Finding Opportunities in Challenging Times

Designed as a tool for use by executives during the COVID-19 crisis, this step-by-step guide to having meaningful conversations with employees is designed to help you constructively navigate challenging situations.

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Finding Opportunities in Challenging Times: Guide to meaningful conversations: A coaching approach

What you need to know before the conversation

Duration: 60 to 90 minutes
Format: Videoconference with a maximum of eight participants​
Questions: You can choose whether or not to share the questions​ in advance

Qualities of a good conversation:

  • Empathetic
  • Open
  • Supportive
  • Curious, not judgmental
  • Growth mindset
  • Generous listening

Facilitator notes:
Duration: The larger the group, the longer it takes to complete the four stages of the GROW model. It is essential to set aside at least ten minutes at the end of the session to allow the participants to speak about what actions they are willing to take, try or change.​

Questions: You know your employees, so you are the best person to decide if you should distribute the questions in advance. ​

Invitation email: You may wish to use the prepared invitation email that explains the reason for the session on "Finding opportunities in challenging times." ​
Empathy is essential throughout the conversation as each employee will experience the situation in their own way. Some employees will find it easy to explore different possibilities, whereas others may not.

Guided conversation based on the GROW model of coaching and mentoring​

G: Goals – What are the objectives?
R: Reality – What is the current situation?
O: Options – What are the options?
W: Will – What are the next steps?

Facilitator notes:
The GROW model is usually used in individual coaching sessions. For our purposes, however, the GROW model has been adapted slightly to allow for a group conversation on a single topic. ​

For this conversation, the stages in the GROW are as follows:
G  – GOALS: What are the objectives of the conversation or session?​
R – REALITY: What is the current situation each employee is experiencing? ​
O – OPTIONS: What options are available to employees?​
W – WILL: What next steps will each employee take, try or change to move in the right direction? 

Part 1: Goals – What are the objectives?

Duration: 10% of session ​

  • Better understand how each employee is dealing with the current situation.​
  • Identify strategies for maintaining a critical work-life balance at this time.​
  • Explore as a team how we can transform the way we work during this period.​

Part 2: Reality – What is the current situation?

Duration: 15% of session ​

In step 2, two questions are proposed:

  • Scale of 1 to 10​: On a scale of 1 to 10 ​(10 being optimistic, 1 being pessimistic), ​how are you feeling in the current situation?​
  • Biggest challenge​: What is your biggest challenge?​

Part 3: Options: What are the options?

Duration: 60% of session ​

Choose 4 to 6 questions

  • Resilience​: How do you recharge?​ What should you do more ​(or less) often?​
  • Focus on strengths​: What are your greatest strengths​ at this challenging time?​
  • What if...​ : What could happen if we doubled your self-confidence?​
  • Learning​: What would you do if you knew​ you couldn't fail?​
  • Creative mind​: Given the current context, what needs to be reinvented?​
  • Giving yourself advice: ​If you were giving yourself advice, what would you tell yourself right now?​

Facilitator notes:
This step will help participants adopt a growth mindset by exploring the possibilities available to them. The suggested process allows individuals to explore previously uncharted pathways. ​

Part 4: Will  – What actions will you take?

Duration​: 15% of session ​

In this step, three questions are proposed:

  • Learning:​ What have you learned today that will help you cope with the current situation?
  • Steps in the right direction: ​What are you willing to do, try or ​change to move ​in the right direction?​
  • How can I support you?

Facilitator notes:
For this last step, each participant should bear in mind that every move in the right direction, big or small, should be seen as a sign of progress. In turbulent times, the pace of development of individuals will vary. It is the supervisor's role to meet employees where they are and to help them through the stages of transition. Transition is experienced at different rates, but the steps taken are quite similar (Scott and Jaffe Change Model):​

1. Denial​
2. Resistance​
3. Exploration​
4. Commitment​

End the conversation by thanking employees for participating in the conversation and reiterate that you are available to support them or to continue the conversation individually. ​

Designed for executives by CSPS Executive Learning Support​

If you have questions or comments on this activity, please contact your Executive Learning Concierge​ at: csps.executivelearning-apprentissagepourlescadres.efpc@canada.ca

Facilitator notes:
We created this tool to support leaders during the COVID-19 crisis. As it is a new tool, we welcome your feedback on the experience of using it. ​

Invitation email: You may wish to use the prepared invitation email that explains the reason for the session on "Finding opportunities in challenging times."


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