Training to become a coach is a life-changing experience. It gives us so much more than just some practical skills to do a job – it transforms both how we see the world and how we see ourselves, making it a truly rewarding journey.
And, just as in life, the trajectory of becoming a coach isn’t a straight line upwards. Whilst there are peak moments, great highs, excitement and a wonderful sense of possibility, there are inevitably times when a crisis of confidence hits.
The trouble with a coach experiencing a crisis of confidence is that they worry about the thing they’re worrying about and then worry that they’re worrying about it because, as a coach, they should KNOW how to be confident and on top of their game; thus serving themselves a double-decker Worry Sandwich with a side order of Inner Critic. Tasty!
Anything we can predict we can prepare for, so let’s see if we can take that Worry Sandwich off the menu by addressing some perfectly natural crises of confidence that most coaches will face at some point.
1. I can’t find any practice clients – what if I forget everything?
Coaching training provides an incredibly safe haven within which to learn and develop new skills. On the training weekends, or in spaces such as the reflective practice groups (included as part of the Animas Diploma in Transformational Coaching) you can practice coaching skills, get feedback, tweak and refine your approach and build your confidence in your coaching style.
Once the course ends, some people can hit an immediate hurdle that can cause the first crisis of confidence. Whether due to the demands of existing work or family commitments, having limited networks to approach or a fundamental fear of asking, some coaches struggle to line up practice clients once the coaching ends. Away from the safety of their peer group, and without a mechanism for bringing in a steady flow of clients, there can be a sense of the rug being pulled from under them, and the What-If Monster may start to kick in:
Between the fear, panic and pure drama of this monster’s chunterings, it’s no wonder someone would face a crisis of confidence. But what do we do to quieten a monster? Reassure it.
Just because we hit a dry spell after qualification doesn’t mean that everything will be lost.
Training courses are structured to give us a lot of muscle memory for how it feels to coach and be coached. It’s not like forgetting how to conjugate verbs in a foreign language; our coaching training is held in the cells of us, precisely because we coach with our whole selves and not just our minds. We can’t forget how to be – and our beingness is where the coaching sits. So, if we hit a dry spell and can’t practice as much as we like? Worry not – your coaching presence is waiting in the wings, stage left, ready to take to the stage whenever you do get a new client to work with.
2. I don’t know my niche – other coaches seem so clear!
Another crisis of confidence can land when we find ourselves struggling to decide on our particular niche. Because coaches niche, right?
Even though we’re coaches, we can still be susceptible to the invisible ‘shoulds’ that linger at the edges of our thinking, taking a choice and turning into an obligation.
Mind boggle, complete.
The crucial anchor point in the whole niche debate is the notion of choice. When we liberate ourselves from confidence-crushing ‘should-thinking’ and step into the spaciousness of choice, we can see the landscape for what it is; full of options. We can niche, or not. We can stick with our niche or mix it up. We can experiment, grow, develop, nurture our niche. We can bin it and start again.
There is no right or wrong answer.
For more on how to get INSPIRED when it comes to tuning into what niche might work for you, see this great article by Animas’ CEO Nick Bolton.
3. My client has disappeared – did I do something wrong?
The work we do as coaches isn’t formulaic, paint by numbers, rinse and repeat; we work from relationship. Which means we bring our whole selves to our work, every time. So when we meet a new client, have a few sessions, build that relationship, become invested in their hopes and expectations for coaching…and then they suddenly stop turning up, without a word; that can sting. Cue our next crisis of confidence.
If we’re dating, we probably expect to have a mixture of experiences. Some dates may be dull. Some pleasant. Some so utterly soul-destroyingly awful that we want to escape out of a toilet window. And some, of course, may turn into the first glimmers of excitement that hint at the possibility of love.
Dating, like coaching, is also an experience that happens through relationship. Whilst we may be prepared for our dating life to be up and down, when it comes to our coaching relationships we might not be so ready for the downs.
We really can be quite brutal to ourselves, can’t we, when we land in these crises of confidence?
So, let’s get super clear to counter all that self-attack:
And…and…maybe there was something in the relationship that IS yours to take ownership of. This can also be true. With the right self-reflection around our own part in the relationship, it may be that there are some gifts of insight available to us that will strengthen and improve our practice going forwards.
So either way, crisis over!
