The Secret Sauce in Coaching: Humility and Confidence - International Coaching Federation

COVID-19 Resources for ICF Coaches Learn more

See what's new with COACHING WORLD

The Secret Sauce in Coaching: Humility and Confidence

Posted by Chris Holmes, PCC | August 26, 2020 | Comments (7)

What causes one coach to be highly sought after and another coach to repeatedly flounder?

Every professional coach has developed proficiency in utilizing a basic set of competencies. We have been trained and mentored, completed practice hours and passed the written exam. But coaching is more than a skill set. It is also a mindset. It is a stance the coach adopts in relation to clients and in regard to themself. Having trained more than 1,000  coaches in the last 10 years, I have identified two essential ingredients that form a prosperous coach’s mindset. It is the secret sauce of coaching success.

Humility

As an individual, there are some aspects of life where you can really shine and be appreciated by the world for your stellar wisdom and expertise. Let me be clear: Coaching is not that place. The first ingredient in the chosen mindset of coaching is humility.

In coaching, it is your client who shines, not you. You are the excavator of their magnificence. You intentionally dial back much of what you know, in order to assist your client’s journey of self-discovery and their expanding capacity to meet their own challenges. The only thing particularly impressive about you, the coach, frankly, is your ability to self-manage your need to be the brilliant one in the conversation.

A related aspect of humility in coaching has to do with honoring the work of the third presence. From my perspective, there are three causal factors at interplay during the coaching conversation: the coach, the client and a third entity far surpassing both. Some call it “wisdom of the ages” or some other universal nomenclature. As a person of faith, I recognize it as a movement of God’s spirit. Frequently in a coaching conversation, the real transforming dynamic at work is between the client and this other great force. In fact, at times I realize that I may be the least affective causal factor influencing the conversation, and that is just as it should be.

Confidence

Confidence is different from hubris. Hubris comes from the classical Greek tragedy where extreme pride or ambition usually caused the hero’s, often fatal, downfall.

Think of confidence more as “grit,” or “nerve,” or “the absolute conviction in one’s worth and in what one has to offer.” Every successful coach I know has a healthy amount of that kind of certainty.

Don’t miss this crucial nuance, though. In coaching, our confidence is more than strong self-assurance. It comes from our absolute conviction that the thing which is so powerfully transformative is the coaching relationship itself. Our confidence is in what emerges and what is possible as an outcome of the coach and client investing in that relationship. It is knowing that no more expedient way exists to bring about individual and organizational transformation than the coaching process.

I see too many new coaches getting snagged in the net of their own inadequacies and, therefore, never really getting the traction they deserve. They are trained enough, they have skills enough, and could be providing exactly what individuals and organizations most need. But they have not fully embodied the coaching mindset in regard to the power of the coaching relationship. In selling themselves short, they sell short the efficacy and impact of coaching.

I encourage every coach to slather on a healthy dose of the secret sauce, balancing their humility, not with hubris, but with stalwart confidence in the modality of coaching. Every trained coach who adopts a balanced coaching mindset is capable of midwifing tremendous life transformation.

chris holmes headshot 2020

Chris Holmes, PCC

Chris Holmes, PCC, is a full-time Leadership Coach working with laity, clergy, denominational leaders and bishops. He is a founding member and past president of the ICF Maryland Chapter, leader of The Holmes Coaching Group, Founder and Director of The Academy of Artful Leadership, and co-owner of an ICF-approved 60-hour coach training program, Coach Approach Skill Training (CAST). His book, The Art of Coaching Clergy: A Handbook for Church Leaders, Clergy and Coaches, was published in June 2018. Chris is also an accomplished watercolor artist.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (7)

  1. Laura Weiss says:

    Really appreciate this important and powerful reminder of what it means to be a true coach. As a former consultant I can still fall back on old habits. Thanks for this!

  2. raju@ecselconsulting.com says:

    So wonderfully articulated, Chris – “…You are the excavator of their magnificence. You intentionally dial back much of what you know, in order to assist your client’s journey of self-discovery and their expanding capacity to meet their own challenges. The only thing particularly impressive about you, the coach, frankly, is your ability to self-manage your need to be the brilliant one in the conversation….”
    Raju Venkataraman, Singapore

  3. mehroo.turel@gmail.com says:

    very helpful!

  4. swmatthews@outlook.com says:

    Thank you for this article. It gave me some much needed encouragement!

  5. Chris,
    Profoundly simple and spot on. Thank you for sharing this wisdom.
    Dorene

  6. Val says:

    Very inspiring article! Thanks Chris.

  7. Chris, I like very much humility is one of my core values and I completely find myself in the image you gave of an excavator! I am just a tool. What I need to practice much more is Confidence. Pure listening is the magic to make things happen. My culture brought me away from this and I need to remove some layers to find the essence. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Not a member?

Sign up now to become a member and receive all of our wonderful benefits.

Learn more