Recently, I have been pondering on the question of coaching confidence, or, perhaps more accurately, confidence coaching.
A few years ago I read a Harvard Business Review article that said something like... '30% of US CEO’s were suffering from imposter syndrome.' That is, they were waiting for the tap on the shoulder that says “you’ve been found out!”
My coaching over the last 18 years has been focused mainly on UK/Europe and I estimate that approximately 15% of the leaders I’ve coached have presented with this issue. These were mostly highly capable and impressive individuals on the outside and the people they encounter would never believe there was an issue.
We have all heard of rock stars, actors or comedians who need an audience of thousands to feed them and enable them to function or feel good about themselves. This is a form of ‘external referencing’ where a person looks outside themselves for affirmation, recognition and approval. They gain their confidence through a sense that others are approving of them, their choices and behaviour. Clearly the disadvantage to this way of operating is the need to constantly ‘perform’ and please the multitude of different audiences encountered in life and business.
The underlying issue is, of course, confidence. So, if executive coaching is about achieving some form of change, then I believe that to achieve permanent change it is necessary to work from the inside out, not the other way round. A competent executive coach will challenge and support leaders to understand the attitudes, values, beliefs, assumptions, blind spots, personal history, culture etc that impacts how they make meaning from their experience and the drivers to their choices and behaviour.
This process enables the leader to reconnect to their inner resources through a process of heightened awareness. By understanding themselves and their internal processes they have a greater sense of choice and control leading to increased confidence. They are able to ‘internally reference’ in order to assess whether their choices and behaviours are ok, to give self-praise and gain an authentic sense of who they are, what their needs are and how to assertively express these in the world.
Interestingly, when I review the executive coaching testimonials I’ve collected over the years, the single biggest outcome reported is increased confidence. Clients refer to ‘unlocking of previously unrecognised abilities’, ‘inner strength’, ‘self-belief’ and ‘removal of blocks to confidence’.
Confidence comes from becoming fully aware of and accepting the totality of who you are and choosing to live a life that honours your authentic self. This results in a greater sense of confidence on the inside and enhanced presence and impact in the leader’s external world. Authentic leaders create trust and stability in their teams, who also gain in confidence themselves.
Working on a leader’s confidence is powerful stuff and a highly valuable win win for all.