13 Executive Coaches Share Their Best Advice and How the Pandemic Has Impacted Their Coaching Practice

Executive and leadership coaches have embraced online coaching and have turned their COVID-19 challenges into opportunities to rethink their coaching practice/business and help others.

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The COVID-19 pandemic that started in March 2020 has brought about challenges to most, if not all, industries. And the coaching industry is not an exception.  

In May 2021, the International Coaching Federation or ICF released a study titled  2021 COVID-19 and the Coaching Industry Snapshot Survey, which surveyed 9,398 coach practitioners from 148 countries and territories across seven world regions.

The study showed the coaching industry “demonstrating resilience, embracing new technologies and fostering a positive outlook for the foreseeable future.” 

Here’s a couple of snapshots from ICF’s latest survey:

On the coaching industry demonstrating resilience: Compared with its mid-2020 survey, ICF’s early-2021 data showed a decrease in the percentage of coaches who had experienced a negative impact on their coaching practices. 

It also showed an increase in the percentage of coaches who have experienced a positive impact on their practice during the early-2021 survey compared with the mid-2020 findings.

Image Credit: 2021 ICF Global Snapshot Survey Results

On embracing new technologies: ICF’s latest research shows an 82% decrease for in-person coaching and an 83% increase in the use of audio-video platforms. This is in response to the social distancing measures during the pandemic. 

Image Credit: 2021 ICF Global Snapshot Survey Results

The Impact of COVID-19 on Executive Coaching: Interview with 13 Coaches 

Through working directly with coaches in their branding and marketing efforts, I have personally observed that people are now more aware of the significant benefits of coaching, especially in the times of disruptions and challenges.

I’ve also heard stories of coaches who were struggling at the beginning of the pandemic, but managed to shift their focus and redirect their plans to thrive amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Also, one of the reasons we’ve worked with more coaches and consultants during the pandemic than during the pre-pandemic period was because many of them have realized that referrals — the most common source of clients for the majority of coaches we’ve worked with — were no longer enough to grow their practices.     

To learn more about how coaches navigated through the pandemic, I reached out to executive coaches and asked them about: 

  1. The impact of COVID-19 on their coaching practices; and
  2. Their best advice to leaders.

One of the questions I asked was, “How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice?” Here are the three key takeaways from their responses:

1: Executive coaches adapted to new coaching method — online coaching sessions, instead of face-to-face coaching

For social distancing measures and due to lockdowns amid the pandemic, executive coaches have embraced online coaching sessions with their clients.

  • Sheila Tan said that although some clients have been more open to virtual sessions, there are still clients who prefer face-to-face coaching.
  • John Todorovic has completely transitioned to online coaching.
  • Mary Ann Barcelon said the transition to online coaching has made scheduling and communication with her clients easier. 
  • Jerome Tuason observed that people have become more open and receptive to coaching as it could now be done from home through Zoom calls.  

2: Executive coaches turned their COVID-19 challenges into opportunities to grow their practice and help others 

For many of them, COVID-19 has become an opportunity to rethink their practice, offer new programs, shift their focus and pivot to thrive.  

“What started out as a challenging time for me became my breakthrough year.” — Carla Villanueva-Manas

  • Aside from partnering with other coaches and consultants, Anda Goseco offered new programs to help leaders and their teams navigate through the pandemic.
  • Rob Rances leveraged his expertise in other disciplines, such as creative leadership, neuroscience and distributed organizations, to respond to the changing needs of organizations during the pandemic.
  • After recovering from COVID-19, Carla Manas had a major shift — from a solopreneur with a full practice to being a coach trainer to fellow coaches and leader-coaches.
  • With her 6-year experience working from home, Anna Kotskaya held public webinars and conducted pro bono sessions to help teams and organizations adjust to the WFH setup.
  • Nikka Santos saw staying at home due to COVID-19 as an opportunity to invest more time in research and learning as well as to become more intentional about how she managed her time to better help others.
  • Jimbo Reverente started his coaching practice during the pandemic as he saw the need to help leaders with work-life integration as a way to overcome the stresses brought about by the pandemic.

