“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here…”

This question posed by Talking Heads in their huge hit single, ‘Once in a Lifetime’, is the same question many highly successful people ask themselves at various stages in their career, more frequently as they move towards or reach the top of their profession. For some the voice gets louder, with a heightened sense of judgement, possible disapproval, leading to feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and an overwhelming dread of ‘being found out’. This is termed ‘the Imposter Syndrome’. Far from being a realistic self-assessment, the syndrome stops people believing in themselves.

I have written eleven books but each time I think,Uh oh, they’re going to find me out now, I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out’” Maya Angelou

As an executive leadership coach, nearly all my clients have experienced this sense of fraud at some point in their lives. They exhibit an inability to move forward, feel blocked, stuck and, at its worst, become paralysed with fear. They may have sleepless nights, intensified stress, anxiety, depression. There is an immediate sense of relief when they learn that 70% of successful people feel this at some point in their career or at regular intervals throughout their lives. Some have this inner critic voice with them at all times and have learned how to engage with it and have found strategies that help them to function and continue to be successful. Through becoming familiar with the critical voice, they start to use this ‘checking’ system to their advantage. They recognise when the inner critic is there and have internal conversations to reflect on decisions and to develop a sense of security and assurance of their position in the world.

Self-doubt undermines the process of finding our gifts and sharing them with the world’ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

For those who struggle to do this alone, the following are some of the strategies my clients and I have co-created to overcome these moments of self-doubt.

Start with acknowledging it. Recognise the disapproving voices and call them so. Consciously name or even write down the negative thoughts as they occur. “I can’t speak in public, others are far more articulate” or “I can’t work with this client, they are so much more successful than me”. Once you begin to identify the imposter, you will be ready to overcome it.

Practise positive affirmation. Here you develop mantras like “I am meant to be here”. Instead of “why me”, reframe your thinking to “why not me?”. Say these to yourself every time the negative voices crop up. Even though this may feel daunting at first, focused attention and deliberate practice can help rewire our neural pathways.

Focus on your successes and achievements. Remember, you have got to where you are because you have accomplished some amazing things in your career. You deserve to be there. Some of my clients find it easier to focus on the achievements of others in a similar role to them. This helps remind them of their own. Celebrate these as often as you can, spend 5 minutes at the end of every day focussing on the great things about your day. Who were you in those moments. In what way did you help make the moment great.

Acknowledge you are not perfect. Have the courage to lean into your imperfection and accept good enough can still be successful imperfection. Keep to your goal – make progress, not perfection.

Lastly, remember you are not alone. You are in good company. There is a large proportion of successful people out there harbouring the same feelings of ‘why me?’.

With determination and reprogramming, you can overcome your doubt and more easily celebrate your achievements. You will begin to feel liberated and an imposter no more. In the words of Talking Heads, “And you may ask yourself, Am I right? Am I wrong?” You will find the answer.

The London Coaching Group – The Next 3 Years

Our Vision Statement:

London Coaching Group“As the London Coaching Group, we inspire our members to grow and deliver a positive impact on the coaching profession.  

 With integrity and openness, we create a supportive environment for experiential learning, innovation, and the development of coaching excellence”

Our Guiding Principles:

We are committed to Providing Professional and Personal Development for all our members which includes:

  • New ideas, approaches and research including those around neuroscience
  • Practical, participative, experiential and innovative learning models
  • Reflective, growth practices employing new tools and skills
  • Group and team coaching
  • Knowledge and experience sharing
  • Developing and marketing our niche and business
Moving the Coaching Outside

Last week as January moved into February, I was cheered by what felt like the first Spring, sun-filled day. Walking through the park, I realised as the daffodils starting to show themselves, that I too wanted to burst into life and stop hiding behind the winter dampness.

During a coaching session later that day, I had an opportunity to do just that – get outside into the fresh air and see what came up.

I actively incorporate movement into my sessions when I feel my client is stuck and unable to look at their challenge from a different perspective.  Movement around a room, a building but mainly around indoor spaces. I had integrated talking and walking less often but knew from all the research that our clients open up more as their hearts and minds mirror their physical freedom. Walking side-by-side with someone releases a possible tension and brightens the conversation often leading the client to a lightness and clarity about their topic and what they are trying to achieve.

