Coaching Confidence – Are You Nurturing Yours?

by Sue Johnston, MCC (IAC)

"We must protect our confidence." That thought has been bouncing
around my brain since a friend shared her takeaway from a presentation she'd
attended. The speaker, a CEO in manufacturing, said that as an entrepreneur
and as a leader, it has been a top priority in her career to protect her confidence.

That struck a chord for me. I was about to present on a new topic at a conference
where I'd also be promoting my book. I knew my confidence would face challenges
from my internal critic.

As coaches, we nourish our clients' confidence as we support them on their
path to success. How do we nurture our own?

For some answers, we can turn to the work of psychologist Albert Bandura. He
uses the term "self-efficacy" to refer to our belief that we can succeed.
That belief is learned through observation and experience. It seems we do best
when our self-efficacy level is just beyond our current ability. That lets us
take on challenging tasks and, in doing so, stretch our skills and build our

Self-efficacy leads to perseverance. When we believe we can do something, we
keep trying. So, if our goal is to be a fantastic coach, build a successful
business or change the world, developing self-efficacy will help us do it. It
will also help our clients. They'll place more confidence in us, and in the
coaching process, as our own confidence shows up strongly. And our success serves
as a model for them.

Bandura suggests that four things affect self-efficacy: our own experience,
witnessing others' success, encouragement and what he calls "psychological
factors," which are essentially "emotional intelligence."

Let’s begin with our own experience. When we have what he calls a "mastery
experience," our self-efficacy increases. We observe that growth in the
feeling of, "This is working!" after a good coaching session. The
IAC helps build that experience by defining what constitutes mastery in coaching.
Making it a habit to regularly review the IAC
Coaching Masteries
® can remind us of the coaching skills we know. If
we've achieved IAC certification and put the certificate where we can see it,
we have even more certainty. That visual cue reminds us that we not only know
the Masteries, but that we can apply them.

What about witnessing others' success? Bandura calls this "social modelling"
and describes it as learning from watching others reach a goal through sustained
effort. The more like us they are, the greater their impact on our self-efficacy.
This is where we see the power of a coaching group. When I'm tackling something
new, I instinctively seek out a group. From coach training to IAC certification
to learning to play the harp, being in a group with others of similar experience
(or lack thereof) has shown me that I can do it and helped me stay the course.
We learn from each others' triumphs and setbacks as we watch the approaches
others take to the problems we face.

A coaching group also touches on the third factor – encouragement from others.
Group members, along with the leader, cheer us on and reinforce our efforts.
Having a coach of our own can take us further and faster. This external support,
which Bandura calls "social persuasion," helps us feel confident and
keep trying. It's easier to ignore the gremlins and nay-sayers, lose the self-doubt
and get things done.

Encouragement can also come in the form of feedback. When confidence wobbles,
it's good to get out the Fan Mail file and reflect on the words of people who
have worked with us and gained from the experience. Those follow-up surveys
aren't just to help us get better; they confirm what we're doing well.

The fourth factor in developing self-efficacy includes the way we react to
the situations we face. Neuroscience tells us the brain hates change and interprets
anything new as danger. Fortunately, neuroscientists have also discovered ways
to overcome the stress and fear through developing our emotional intelligence.
When we learn to perceive and interpret the feelings we experience, we can alter
our mood in the face of challenges. (Books such as Coaching With The Brain
In Mind
by David Rock and Linda Page provide useful tools for this.)

In nurturing our own confidence, we're practising IAC Coaching Mastery Nine:
Helping the client create and use supportive systems and structures. In this
case, we're our own clients, finding new support systems and structures appropriate
for our needs—or using some we've been ignoring. Protecting our confidence
helps us progress towards our goals as coaches, as business owners and as leaders.

Sue Johnston

Sue Johnston, MCC (IAC), believes real conversation is our most powerful tool.
Blending experience in journalism, corporate communication and psychology, she
founded It’s Understood Communication to help change the world
one conversation at a time. Sue's first book, Talk to Me: Workplace Conversations
That Work
is available at

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