for coaches: hearing the call, leading with love

13th May 2020

If anything in these words sparks your heart and you are interested in a partner for idea-generation/navigating-through-self-doubt/doing-something-new, please know that I am currently offering one-off Velocity Sessions. These are 90-minute sessions with a 30-minute follow-up. Perfect for reminding you of how powerful and creative you are. You can read all the details here. I’m sending all the love and fortitude.

Morning sounds in the kitchen: the coffee maker plopping hot black nectar into the jug, birds in the garden mad loud in the Spring sunshine, an ambulance siren drowning out BBC newsreader on the radio, I catch the line ‘…total Covid-19 related deaths in the UK are expected to reach 15,000 by Sunday…’

Such is our life now.

I keep coming back to the paradox of our beloved planet enjoying a respite from all industry; she is finally able to breathe – meanwhile, the virus has us humans all holding our breath.

We have no idea what this will mean for us socially, economically, medically. We are in uniquely uncertain times. Volatile, ambiguous times that come with no simple solutions.

So while we collectively inhale, as coaches, what do we do? Some thoughts:

​​1. We are more equipped for this than the average bear.

Every time we create the space for a coaching conversation, we are willing to be with uncertainty. We have no idea what the client will bring, what will be asked of us in the moment, how the process will change us over time.

We’ve shared space with people in their vulnerability. We can meet uncertainty with curiosity, we can be with discomfort. We have an emotional vocabulary, we are psychologically minded. Most people haven’t had this prep.

That’s not to say we aren’t just as prone to grief and disappointment, anger and sadness right now. I’ve been on my knees a couple of time this week: new funeral regulations means no more than ten mourners will be allowed, remaining two metres apart. Yesterday I walked past a woman sitting in her car parked in the driveway, sobbing. People keep filming their kitchen discos and sharing them.

But our training and experience mean we are resourced. We know in our bones that there is nothing to do except surrender. To allow our bodies to soften, to practice over and over, being with what is.

2. Each person is on their own pilgrimage.

There are so many daily kindnesses, it’s almost enough to make us believe we are united in a communal effort, but the pandemic is exacerbating inequalities that have always existed.

We are all sharing the experience of being physically distanced in our homes, but not every home is a sanctuary, not every job will be saved, not everyone is treated equally. We are not all in the same boat, but we never were.

So there may be a general narrative arc to our experience, but we all have our own story of it.

We are all being changed by this experience and afterwards, people will want to make sense of who they are becoming, some will make life-changing decisions. It’s reassuring to believe our fellow travellers are likely to need more support from us than ever.

If you have seen a drop in demand for coaching services, that makes sense right now. This is the season for tending – plant your seeds, constantly fertilise, water, light; trust that the harvest will come.

3. Now is the time to be here, now, leading with love.

In the 1980s, the US Army introduced the concept of ‘VUCA’ to describe the increasingly ‘volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous’ world resulting from the end of the Cold War. It’s been heartily adopted by leadership academics since and has trickled into (executive) coaching literature.

Now, I can see why a link from the hyper-archetypal masculine US Army to love-based leadership may seem tenuous, but stick with me!

Because what we’ve learnt from several decades of leading through VUCA contexts, is that love must be the basis for effective and sustainable leadership.

Using a foundation of love, we can invert the VUCA framework to an archetypal-feminine approach to leadership. This calls for us to lead with Vision, to be Unattached to outcomes, to embrace Courage and to be Adaptable.

To reach this deeper, wiser reframing, we must resist popular ‘fix-it strategies’ for leading in VUCA conditions:

Volatile > Visionary

Volatility doesn’t subside by reestablishing the status quo or trying to establish a ‘new normal’. Instead, we need to become more Visionary.

It might help to think about your coaching as a ‘body of work’ that will see you through to retirement (if you wish).

So what is your long-term vision? Go high and take an eagle-eyed perspective to help see what is required of you.

Uncertainty > Unattached

Uncertainty doesn’t lose it’s destabilising effect even when we read all the news sources and economic predictions. This time is calling for us to practice being Unattached to outcomes.

It can be helpful to allow yourself to let go of any goals you might have for your business (particularly financial) right now. We are in uncertain terrain, where no one has the answers. This means you can trust yourself.

