, Open-minded, Accountable, Curious and Human – meaning kind, empathic and serene.

Choose ATvisor™ – Live wiser.

© ATvisor™; Picture Source:; This article was also featured in APAC Voice, the quarterly newsletter of the Asia Pacific Alliance of Coaches [see Vol. 5.2 Apr 2020]