3: Executive coaches have seen an increase in the demand for coaching as a result of COVID-19

Although the beginning of the pandemic had led to cancelled engagements, the situation has eventually turned around as more leaders have seen the value of professional coaching to help them bounce back from the COVID-19 challenges. 

  • Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes has become “busier than ever.”
  • Dino Badilla observed the increase in the demand for coaching to help leaders “adapt to the disruptive new normal.”
  • Carla Manas has trained 27 internationally certified executive coaches during the pandemic. 
  • Sheila Tan said that many had become “more open to coaching” due to the pandemic.  
  • In India, Paritosh Sharan shared that just when things seemed to get better, the 2nd wave of COVID had had “quite a devastating impact” on his coaching practice.

To learn more from these executive coaches, here’s the complete interview:

1: Anda Goseco  

Number of years coaching: More than 10 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

I was affected when the pandemic started because my clients wanted to put my programs on hold. I had to think of ways on how to stay relevant with the changes in the external environment.  

What helped me is thinking of how to communicate how I can help leaders and organizations during the pandemic. I also created new programs — such as my resilience program Thrive — which supported the needs of people. 

Partnerships with other coaches and consultants helped my business. We were able to leverage each other’s strengths to create a great service to clients.

At the core of all of these initiatives, I focused on my purpose, strengths and values. This helped me cut out the noise and stay true to how I wanted to create an impact on leaders and organizations.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19? 

“Who you are remains constant even if everything around you changes. Go back to your purpose, values and strengths. This will guide you in making the right decisions.”

Anda Goseco, Global Executive Coach

There are a lot of emotions and thoughts that we go through with the challenges of COVID- 19. There are three things that can help:

  • Focus on being reflective vs. reactive. Pause and think first before you react. Our natural tendency is to  act  and fix the problem right away.  When we rush the solution, it may not be the best decision for the organization. Look at the facts of the situation and ask yourself what you, your team and the organization needs.
  • Acknowledge feelings. We don’t don’t do this often because it is uncomfortable and we just want to move on. If you want to clear your mind, you have to first see where you are. Acknowledge what you feel especially in a difficult situation. It will calm you down and give you the space to think.
  • Your purpose is your North Star. Who you are remains constant even if everything around you changes. Go back to your purpose, values and strengths. This will guide you in making the right decisions. Who you are is your anchor.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Marcia Reynolds, Brene Brown, Marshall Goldsmith

2: Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes  

Number of years coaching: More than 10 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

With more work. I am busier than ever.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19? 

“Re-examine how you’re doing things. What worked before, or what’s working now will not necessarily work tomorrow. Prepare. Be future-fit.”

Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes, Executive and Team Coach

Practice self-care first, because you cannot give what you do not have. Then invest in yourself. The best way to help your people and your organization is by continuously growing. Next is to just care. Listen to your people. Finally re-examine how you’re doing things. What worked before, or what’s working now will not necessarily work tomorrow. Prepare. Be future-fit.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Dr. Ruth Wageman, Marshall Goldsmith, Bill Campbell

3: Paritosh Sharan

Number of years coaching: More than 10 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

Last year almost all my pipeline vanished, including some group coaching and mentoring assignments. Initially, such initiatives were suspended/postponed, after a few weeks they were cancelled. It took organisations a long time to go back to the drawing board and have alternative plans, and as things started getting little better, India was hit by the 2nd Wave right at the time when the FY20-21 was to begin (Indian FY April-March) which was quite a devastating impact.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19?  

“Use COVID as an opportunity to identify the broken systems within the organisation in terms of organisation purpose and culture, employee engagement and agility to meet the new challenges.”

Paritosh Sharan, Global Leadership and Team Coach

Few leadership traits which really show up, or were expected in these times were empathy, resilience, mindfulness and contextual leadership. Such an unprecedented situation calls for out of box thinking, confidence building measures, keeping the folks together yet not lose focus of the vision and the mission. 

