Executive coach, Benita Mayhead, could see lockdown would hit smaller businesses hard. So she brought together a crack team of coaches, all Oxford Brookes alumni or doctoral students, to form Coaching Through Covid-19, which offers pro-bono coaching to SMEs.
“On the Sunday before lockdown, I had this compelling feeling of the need to do something to help. I was so moved by the sense of community and people rallying – trying to give what they can in whatever way.
“So I asked myself, ‘what can I do?’
“I have my professional skills and network. And I have energy and passion. So if I put all those thing together then we can create an offer to help SMEs – Small and Medium-sized Enterprises – as I felt they would be most impacted by loss of business as the fallout of what is really the world stopping.
This was an opportunity to offer executive coaching specifically to help them through this situation.
“This is a group within our business world that wouldn’t normally invest in coaching. But this was an opportunity to offer executive coaching specifically to help them through this situation.
“I contacted some of my close network of coaches who I know and trust – really high calibre people – they are my current doctorate crew and some people from my Master’s. They all said ‘yes’ straight away! I am so grateful to all of them. None of this would be possible without them.
“There’s 12 of us all together, educated to a minimum of Master’s level. Our pro-bono work is helping people in leadership positions, including people running their own businesses, in a whole range of sectors such as education services, engineering, technology, national charities and many others. We offer weekly sessions, always with the same coach, and then review after a month.
‘Unprecedented’ is an over-used word but in this case, it’s true.
“The issues we’re encountering are really varied and individualistic. Leaders are experiencing fatigue, the difficulties of managing teams remotely and keeping their motivation levels up, the loss of workplace social interactions, the emotional cost for individuals in what they’re going through, anxiety and destabilising levels of stress, and the whole uncertainty of how long this situation is going to last.
“‘Unprecedented’ is an over-used word but in this case, it’s true. However, this situation is also temporary and we need to retain our positivity – we can get through it!
I am optimistic about the power of community in coming together.
“Connecting with others is really important. If you are feeling isolated, do reach out and talk in whatever way feels okay. And if you see someone else, maybe a team member, who seems quiet – do take the time to contact them. Acknowledging the emotional cost this situation is having on some people and thinking how to balance that is key.
“Also, individual self-care is vital. Too much screen-time can be draining. Making small changes to your day, often just getting up and moving around a bit more, can make a big difference.
“Flexibility has become more necessary than ever. Things are changing and we are finding clients, who wouldn’t normally do are emailing at really short-notice to say ‘, I’ve got a crisis, can we move our session?’ It’s not people being disrespectful or disorganised – it’s just the nature of the state we’re in.
“I am optimistic about people’s adaptability. And most of all the power of community in coming together in all sorts of different ways to get us through this situation with compassion and kindness.”
Pictured are members of the Coaching Through Covid-19 team: Benita Mayhead, Lindsay Foreman, Carl Tomlinson, Brodie, Elizabeth Crosse, Leoni Kitchin, Paul Sandham (group mentor), Christine Vitzhum, Tessa Dodwell, Caroline Duncan.
Also in the team are Paul Berry and Paul Vissian.