My client felt she was going around in circles. She is on the verge of making a big change in her life but was pulling back from this because of a guilt of ‘leaving’. She was becoming increasingly entangled in this guilt. Knowing she loves the outdoors, I suggested we walked. I immediately noticed her paying attention to her surroundings, becoming more motivated, more inspired. She began to use the path ahead as a metaphor for the journey she knew she wanted to be on, how she wanted to move forward and keep up the momentum of this and how the ‘inside’, her place of work was a metaphor for the obstacles she was putting in her way. By shifting her place and space, she became more reflective, thoughtful and at times, silent – an easy, contented silence. And the conversations seemed more natural.

There are often restrictions when there is a desire to be outside. We may believe the outside environment is no better than inside; it is built up with seemingly no obvious connection to nature. In those circumstances, I take our attention upwards, to the sky, the trees, birds. We see what we can see. This can have an equally calming, de-stressing effect on our clients.

If your client loves the outdoors or not, give it a try. I’ll certainly be doing more of it as the Spring finally arrives.

New Year Goals

The Big Swim

This is the time of year where we all seem to be encouraged to set goals for ourselves for the year ahead – our new year resolutions. These are often new goals, things we want to achieve which are new to us.  The goals I want to set are based on what I already do and want to do better. I ask myself what it would look like if it was 10% better this year? 20%? 50%? What percentage is good enough for me? What would success feel like when I look back at the end of 2018? The year ahead doesn’t always have to bring new achievements – just achieving some things better.

Forwarding the Action

A key skill for a Co-Active Coach is knowing when to help our clients forward their actions – we help enable them to pull themselves out of their quagmire, their stuckness and take the course of action they feel is best for them. They’ve explored the possible pathways, chosen one and we then commit and hold them accountable to it.

Last month at the London Coaching Group (LCG), this was very much the theme for the evening – how do we forward the action of the group in the next three years maintaining its professional status while supporting its members to stay conversant with current thinking and research. We believe like with all great professional bodies, we are only as good as our willingness and openness to learn.

My co-chairs and I are committed to continue the 15 year legacy of the LCG while bringing a newness to its growth and purpose. We intend to be innovative, experiential and collaborative and to this aim, we requested input from the group to help us redefine our core purpose. We asked questions like, How can we make a positive impact on the coaching profession, What is our priority for own professional development need and, an open go-to favourite coaching question, What Next?

The feedback we received from this evening was just the start of the process. Our next action is to gather more feedback, reflect on it and find common themes, all of which will help us define and share our vision and guiding principles. If you have anything you would like to contribute to these questions, please do….Help me to keep forwarding the action of an institution I feel proud to co-lead.

Managing self
Reflecting on how we listen

Reflecting on how we listen

One of the skills we learn as coaches is self-management. This is how we keep our stories out of our coaching relationship giving our clients the full space to tell theirs. We are not having a conversation as such, we are there to bring our full listening selves to the relationship and to ask powerful questions, use our intuition, set challenges and apply other coaching skills if and as they suit the situation.

We self-manage by not getting distracted from our client, by ignoring that thought which takes us away from the listening space. Have they said something that’s triggered a memory, a thought, a missed deadline. Have they said something that makes us feel uncomfortable, challenged, inexperienced. Of course these things happen but we work at recovery and reconnection – how we can quickly get back into the space of the session.

To do this we manage our internal voice. We find our way back to curiosity, reminding ourselves that our purpose is to listen and to understand what’s important for our clients.

When was the last time someone said “Are you listening to me”? Were you? How do you bring yourself back? Try it next time you notice your thoughts are getting in the way of your listening.

Unblocking clutter
Art in Action in Coaching

Art in Action in Coaching

Really enjoyed the workshop, Art in Action in Coaching, last night. So much so, I tried it myself with my coach this morning. I know what it represents and it really unblocked some of my clutter. Thanks to The London Coaching Group and # Jenny Bird and #Sarah Gornall, PCC