In the early days of an icy-cold January in 2021, I was scrolling down my emails when I suddenly stumbled upon one that intrigued me. It was an opportunity from my mentor to take part in a virtual coaching programme called Make Your Mark with Susan Room. The programme was tailored to 18-to-25-year-olds to build their confidence leading to a successful progression in the world of work. At that time, I did not know what to expect, but I had a soft heart to receive and an open mind to listen and learn. Undoubtedly, the programme transformed me and became my learning curve.
Before sharing my experiences, let me explain what coaching is all about in case you are not sure. Coaching is a process to unlock and unleash your potential for maximum performance. It focuses on the here and now rather than the past or the future. There is a difference between teaching someone and helping someone to learn. Coaching helps you do your own learning and thinking by exploring a topic of interest. Coaching values presence and silence, communication, and motivation. For example, in the corporate world, a coach can help employees increase their performance by digging out solutions for problems and improving job satisfaction. It can help them ace their career and stay motivated, thus increasing staff retention. There are various kinds of coaches from wellness to business, voice, and many more.
During the coaching programme I was in a virtual room with other incredible superstars ready to learn and change the game of my life on a four-week journey. I learned about the inner critic. The inner critic is the negative voice in our mind that screams, yells, and attacks us saying we are not adequate, giving us feelings of shame, depression, and frustration. However, we can deal with our inner critics by identifying them — drawing them, naming them, writing down what they say — and focusing only on the truths. I read where one person named their inner critic a puppy whenever those words came to mind. Since then, I’ve challenged myself by using affirmations and having a can-do spirit anytime I feel low. An example is not forgoing public speaking and saying, ‘I can do this!’ These tiny habits go a long way.
Moreover, I learned how our inner critic can affect our body language and how this can be rooted in a lack of confidence. We can communicate to others in confidence by showing presence. American psychologist Dr. Amy Cuddy defined presence as being attuned and confidently expressing our feelings, thoughts, and values. It emerges when we feel personally powerful. Through self-nudges and small tweaks in our body language and mindsets, we can achieve presence. We can communicate physical confidence through our posture (for example having our hands by our side and having our neck, head, and spine aligned) and taking deep breaths to release tension, which helps the sound of our voice. Hand gestures such as the pyramid can be used. Making appropriate eye contact and not being intense can also exude confidence.
I learned about avoiding the use of unhelpful bad habits such as excessive apologising; interrupting; speaking too fast, too slow, or too much; and using too many fillers. I have been known as the girl who speaks so fast that I cannot be understood, but hopefully I am making a difference. One way I do this is to assess myself after every speech or conversation I have had with someone and be intentional to overcome any shortcomings.
The last key takeaway I got from the programme was about the two triangles. They are the drama and winners triangles. For example, when your organisation hides important details from you that you hear later from a colleague, instead of being angry and retaliating by gossiping, try being assertive. Boldly speak to them about the situation, remind them of your contributions to the workplace, listen carefully to their explanation, and suggest being more open with each other next time. Sometimes this is easier said than done. I tend to withdraw and just observe things, but I am focusing on improving in this area.
To summarise, coaching has made me understand how to be confident, challenge my inner critic, and be intentional about the way I communicate with others. These lessons are helping me be a better version of myself. Hopefully, I have been able to show you how coaching can make a change.
If you haven’t yet tried it, give it a go and reap the benefits.
Article by Michelle Amoah, Founding Coachster
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