Coaching through a Pandemic
Aaaaand that's a title I never thought I'd write!
For all businesses large and small right now, COVID-19 / 2020 as a year has been a tempestuous rollercoaster of disruption and upheaval. Lumbering, old-school industries have been forcibly thrusted into the world of Zoom, Remote working and Flexible working, as the world has grappled to keep some semblance of 'business-as-usual' going, with pretty mixed success. Watching businesses scrabble around for the most appropriate ( slash: extremely overdue) show of support for the #blacklivesmatter movement is only adding to the chapters of what will be a giant, giant volume in the history textbooks of the year 2020 as social and political norms are being rightfully shaken up.
In one of the most unnatural states the global economy has faced since 2008, this 'business as usual' has been anything but. The closure of nurseries and schools has forced the issue of more egalitarian parenting at home as parents struggle to balance their full time jobs with nap time, Hey Duggee, tantrums and homeschooling. And that's if people have managed to keep their jobs. Deprived of our normal social circles, we've resorted desperately to screens as our substitute, with quizzes, choirs, exercise classes and the rest all making the jump to 13" x 6" 2D spaces, with the warmth, contact and nuance of face to face replaced with wifi issues, speaking delays and generational gaps. These have all tested our abilities to stay connected, and to say that our mental health has suffered is an understatement.
As a self-employed person, I panicked. My business thrives on face-to-face. The techniques I use depend heavily on being able to spot small glances and facial cues that belie clients' true feelings and reveal what is going on under the surface, which allow me to dig deeper and reveal answers. Unless Zoom is working faultlessly this can be very tricky to replicate digitally. I can hardly call what I do an 'essential' service where people were (and are) quite literally losing loved ones. And as people were furloughed, had their pay cut and were made redundant, as a small business I struggled to know the best tone to strike.
Is it appropriate to talk about self-improvement during a pandemic?
From the beginning of Lupa back in 2018 I've tried hard to be an adaptive business. On social media, I tried to keep the tone neutral and about COVID only, concerned that publicising noisy, myopic and tone-deaf discounts would diminish people's very real experiences and concerns at an uncertain time in their professional lives. I waited to see what the response would be, and 'lo and behold 2020 surprised me again. While my group work (predictably) dried up and was postponed, the individual work enquiries creeped up. My inbox started fill, when I had expected the complete opposite. Granted, my conversion rate has dropped (I track these things...), but given that I had expected a complete desert of activity I have been pleasantly surprised.
I had thought that with less money and more uncertainty, spending on 'luxuries' like self-improvement would be at a record low. However, having the space and isolation has meant that without the distractions of commuting, the pub and socialising we have been forced in an unusual way to look inwardly and sit with some realities that we previously may have denied.
Absence can give us presence
The recent and surprising uptick in the housing market reflects this in an interesting way, as well as the corona baby boom (first time parents only, haha). People who were waiting for the perfect time to move house / buy the puppy / break up /get married / try for a baby / get engaged are being forced to appreciate that life is short and that sometimes we cannot always wait for the perfect time to do something. In BC (before COVID) times, we were used to instant everything, planned everything, controlled everything. Suddenly, all is delayed. All is random. All is uncontrollable.
And that can force people into uncomfortable spaces where they may need help to address things that they may previously have been resisting.
Sometimes, noticing how idiotic 'client facetime' is (when you are on the Underground with your face in someone's armpit), can only occur when we don't make the commute for a while. Sometimes, noticing that a friendship is toxic and not worth nurturing can only occur in its absence. And sometimes, noticing that we need to spend more time with our parents and families and call Granny, can only occur when we are not able to. What the pandemic has done is provided internal space to tidy up our lives, take out the rubbish, and decide what is truly valuable and be more present. I believe that the uptick into personal coaching reflects this well, as people realise that if ever there is a time to think about investing in yourself, it's now, as we all know that the noise will start to slip back in before we know it.
More introspection can only be a good thing.