Rick Koster is founder of LeaderScope - an international team of leadership trainers, coaches and facilitators for transformation and talent liberations. 

The purpose of LeaderScope is to encourage and develop leadership for positive change, dealing with wicked problems connected to sustainability and equality.

In response to the COVID-19 situation, Rick needed to transform his own organisation.

How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation?

Now, it is better than during the first corona wave. I have managed to value the positive of digital tools and working from home. After summer, I have found my pioneering spirit again to develop trainings online that have as much impact as when we meet physically.

How did your day-to-day work change?

Tremendously! I used to see about 40 different people each week physically, and that’s what I love about my work. Suddenly, I could see only my family - trying to see the 40 different faces of my wife – quite the challenge.

In the beginning, I was scared because all live sessions that I like so much vanished from my agenda. I felt resistance to working online. As many others, I went through all ‘stages of change’ – as you can see in the graph. After a few weeks in lockdown, I started getting calls to ask if I could help with online trainings. The world had adapted in no time. I got past my resistance and made an effort to try to understand and to use the online tools available, and how to apply them in better ways.

The biggest challenge was how to keep trainings and conferences interesting. My team and I got quite comfortable with the technology and we used our creativity to test it.

How many people do you work with?

We are a team of 8, including trainees, coaches, consultants and Millie who’s our organizer and connection manager. We work on a partnership principle and our work is project-based.

Which aspects of your work do you think can be replaced remotely and which not?

There will be discrepancy between operational, tactical and planning meetings. Those can be done effectively online.

In contrast, for the strategic, teambuilding, skill-developing meetings, we need interpersonal connection. In these situations, we need real human connection. It does matter that we can look each other straight in the eyes, who sits next to whom, and even pheromones matter in these cases. Online we cannot see the connections between people and the intergroup communication is missing. Yet, this is crucial for good, well-balanced strategies or sometimes bold outcomes.

For example, we recently had 4 sessions to develop a new vision for an organisation. We first three sessions were online. We had many interactive and creative activities with lots of energy and they smoothly agreed on a new vision. The 4th  live meeting, was intended for finding ways to act on the already agreed vision. Suddenly, there was a lot of resistance and emotions about the process and outcome so far, resulting in the vision having to be slightly adapted. We had to meet again and carefully sort out what had happened online. We found out that we had missed some layers of communication that are really hard to grasp online.  

Do you have any tips for leaders in this new era?

Firstly, we need to remind ourselves this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you start as a sprint, you won’t keep up with this long and fast changing period. With everything you do, realise this is for the long run.

Secondly, be fully present for others in your team who need your support. In the ‘old’ times, a famous leadership motto was that ’leaders eat last. It was humble to act this way for a good leader. In current times, leaders should eat first. You should take care of yourself first, to be able to take care of others. This demands a lot of your energy, so start by doing less other things – which I know feels like making sacrifices. And that’s what it is, because your main task in challenging times as a leader is to listen to the people around, in a way that they feel really listened to.

One last advice: find your own sources to recharge. Take enough breaks this has proven to increase your performance. Go running, listen to music or cook for example. Try to rediscover your old hobbies, for example playing the guitar? We have all read articles about this, we know this – yet to really do it is hard, feeling so responsible for so many things. Do only way how to really make yourself do this, is to schedule it. Put it in your agenda. For example, every Tuesday morning from 8.30 – 9.30 am – ‘running’. Let’s see how much of a better leader you’ll become by doing this.

Interview conducted by Magdalena Stepien