4. Client feedback is so disappointing – am I making any difference?
Getting feedback on our coaching is a really useful part of the job. Whether it’s feedback to help us reflect on our approach, feedback that helps us clarify our style or feedback that forms testimonials for our marketing, it is an integral part of the coach / client relationship.
And because we’re human, there will be times when we’re in a really good place to receive and process client feedback, and other times when, well, not so much.
If we’re not quite in the right space, then there are a range of reactions that could trigger our next crisis of confidence, causing us to question the impact of our coaching and, by extension, our own ability as a coach:
As we’ve already identified, one of the symptoms of knowing that we’re having a crisis of confidence is to tune into the inner chatter and hear how rough it sounds; if the voice is lacking in compassion then we’ve been hijacked. Whether by fear or doubt or insecurity or jealousy, if the voice lacks compassion then we know we are activated and out of balance with ourselves.
And this gives us a clear path back.
We need to take off the glasses of criticism and self-attack and put on the glasses of compassion and empathy, for ourselves and our clients.
Once we connect to this place, we can revisit the feedback. Chances are, the beauty within the words will emerge, like an image forming out of a Magic Eye picture.
5. I’m not earning enough to live (or leap) – can I sustain myself?
Many of us fall head over heels in love with coaching. It quickly becomes apparent to us that it’s not work, it’s vocation. And the experience feels so rewarding that we can sometimes marvel at the fact that we get paid to do it at all. It can feel like such a privilege and pleasure to work with people that earning a living doing it feels like ALL the cherries on top at once.
And there are so many success stories out there. So many coaches sell their services based on how much they have earned themselves. There can be a lot of candour about earnings in the coaching market, as coaches seek to entice other coaches to work with them on developing their own stratospheric businesses to be just as successful as them. And then, let’s be honest, some of this candour can feel like showing off.
And, let’s be honest about this too, if we’re not earning those numbers ourselves then there are many parts of our shadow that can get hooked by the comparison; jealousy, inferiority, fear, hopelessness, self-attack.
It’s probably pretty inevitable, then, that many coaches will have had a crisis of confidence around how much they charge and how much they earn from time to time.
The thing about money is that it makes little sense unless it’s anchored by something more tangible. Earning an unquantifiable ‘more’ for the sake of earning more can be unsettling because how do we know when enough is enough?
However, having a number in mind that is the monthly income needed to make the leap from employed to self-employed is more useful.
Getting really clear on what you need to earn to sustain yourself with coaching and then breaking that down by category of work, that’s empowering.
Making a financial action plan that is personalised and specific to your own situation, that will clarify the precise next steps that are appropriate for you, that’s purposeful.
Moving from the general and unquantifiable to the specific and quantifiable is a way to ground the crisis and bring you back into your power, diminishing your financial fears and lassoing your own financial freedom a little closer.
6. I feel like I’m doing it all wrong – is this a supervisor/mentor mismatch?
Finally, let’s take a look at a curveball of a crisis of confidence. This may be aimed at the coach that has been working for a while, knows themselves and is committed to their on-going learning and development. The best way to do this is to work with a supervisor, a mentor (especially if going for ICF accreditation) or both! Getting that outside perspective can help us progress leaps and bounds, enriching our practice and uncovering our blind spots so we can continue to develop the way we show up for and with our clients.
And yet, rather like we discussed above, working with a supervisor or mentor is done in relationship – and not all relationships work out.
This is fine, if we go into this knowing how we will measure our parameters for success. If, however, we’re just excited to get into things, or the person was recommended so we’re pre-sold on their abilities, then we can rush in blind.
And if we’re not as prepared as we might be, it can turn out that the supervisor/mentor may have a wildly different style to us. This CAN be wonderful, challenging and provide a great stretch scenario if we’re in a position to recognise the difference as healthy and balanced. But oftentimes, the relationship doesn’t feel like one of equals. We might put the supervisor or mentor on a pedestal; they are, after all, more experienced than us. That’s why we choose them, right?
The key thing here is to differentiate between experience and style. The supervisor/mentor may have years of experience, but if their foundational style is too different to ours, we may never find enough common ground to build a fruitful learning relationship on. Which is fine. It just means we know to find a supervisor/mentor who’s a better match, rather than staying and starting to doubt our own style.
Hopefully this article will have prepared you a little in case one of these crises of confidence blindsides you at some point. Truly, these are all normal, natural and part of the territory. Consider it part of the process of earning your coaching stripes!
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