My suggestion to the leadership was to use COVID as an opportunity to identify the broken systems within the organisation in terms of organisation purpose and culture, employee engagement and agility to meet the new challenges. 

And in-fact today, many alternative models and new themes are emerging. Professional and Personal Boundaries have got blurred, you can see children and pets pop up on screen when you are in a meeting. 

Systemic Inhibitions in a lockdown situation are suppressing evocative spaces, leading to neurosis, depression, strain on relationships, and that’s the new workplace too. So it requires a whole new level of understanding, empathy, mindfulness and resilience in Leaders and Managers.  

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Will Linssen, Marshall Goldsmith, Sushanta Banerjee (They are my gurus).

4: Rob Rances 

Number of years coaching: More than 10 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

COVID-19 has forced many clients to reexamine their assumptions underlying their leadership performance. There seems to be an observable gap in their readiness to adapt, let alone win in this new exponentially changing environment. 

Focusing on the proximal impact of executive coaching (e.g. improving popularly assessed heroic leadership behaviors) is no longer enough to determine the relevance of coaching as an intervention for improving the performance of C-suite leaders. 

For instance, my coaching projects have been more and more about helping them become navigators of radical systemic change, creators of a context that amplify the creativity, agility and resilience of individuals and teams toward shifting organizational models, while making sure that the conditions that fuel business success are optimized. 

As an executive coach, having developed multidisciplinary expertise myself—in creative leadership, neuroscience, distributed organizations, innovation and entrepreneurship, etc.—has been of immense value in my practice, since the onset of the pandemic.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19?  

“The leader’s ability to cultivate a brain-friendly culture that melds the slices of genius in individuals into a collective genius to drive resilience, innovation and agility can be an edge for C-suite executives in leading the company of the future.”

Rob Rances, Executive Coach

This is precisely the best time for leaders to go to work — to be a force for good by marrying business objectives with purpose. It’s no longer business as usual, as the organization’s survival will largely depend on the leader’s ability to respond to seismic changes in business, environment, and society. 

To fuel business growth means driving both financial and societal impact. On this note, leaders must inspire and mobilize others toward redefining the purpose of business as a means to promote workforce inclusivity and maximize social impact, while satisfying the demands of conflicting stakeholder expectations and assuring profitability. 

COVID-19 has also brought challenges (including disequilibrium) that exposed the relevance of most organizations’ resources and capabilities in this new environment. Leaders must create a culture of agility. The leader’s ability to cultivate a brain-friendly culture that melds the slices of genius in individuals into a collective genius to drive resilience, innovation and agility can be an edge for C-suite executives in leading the company of the future. 

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Amy Edmondson, Marshall Goldsmith, Hal Gregersen

5: Carla Villanueva-Manas

Number of years coaching: 7-10 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

Covid-19  became a catalyst for me to rethink my practice and pivot. It became the spark that allowed me to expand from being one coach to creating a community of certified coaches all contributing to positive change.                       

I was a solo entrepreneur and I had a full practice. But when I got sick with Covid, I could not serve the clients that were in need of a coach. When I recovered, it spurred me to explore ways to develop other coaches so we can exponentially grow the impact of what we do.   

I realised that I can do more  to serve and to uplift the lives of people by leveraging my gift — the ability to identify other people’s potential and help them achieve breakthrough results by imagining possibilities they don’t see. 

I became a coach trainer for US based Center for Executive Coaching and established Coaching for Exponential Leadership. My goal was to empower leaders to become  professionally certified coaches so they can create exponential impact for their organisations and themselves. 

What started out as a challenging time for me became my breakthrough year. To date, we have trained  27 Internationally Certified Executive Coaches who are all working together to maximise people’s potential and contribute to positive impact in the world. 

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19? 

“Trust in your capacity and God’s providence that all will be well. Don’t lose hope. A rejection can be a redirection to something bigger and better.”

