Coaching in Times of Crisis - International Coaching Federation
New Member-Exclusive Benefit: ICF Engage

Coaching in Times of Crisis

Posted by Ellen Kocher, PCC | March 7, 2020 | Comments (15)

As the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the globe, so do anxiety, confusion and negativity. Working as a Health Coach from Switzerland, where drastic measures have been imposed on individuals and businesses, has caused me to reflect and think about coaching in this “business as un-usual” time.

The fears and negativity we are experiencing stem from how little we know about COVID-19. As coaches, it is our role to embrace what we do know and aim to shift the negative mindset by establishing a safe and supportive environment that creates ongoing mutual respect and trust. Together, collectively, we need to rethink, renew and reconnect. Here’s how!


The crisis has everybody rethinking and behaving more mindfully. We are washing our hands more and eating for health while avoiding crowds and handshakes. I like to call this more mindful behavior “STOP mode:” stop, take a breath, observe and proceed. I consider it the ideal mindset for approaching the unknown. We can take advantage of the current mindset to:

  • Be here in the present, recognizing that many of our negative thoughts are not our current reality since most of us are healthy, our loved ones well, and life fine.
  • Be grateful for the things that are going well in life right now and focus on the present—a powerful antidote to worrying about the future.
  • Acknowledge the fear, anxiety and worry that we and our clients may be experiencing, which can help us not to dwell too long in the negative emotional space.
  • Ask ourselves what precautions we can take to manage the uneasiness and make things feel less overwhelming.
  • Check in with our physical well-being.
  • Anticipate what aspects of our coaching business might be affected by the Coronavirus ripple effect (e.g., cancellations, shutdowns or negativity).
  • Think about what is going on in the minds of our clients and what might best serve them right now. One company I work for just shut down the premises to outsiders. Together we had to rethink running our live group program remotely.
  • Understand what is happening in our specific industry and perhaps rethink our offerings.
  • Determine how our niche coaching work can add value during and after the crisis.
  • Take time to seek new opportunities that we may not have had time to think about before.
  • Evaluate how we are prepared for alternative modes of working, considering software, hardware, training and tools.


As coaches, we see many ways to work with the client and choose which is most effective. Many contingency plans require remote work. The situation may even accelerate the development of a technology infrastructure that can support alternative types of working. After rethinking, we can be inspired to renew by:

  • Continuing to be purposeful, realigning our values with our work.
  • Enjoying our free time and balancing our lives.
  • Seizing the opportunity to acquire and train in new software or other resources in order to maintain productivity, renew and grow.
  • Leveraging email, instant messaging and social media platforms toward better and more consistent use.
  • Ensuring adequate separation of work and personal life, carving out a designated workspace if remote work is a new solution.
  • Using the extra time gained from cancellations or shutdowns to renew websites, marketing strategy, newsletters or blog posts.


Stay connected with your clients and others, making adjustments as warranted by the coaching process and changes in the situation. This unusual situation gives us a wonderful opportunity to:

  • Maintain meaningful connections to keep relationships alive and attitudes positive.
  • Draw strength from loved ones to help us all stay strong and optimistic.
  • Connect with clients by phone or email to communicate clearly about our renewals and agility faced with the unusual situation. Personally, I spontaneously anticipated and proposed all of my live meetings be held virtually.
  • Invite clients to share thoughts on how they anticipate their current or future needs.
  • Use social media to inform about specific, more positive aspects of the current situation that might help reassure clients.
  • Create private groups to encourage clients ask questions or share concerns.

What Now?

We are not in this alone! We are dealing with this as individuals, as coaches, as communities and as a planet. Drawing strength from each other, recognizing our emotions and showing agility through renewal can help us and our coaching practices flourish and thrive! We do not know how long the anxiety, confusion and negativity will last once business and daily activity return to ”usual,” but we can leverage this opportunity to grow, be strong and feel better now.

When we feel good, resilient and healthy, we are all better able to cope with whatever is happening around us. Who knows what fresh innovation this might bring to coaching and to us?

Let’s share our thoughts and don’t forget to STOP.

Ellen Kocher, PCC

Ellen Kocher, PCC, is an economist and certified workplace wellness consultant who holds a master’s degree in health and wellness coaching. She has served as co-leader of the ICF Health and Wellness Coaching Community of Practice and as chair of the Global Wellness Institute Wellness Coaching Initiative. She is a health and mindful eating coach and a certified digital well-being coach. She has coached hundreds of individuals and groups in dozens of organizations worldwide to make sustainable lifestyle changes empowering them to go from knowing what to do to actually doing it. Educated in the USA, Ellen has lived in Switzerland for over 30 years.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Additionally, for the purpose of full disclosure and as a disclaimer of liability, this content was possibly generated using the assistance of an AI program. Its contents, either in whole or in part, have been reviewed and revised by a human. Nevertheless, the reader/user is responsible for verifying the information presented and should not rely upon this article or post as providing any specific professional advice or counsel. Its contents are provided “as is,” and ICF makes no representations or warranties as to its accuracy or completeness and to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law specifically disclaims any and all liability for any damages or injuries resulting from use of or reliance thereupon.

Comments (15)

  1. Thank you for this informative, compassionate and fact-based article.

  2. Axelle Gierlotka says:

    Thank you for this inspiring article !

  3. Thank you for this useful and clear article.
    I chase your suggestion to find the time to the strategy, frequently overlooked in the daily grind…

  4. Very relevant, helpful and in time article. Many thanks!

  5. Lori Prutsman says:

    Thank you for this very helpful information! This is just the kind of support I was looking for out there to use in my women’s retreat (very small) I’m having tomorrow! Trying to keep people as positive as possible!

  6. Teena Evert says:

    Thank you Ellen – Very thoughtful and practical article!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing. STOP really resonates with me!

  8. says:

    Dear Ellen,
    Thank you for sharing these interesting and useful tips !
    I hope we’ll meet soon in our next chapter meetings.
    Stay safe and happy !

  9. Mona Eames says:

    Thank you Ellen for posting this in this “business as unusual” time. Good to support each other as coaches now more than ever. I’m grateful for a beautiful sunny bright morning in Ireland this morning!

  10. says:

    Ellen Thank you.

  11. Sarah says:

    So relevant and so helpful at this time – grateful for the input – thank you

  12. Lily Cabrera says:

    This is excellent! My company, wellmarkt, wants to explore how coaching can be an integral part of supporting people during these challenging times. I would love to connect.

  13. says:

    This is very inspiring – Thank you for helping us find the words to reassure clients who experience this uncertainty. Very relevant!

  14. says:

    Thank you for this excellent article! Very helpful indeed

  15. Thanks for sharing the informative post. I’m going to read all these blogs one by one. Because I love to read & learn new things daily.

Not a member?

Sign up now to become a member and receive all of our wonderful benefits.

Learn more