Another Coaching Reflection

It was a Skype conversation, a disembodied voice through a computer screen and although I could not see his face, I knew something was wrong the moment he started talking.

‘What’s the matter?’ I asked. ‘You sound distracted.’

‘My mother is in hospital,’ he said. ‘She has this virus. We don’t know what to do. We cannot visit.’

‘She’s in the best place,’ I said.

‘I know. My sister is a nurse. She speaks to the hospital on a daily basis and tells us what is going on. Sometimes I think she tells us too much.’

‘Too much?’ I ask.

‘I know what she is doing. She’s preparing us for the worst,’ he said. ‘But I am not sure we want to know.’

‘We have to trust in God,’ I offered.’

‘My Dad says that,’ he said. ‘Trust in God. That’s all we can do.’

It is all any of us can do.

I let the words drift into silence. I have tremendous respect for this man. We do not share the same faith and come from different cultural backgrounds but in all the time I have coached him this has never been an issue, perhaps because neither of us has laid claim to God. It is enough that we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives.

He had a busy week: virtual meeting after meeting, working with other directors to put the company into hibernation; having hard discussions and making tough decisions; taking stock and making plans to right the company after the crisis. At the same time he was fearing for his mother and worrying about his father in self-isolation.

‘We have had to let a lot of contractors go,’ he said. ‘People we have worked with for years just told to go. I don’t think their agencies handled it well. Now we have to think about furloughing permanent staff and that won’t be easy. They’ll be wondering if they have a job to come back to.’

People are anxious in the face of this virus, much in the same way George told us in his sermon on Palm Sunday that ‘the people of Israel at the time of Jesus were anxious and desperate in the face of a different virus: that of the brutal occupation by Rome and they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with the words: “Hosanna to the son of David!” Save us! Deliver us!’

They looked to Jesus for leadership, in the way we are looking for leadership today in the world, in our countries and in our places of work and worship. But what is this thing called leadership? George told us that Jesus was a charismatic leader, and that ‘people would sit three days straight, without food, just to hear his riveting words.’

Charismatic leaders inspire devotion. They have vision. They are passionate and driven; totally committed to a cause. They are also strong and able to connect emotionally with people. It’s a difficult balance. Projecting strength can elicit feelings of fear and bonding with people can leave us looking submissive. We desperately need leaders at every level of society who are prepared to stand alone, make the hard decisions and protect us from danger. We also need leaders who can show us the warmth of humanity. We need leaders we can trust.

Jesus had strength. Jesus had warmth. Jesus is someone we can trust.

In his sermon on Maundy Thursday, George challenged us to see God in action ‘in the doctors, the nurses, the pharmaceutical companies, the virtual church and prayer groups, the first responders, the neighbourhood groups organising food distributions and millions of others working flat out to meet the needs of God’s people in this crisis!’

I see God in the people I coach.

I can see them developing as leaders, getting ready for the time when they have to take their place on the front line and lead this country to an economic revival.

I feel the pressures they are under.

I see them struggling with the decisions they have to make to protect the future of the company.

I hear them in conversation trying to be fair to the people whose livelihoods depend on them.

And I thank God for them.

Just before I emailed this piece to the Living Stones I had another telephone conversation with the man I coach.

‘Mum is getting better,’ he said. ‘She was in tears over the weekend about the number of people who had prayed for her.’

She is one of the lucky ones.

God Bless.

Dr John Temple
April 2020