Carla Villanueva-Manas, Executive and Leadership Coach

As we  face difficulties, take a moment to see the gift and lesson in the challenges, make a conscious decision to learn, adapt and grow. Trust in your capacity and God’s providence that all will be well. Don’t lose hope. A rejection can be a redirection to something bigger and better.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Andrew Neitlich, Bel Villavicencio, Besol Lopez, Sheri Boone

6: Dino Badilla

Number of years coaching: 7-10 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

The pandemic increased the demand for coaching. More leaders needed to calibrate and adapt to the disruptive new normal. Embracing change is the first significant single step that helped leaders to effectively become productive in these difficult times.  

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19?  

“Everyone is going through something. What can you do to help them move forward powerfully?”

Dino Badilla, Leadership and Executive Coach

Now is the best time to innovate and be creative to get things done. We are moving to a new phase in responding to rapid changes in the workplace. This global health crisis should compel everyone to be resourceful, be efficient in communication and authenticity. Everyone is going through something. What can you do to help them move forward powerfully?

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

David Peterson, Marshall Goldsmith

7: Sheila Tan

Number of years coaching: 7-10 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

Many people have become more open to coaching because of the pandemic. Most coachees have been more open to virtual sessions, some still prefer in person coaching. 

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19?  

“Be kind to yourself and to people; the pandemic has affected so many of us in ways that aren’t seen by the naked eye.”

Sheila Tan, Executive Coach

Have someone help you process your thoughts and emotions so you can make decisions that are sound, strategic and value-based. Be aware of your own triggers and fears so that they don’t stain your judgement. Be kind to yourself and to people, the pandemic has affected so many of us in ways that aren’t seen by the naked eye. 

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Michael Hall

8: Anna Kotskaya

Number of years coaching: 4-6 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

At the beginning of the pandemic I have run a lot of public webinars and pro-bono sessions to support people in finding their ways of working from home. By that time I had 6 years of WFH experience: 4 years in the corporate world and 2 years as a freelancer, and had lots of tools and tips to share. 

This year,  in addition to my focus on executive and team coaching, I decided to do pro-bono coaching for several leaders and teams from non-profit organizations in the Philippines as the role of non-profits is critical in supporting communities during challenging times. Coaching non-profits is my commitment to sustainable development. 

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19?  

Embrace not knowing. It’s ok not to know all the answers and not to have your strategy being 100% perfect.”

Anna Kotskaya, Transformational Executive and Team Coach

I will quote one of my executive clients. “I discovered [during the session] that it’s actually ok to not know everything, not to know which strategy or scenario works and which new challenges are ahead of us. It actually makes you open to new ideas, open to support from your team, bosses and peers. It makes you more vulnerable and human. And more agile. It makes you a better leader”.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who inspire you in your journey as a coach. 

Colin Brett, Leda Turai, Rebecca Bustamante 

9: John S. Todorovic

Number of years coaching: 1-3 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

It has taught me the importance of adaptability and resilience, which resulted in my complete transition to online coaching.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19?  

“Nothing in this world is permanent and it’s never too late to pivot.”

John S. Todorovic, Executive Leadership and Peak Performance Coach

Accept the reality by learning from it. Nothing in this world is permanent and it’s never too late to pivot. There are many roads in life that you can take, just make the first step.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Coach Chot Reyes, Coach Anda Goseco, Coach Jo Jackson

10: Nikka Santos

Number of years coaching: 1-3 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice?

Staying home with nowhere to go forced me to look deeper inside myself, and that’s always good for a coach. Your internal state determines how well you can coach another person. Covid-19 also threw TIME on my face. 

On a practical level, it’s given me more time to go deeper into my research and learning. In terms of my own being, all this time has jolted me into being more intentional and mindful about how I manage the use of my hours and days. A big win for me was road testing one of my favorite things in my coach tool kit—the time study. We painstakingly manage our money, but to me the most precious resource is TIME.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19? 

