Like everyone else across the globe, I have had to adapt and change to the COVID world we now live in. I did not want to, I was in denial for a long time it seems (although we are only talking about a few months, it feels like years!). I think I am through the bereavement curve: out of anger, denial, acceptance and onto embracing and growing with renewed hope and passion.
So, what have I been doing since 9th March, 2020 when, in the lovely Lapp’s Quay building downtown in the heart of Cork, I delivered a highly interactive workshop with Cork-based leaders on ‘Engagement and Motivation’ as part of their IMI/UCC Diploma in Organisational Development?
- Stumbled through the bereavement curve to come out the other side. There were many days when I slipped back, was overcome with inerita, but managed to push forward again. And I am expecting this to come back, so am accepting of it. It was not easy to get my head around the fact that my bookings from the Irish Management Institute for training, facilitation and coaching were wiped clean, along with substantial assignments with other clients. 2020 was shaping up to be my best year ever since I left industry to go freelance as a Coach and Trainer in 2012 and woosh, gone, just like that! I know I was not alone, but strangely that did not make me feel any better, normally it does, not this time.
- Continued on with my coaching practice by taking it 100% online, mostly using the Zoom platform. I was quite nervous about meeting new clients for the first time virtually as I thought I had to meet them in-person first (which is what I had been doing pre-COVID) but what I have found is that it is fine, more than fine. People are responding very well virtually to one-on-one coaching (even when English is not their first language): the good news is that it is completely possible to conduct wonderful coaching sessions virtually with great outcomes. In fact I think I am a better listener now that I conduct all my coaching sessions virtually – loving the mute button on Zoom and the double tap on the space bar to unmute.
- Attended many online events, with old and new networks, learned loads about reinvention, new working tools, platforms and strategies. Applied for a few tenders with new colleagues (thank you to my Friendly Associates Whatsapp group) and started that really important process of thinking through what I want to offer clients in our COVID world. I believe I have arrived: I know what I want to offer and how to get there (for now at any rate). And so am in the process of re-designing my website with the brand in mind (‘Coach coach thyself’ springs to mind).
- Put together my ‘long put off’, coach accreditation submission at Senior Practitioner Level with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). The deadline for the submission is end September and I am definitely on track to meet that milestone. A huge thank you to my executive coaching clients of the past 12 months for their supportive and insightful feedback.
- Designed a truly beautiful Life Planning Workbook using Canva, which is a graphic design package for ‘Dummies’. It was part of a project for my client the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland to redesign their 2-day retirement planning course workbook. I decided it needed a totally different look and feel, with some new life planning exercises included and so began my journey into workbook graphics and production suitable for in-classroom and virtual delivery. I had to stop myself eventually because I was going way beyond the project brief and needed to get on with other work! Always loved writing, editing and publishing.
- Re-designed and delivered training on Careers Next Steps for Interns: a training workshop I have been running for 4 years and now it needed to move to the virtual classroom. My client, Trend Micro, needed me to deliver and I did. The client literally drove me forward. I had to re-design the workshop for virtual delivery. It was a complete and total reinvention and while my years of conducting training in-classroom and coaching virtually, definitely stood to me, here is what I had to do to make it happen to my high professional standards:
a. A huge, and I mean huge, amount of rehearsing on my part, over and over again to ensure I really was totally comfortable with the technology (and it was set up correctly to maximise learning and engagement). For example, I set up Zoom on a number of different devices and practised and practised the whole workshop until it became automatic. It is impossible to assess unless you can see it in practice on screen, it really is. Rehearsing is not new to me, I used to perform ballet for many years on the Cork Opera House stage: rehearsing, you have no idea especially under the critical watchful eye of Joan Denise Moriarty of Cork ballet fame.
b. Included a lot of variety (even more than usual) in the delivery methodology to help keep the participants engaged: ice breaker, online exercises, breakout room discussions, video clips, use of chat, live Guest Speaker, Q and As etc.. Pre and Post workshop contact also including an infographic summary of key messages which I designed using Canva (again). The feedback from the participants was really good (gathered using SurveyMonkey), however, I have to say, their highlight moments from the workshop were mostly around ‘story’. My stories, advice and tips from my own career transitions (since I graduated with BA/H.Dip.Ed as a teacher to where I am now) and 30 years experience and, even more potent, the wonderful and amazingly open and engaging career and life story shared by my Guest Speaker Ulrike Bubl, a Senior Manager at Trend Micro. So, goes to show, you can have the most dazzling gizmos in the whole world, but it all comes down to human interaction and emotional, open, intimate stories.
c. Adapted my Powerpoint presentation completely to suit the virtual environment: took out nearly all the text and replaced with visuals, in particular moving visuals such as animation and giffs. See, b. above, though, live stories and tips/advice, topped anything I could present on a set of slides or show on video clips (I love quotes from inspiring people, but the participants preferred live interaction from ordinary people living in the world they know and to whom they can relate).
d. Ensured the technology was set up to work well, and I was very comfortable with it by the time I had to deliver (see a. above). I thought I had to invest in a new camera, a microphone, a light and spent endless hours investigating the best tech stuff. I stopped all that, asked my current coaching clients for feedback on my microphone/camera/lighting and was good to go with what I already had in place with the exception that I invested in fibre broadband much to the delight (and relief) of my 3 teens who are constantly online. When the work justifies it, I will definitely invest in hardware, but it was okay for now: I had to say to myself, stop and get on with the design and practice.
A huge plus, and essential for success I think is that I was totally knowledgeable on the subject matter. This is integral, for me in particular, because of the stress involved in moving out of my in-classroom comfort zone and gearing up for the likelihood that something could go wrong on the tech side, either with mine or the participants. I need not have worried about the participants on this occasion as they work in the tech industry, so are used to using platforms like Zoom for meetings etc… And they were also totally set up by their employer to ensure smooth and efficient remote working. This helped a lot, because I was delivering the training while managing the tech side at the same time, so if things did not work well with the participants’ tech, then there would have been a lot of delays: we had none (I am very jealous of the Trainers who have a Host/Producer supporting them on the tech side while they get on with delivery).
That’s my journey so far since my work-based world came to a standstill on 10th March, 2020 and I am excited for now and the future (with some blips here and there I guess). If you would like to see an example of key messages from my virtual workshop on Careers Next Steps, see here: Interns Workshop Trend Micro August 2020 Key Messages.
I am more than happy to share my experience on how to try to overcome obstacles, cope with the ups and downs associated with significant change and push out of comfort zones to achieve better things. Come back to me with any questions you might have about adapting or as they say ‘pivoting’ to our current times, feel free to send me an email through my contact page and if I can help, I will.