Award for Coaching through COVID and Beyond

I was humbled and honoured this month that pro bono coaching programme Coaching through COVID and Beyond (of which I’m a co-founder and a member of the core team) won the Coaching at Work magazine award of External Coaching Champion (Organisation).  Coaching through COVID and Beyond – intended for anyone in the NHS (National Health Service), care and hospice sectors, other than those in management and leadership roles who would normally be offered coaching by their organisations – has evolved from Coaching through COVID in recognition of the fact that the effects of COVID on the health, care and hospice sectors are no less significant than they were, but certainly seem more diffuse than a clear and direct impact.

I feel a certain amount of discomfort at the warm – and inevitably personal – messages of congratulation and appreciation that I’ve received, because this has been so much a team effort within a very particular team culture that has allowed us to be consistently innovative and responsive to our clients’ needs. Led by the man who had the original inspiration for the programme, Mark McMordie, from the very beginning we have functioned within a climate of compassion (which indeed sparked that original inspiration) and psychological safety.

Our underpinning psychological safety in the core team has taken us through two of the four original co-founders needing to step back, and through several changes in the ops and admin team.  Indeed, none of our current operations and administration people were in the team at the launch of the programme on 20th March 2020, 3 days before the first UK lockdown started. And the depth of our psychological safety has meant that we’ve been able to have difficult conversations in a spirit of openness and honesty, we’ve been ready to take risks in a context of uncertainty, we’ve been agile and responsive and happy to experiment in a spirit of ‘test and learn’, and we’ve welcomed diversity of all kinds.  Living diversity means that we’ve constantly called on our collective intelligence, aware that the shared thinking of the team is always superior to the thinking of any single one of us – and so we’ve been able to achieve innovative success in several ways.

Key to our success and our longevity (not necessarily easy when not a penny changes hands) has been the inclusion in the team of representatives of our clients, in the form of two consultant anaesthetists, who have kept us abreast of the experience and responses of their colleagues in the NHS.  This has allowed us to be consistently focused on the real, on-the-ground needs as they evolved.

Key too has been the way that we conduct team meetings, always including a mindfulness practice that brings us with focus into the present moment and allows us to access our intuition and our creativity, and also a check-in in which everyone shares honestly what’s going on for them and what’s coming up for them.  It would be easy to spend time on the operational details, so it takes discipline to think more broadly as well as tactically.

And we must not forget the coaching maturity and expertise of the team of 250 coaches, who have given of themselves so generously, and to whom we offer development and wellbeing support, and reflective practice groups.

Finally, the fact that everything about our team and the programme is pro bono, has allowed the deep motivation to ‘give back’ to express itself, and means that we are entirely independent, a factor which has contributed to clients’ sense of safety.

It remains a huge privilege to be part of this programme and part of the difference the whole team – the core team, the reflective practice group facilitators, the CPD facilitators, the coaches – has made to 550 NHS, care sector and hospice workers.  The experience has been so much one that’s anchored in the concept of team, community and collective, and because of that, so liberating, creative and connecting, delivering a service that has in so many ways reached the heart of who our clients are and what they need.  This living of teamwork is unlike anything else I have experienced elsewhere, and has enriched both my leadership and my followership.  I will feel forever grateful.

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