“Turn on your hope circuits. Focus on possibilities… There is always a way. Always.”

Nikka Santos, Executive Coach

Times are tough. There’s so much uncertainty. So much loss. Go feel the feelings, wallow and cry and let it out. Ignore people who say, stop worrying, shut up and toughen up.

But… give yourself a deadline to get to the point of treating everything as information. Then ask yourself questions like: What is this telling me? What needs to change? What can I do? What strengths do I have that I can use? Turn on your hope circuits. Focus on possibilities. If there’s one thing I will tell my clients it’s this: There is always a way. Always.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Carla Manas, Dr. Martin Seligman, Oprah Winfrey 

11: Jerome Tuason

Number of years coaching: 1-3 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice?

2020 was really tough! I had to pivot with my career plans and objectives when the pandemic hit. Trainings, talks, and coaching had to take a backseat as these were not essential to businesses at that time. More than anything, people were just focused on surviving, keeping their jobs, and protecting their loved ones.

I had to wait and see how the industry would shift and cope with the situation. As closing clients became more difficult, plans had to change.

Fortunately, Zoom arrived and webinars became more and more accepted. This helped me personally be available for engagements even if I was staying/working at home. 

Now, even with the pandemic, sessions can be done online, remotely, from anywhere. In spite of our circumstances, people are more open and receptive because everything can be done while you’re at home on your laptop.

The pandemic may not be completely over, but the industry and clients have slowly adapted to the situation. Hopefully, things get better as we move forward.    

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19? 

“At the end of the day, really knowing your purpose and calling will get you through the toughest times.”

Jerome Tuason, Executive Coach
  • Continue to study, learn, and develop yourself even when things seem slow or hopeless.
  • Don’t wait for opportunities to land on your lap, create opportunities for yourself by pivoting or adapting to any situation.
  • Ultimately, make it clear to yourself what really matters in your life and why you are doing what you do.  At the end of the day, really knowing your purpose and calling will get you through the toughest times.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Mr. John Maxwell, Mr. Jayson Lo, Ms. Carla Manas

12: Mary Ann Barcelon

Number of years coaching: 1-3 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

Truthfully, it has made it easier for me. The online modality allowed for ease of scheduling and communication. It has made virtual coaching more acceptable and appealing.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19? 

“Strive to be fast rather than perfect… Implement the imperfect version, fail forward and then iterate.”

Mary Ann Barcelon, Executive Coach

Strive to be fast rather than perfect. This is a time of quick response and thinking. Implement the imperfect version, fail forward and then iterate. And then repeat the cycle. Value the incremental progress. They are ideas in action.

Name other coaches or thought leaders who inspire you in your journey as a coach. 

Brooke Castillo, Joanna Visa, Rich Litvin

13: Jimbo Reverente

Number of years coaching:  1-3 years

How has COVID-19 impacted your coaching practice? 

I began my coaching practice during the pandemic. The pandemic highlighted the stronger need for life and work integration, as the stresses of life and work conflict increased somewhat during the disruption caused by the pandemic.

What’s your best advice to leaders who are currently facing challenges due to COVID-19? 

“Deepen relationships further, as strengthening relationships can lead to greater trust, engagement and commitment.”

Jimbo Reverente, Executive Coach

My best advice is to deepen relationships further, as strengthening relationships can lead to greater trust, engagement and commitment, which are needed in a greater degree now to be a high-functioning organization

Name other coaches or thought leaders who have inspired you in your journey as a coach. 

Cris Manlapaz, Chenny Galano

Wrapping Up

These insights from the executive coaches I’ve interviewed support ICF’s findings that indeed, coaches have shown resilience and have adapted to new technology to thrive during the pandemic. 

So what does this mean for leaders and organizations?

The increased level of awareness on the value of coaching and the increased demand for executive and leadership coaches could mean more success to leaders and further growth to teams and organizations that invest in their leaders and employees to help them emerge stronger and better prepared for the new workplace landscape post-pandemic.  

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