Honing In on What’s Most Important

Confessions of a Certified Coach
by Ruth Ann Harnisch

am another "genius" who has never been on Jeopardy. In other words, I
have all the answers in the comfort of my living room. But I have never
submitted myself to the rigorous process of getting on the show. Why
should I risk my reputation as the person who “should” be on Jeopardy?

fact is, I’m a college dropout who has not submitted to a formal
testing process for any kind of credentialing for over 30 years. I
passed the FCC test for the 3rd Class Radiotelephone Operator’s License
with Endorsement for Broadcast in 1966. I got my New York State Regents
High School Diploma shortly thereafter. I aced the test for a Tennessee
driver’s license in 1973, and since then, nothing. Oh, I was evaluated
aplenty. You can’t be a television news anchor, newspaper columnist,
and radio talk show host without being judged by just about everyone
you encounter in the course of a day – viewers, listeners, ratings
books, focus groups, an ever-changing cast of management.

But actual t-t-t-tests of any kind? I’d rather sit on the sofa and beat Ken Jennings.

I didn’t recognize my procrastination for what it was – reluctance to fail.

Why should I submit myself for evaluation when my clients think I’m a terrific coach whether or not I have a credential?

fear of failure stalled me in getting my IAC Certification, and if I
hadn’t promised to get it, I bet I wouldn’t have put myself through the
process. Promised? Yes, when I accepted a position on the IAC Board of
Governors, the invitation was conditional upon my becoming IAC
Certified as soon as possible.

went to two Coachville Intensives led by Thomas Leonard (and former IAC
Board chair Susan Austin and IAC Board member Dave Buck) and I felt
prepared. I studied my IAC study guide. I practiced in triads and with
my coaches. And still I put off taking the written test many times.
Finally, I booked a full day on my calendar, studied the day before,
and spent several hours completing the written test. I passed.
(Frankly, I don’t like the test and am actively campaigning for

If you’re
putting off taking the test because you think you need to study more –
and you’re pretty familiar with the material – just take the test. I
don’t think studying more or harder gives you a leg up on this test.
You’ll see what I mean when you take it. You can start, and IF YOU
FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY, you can stop and come back to it
another day. I did not trust myself not to click something and lose
hours of work, so I kept written track of my answers and did the whole
test in one sitting. If you learn something from taking it, God bless
you. I didn’t. Anyway, you’ll either pass or you won’t, and if you do,
as we say in Noo Yawk, fuggedaboudit. If you flunk, wait the time limit
and try, try again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Don’t worry about how long
it takes you to jump through this hoop. It’s like your driving test. In
New York, my friends routinely flunked their first, and often their
second and sometimes their fifth road test. No big. Once they passed,
they were on the same level as everyone who passed the first time. It
simply does not matter how many times you take the test, so get started!

fear of failure went into overdrive for Step Two and Three. I put off
taping practice Step Two sessions for my coaches to evaluate. I did get
a handful of clients to sign and return the release forms. And then
Coachville announced Certification Weekends at the end of 2004. That’s
it, I thought. Register for Boston, but try to get certified before
then so you don’t have to go! I missed my deadline, and showed up in
Boston in “frantic” mode. In one of the coaching sessions, someone
talked about her fear of failing to pass the test. I recognized my own
frazzled, fearful self. I realized suddenly that if I couldn’t be calm,
do my best, and enjoy the process, I didn’t deserve to be certified! A
masterful coach is not seeking external validation but is learning from
the process. We don’t want IAC Certification to be a cheap credential –
if the certifiers don’t think a coach is demonstrating everything
necessary for certification, then the masterful candidate accepts the
notes graciously and gratefully, recognizes the perfection, and tries

the people who did not pass Step Two and Three felt the learning
process of that weekend was valuable beyond measure. Each candidate had
two opportunities to coach live and to be a client. Eight people in a
group, certifiers’ comments on every session. Do the math – you can
imagine how much we learned about masterful coaching from each other
and from our certifiers. It was some of the finest coaching education
I’ve ever received. If I didn’t come away with my certification, I
thought, I would at least come away with a renewed passion for
excellence and some deepened and new relationships.

passed. And in my final evaluation, Dave Buck pointed out that the
proficiency I demonstrated the least in my coaching sessions was
“Designing Supportive Environments.” Dave observed that my own life is
a monument to Do It Yourself Without Enough Support. His revelation
changed the way I organized my life from that day forward. It was a
crossroads moment that is helping to define my future. In all, I got my
IAC Certification, I received some world-class coaching that emboldened
me, got some thoughtful feedback that changed me, made some
acquaintances who inspire me. What was I so afraid of?

you’ve thought about your IAC Certification, there will never be a
better time to set a deadline for yourself and try. You have nothing to
lose but your imaginary Jeopardy championship.

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