Consider what you feel drawn to, enlivened by, curious about? What do you really need in place to be of service?

Complexity > Courage

Complexity doesn’t seem less daunting when we try to simplify the situation or play down our feelings. To lead with love through complex times, we need Courage.

This is the time to experiment! We are creative, resourceful, innovative and sometimes, full of self-doubt (I may be biased as a self-doubt coach). There are a squillion ways to serve our people, the technology available makes this incredibly low cost and low risk.

What would you do if you had nothing to lose? (spoiler: you really have nothing to lose).

Ambiguity > Adaptive

Ambiguity isn’t resolved by pro-con lists, or crowdsourcing our decisions or waiting until we feel ‘ready’. Instead, we need to become more Adaptive.

How can you try new ways of showing up for your people? Where is the lack of clarity inviting us to set a new precedent, revise an existing process, or emotionally mature to show up now?

Using a love-based framework, we get to see this uncertain time as a ‘forced opportunity’ for growth. It could be that these are the precise conditions you need to be brave and show up to serve your clients in new ways!

4. If you are worried about money, give some away.

I know this may not land with everyone dear reader, but bloody hell our industry could do with some rebalancing.

Over the last decade, I have watched so many coaches collectively misinterpret the concept of abundance to mean unmitigated financial wealth, where we use universal laws to feed our ego. And tying your sense of ‘worth’ to your income means you are sunk: your work becomes about the bottom line and feeding the long-broken capitalist machine.

So yes, make a living from work you love – there’s nothing like it! Profitable, rewarding womxn-run businesses: bring it on! AND we all need to rethink our relationship to capitalism and consumption if we are all to make it through.

I know this isn’t everyone’s story. Some of us are seeing client demand dwindle, and we are sensitive to the losses in our communities, we are activated by the always-inequitable distribution of resources.

If you are worried about money, can I invite you to change the dynamic? Reclaim your agency. Give some cash away to a cause that matters to you. Give a tenner or ten grand, but give yourself the embodied experience of changing the lonely story of scarcity. I can heartily recommend this.

Also: read Tosha Silver’s books. Outrageous Openness and It’s Not Your Money are likely to forever alter how you feel about creating a truly abundant life.

5. Allow yourself to be transformed by this.

I don’t know if its because I grew up in the 70s with the constant shadow of the threat of nuclear war, but I have always thought there would be a cataclysmic event in my lifetime. And now we are here, its nothing like I expected.

In comparison to armed conflict, this feels like the most compassionate opportunity for us to collectively adjustment how we organise.

While it might be too soon to know what might emerge from this, it’s not too soon to begin looking for chances to help create what world you want to live in. Feminist polemicist Rebecca Solnit has written at length about hope in the face of adversity and she offers ‘one of the things most dangerous is the lapse into believing that everything was fine before disaster struck, and that all we need to do is return to things as they were. Ordinary life before the pandemic was already a catastrophe of desperation and exclusion for too many human beings, an environmental and climate catastrophe, an obscenity of inequality.’

Collective death and rebirth always begin with our personal transformations. Many of us have found that when we opted out of the commuting-employee life, we finally discovered our natural rhythm.

No longer at the mercy of a morning alarm, many of us have allowed ourselves to sync with the seasons, the moon phases, the light.

So it makes complete sense if you are tuning in to the collective consciousness of our quiet earth. It may be that your dreams are more vivid right now, or you are called to work with different elements. Maybe (like me), you are praying a shit tonne more than usual. It’s likely there will be ripples that echo into your work, your relationships, how you live, what matters to you.

What might happen if you allowed yourself to be changed by this?


I know we are only a few weeks into what could be a saga that lasts for months, perhaps years. So it does feel a bit like hurling shoes at the moon right now, but these ideas are offered with love.

My sense is that something urgent is trying to be disclosed to our hearts. Perhaps if we give this our collective attention, we will find ourselves able to see through this, to the outlines of a genuinely healthier world?

I believe with my whole heart that our work is a necessary part of this.


This article was first published in Issue 60 of Inspired Coach magazine. The full and free issue is available to download here



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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