“Aren’t you worried about your exam?”
Nope. I’m confident I will pass, and I figure if I don’t, then there’s something important to learn.
I had that conversation six years ago at an ICF conference. I had already long past achieved my PCC status and was well on my way to logging hours to complete my requirements for MCC.
Not only that, but I was the teacher of coaches—I knew this coaching stuff solid (at least back then I thought I did. Looking back now I realize that perhaps my ignorance was bliss).
Perhaps this sounds like ego talking (and maybe there was a little involved) but there was also deep confidence. You see, I had already gone through the gauntlet of failing a coaching exam. A tale that was as sordid and brutal as any Grimm Fairy Tale, any Hunger Games book, as dark and twisted as a Steven King novel… ok, perhaps not that much. But at the time it was pretty bad. In fact, it was the only time I truly thought of giving up coaching. In truth, I actually had given it up… but for one last thing.
Anyway, that’s another story which you can read it here in all it’s PDF splendor
How I gloriously failed my first coach certification exam, and lived to tell the tale.
It’s packed with wonderful learning and in the end, although it was painful and frustrating in the process, it ended up being an invaluable experience—one that continues to still, many years later, provide me with powerful lessons to remember, pass along to other coaches, and unpack new ones.
But it’s particularly important for this story for a few reasons.
- A) At the time, even though I had failed, I had gotten tremendous support and insightful feedback.
- B) I had firsthand experience of failure in coaching, and then grew from it.
BONUS: I was able to transform that experience to benefit other coaches, thus not only passing it on, but reinforcing it within myself.
And as the years went by, I continued to explore and deepen my coaching in exciting and fun ways. I knew more and more with each passing month. I continued to hone my skills and shared all that learning with my clients (coaches) as well as fellow coaches I engaged with. (And the more you share, the more it grows, right?)
Looking back to that conversation at the conference those years ago, I suppose my devil-may-care response to that very frustrated and irritated coach might have looked like it was full of overinflated ego, (well, as I said, maybe a little, born of innocence and ignorance) but it was really just simply confidence (perhaps also born of innocence and ignorance). I knew that the bar had been raised, but I also knew that whatever it was that was asked of me, I could handle it. The change in credentialing policy and procedure didn’t intimidate me, it called me forth. It challenged me and I willingly accepted it. After all, I didn’t want this to be too easy.
You see, at the time, the ICF had noticed that the credential of MCC was losing its credibility. There were coaches who were MCC but weren’t displaying the level of skill and competency that would be expected of a Master Certified Coach. Time was you simple fulfilled your requirements of hours and experience and made your submission and that’s that. You were an MCC.
A Master Certified Coach. And all it took was just logging enough hours to show you’d been doing this a long time. With the assumption that if you had been coaching for a long time, then you certainly must be a Master Coach by then.
That was the theory, I guess.
I don’t mean to discredit those early MCC coaches. On the contrary I’ve engaged with some incredible and truly Masterful coaches, but there were also many who hadn’t been truly tested of their merit, skill and competency.
The ICF recognized this little discrepancy and made some changes in the requirements to make it harder, including ALL coaches would have to go through an exam, as with the other levels, but of course because this was the highest credential, the bar would be much higher. As a result, what was once relatively easy to achieve suddenly swung the pendulum the other way to a 90% failure rate.
Ah, I would think to myself, if only I had gotten there sooner, I would just need to submit my hours like I did for my PCC and then I’d be in. No exam, no testing, no having to prove my worth. Those were the good old days.
But I welcomed the change. Because I knew that this was going to be hard. It was supposed to be challenging. If anyone was going to be considered a Master at something, then they need to really be solid and strong. More than just a load of experience.
A Black Belt in the martial arts have to go through a test. It makes sense here, too.
Many coaches, I suspected, weren’t ready for it.
I was. True, I had only been coaching for 5 years, but I already felt I could DO what was requested of me. The only thing that was holding me back was the fact that I didn’t have enough hours accrued yet.
So with that in mind, along with the new rules and requirements, I began to devise some expectations and assumptions.
- A) I already was a great coach. All my clients (of whom most were coaches themselves) told me. And I knew it from my own experience.
- B) The exam would be no different than what I had done before, only they were looking at it more closely.
- C) My style was out of the box, creative, non-linear at times. Exactly what they were likely looking for.
- D) Whatever happened, I knew I could handle it.
This seems perfectly natural, doesn’t it? I mean, take a look at where you are now in your life—your coaching career, your business, whatever. And look at that next thing that you want to achieve.
Your only frame of reference of whether or not it’s possible is the information that you currently have at your access.
- What others are saying, what’s in the outside world that is coming to you. In this case, the stories that other coaches were sharing about rumors they had heard (I had yet to actually hear from anyone who had taken this new exam requirement) and also what my clients were telling me about their experience of my coaching.
- What we make up, think of, choose to remember, feel and believe. In this case, I was pretty proud of my coaching and my knowledge and depth of what I had discovered about this craft and how I was passing it along to others. And when I would come across any outside sources about coaching, they would only confirm what I already knew and practiced.
This of course works against us, too, right? We have a design to accomplish something and realize (or feel) that we are currently not at that level, and then we determine automatically that obtaining it is impossible.
For me, this was the opposite. I clearly saw it in my sights. I already had a feeling of just how possible it was. And I had racked up enough personal proof to suggest that this was entirely doable.
And so I set myself on a plan to move faster there. I was five years into my coaching career and I was confident I would get that MCC before I hit my 10 year mark. But I had to start NOW.
And so start I did.
Convinced that when the time came I would either pass easily, or if I didn’t, I would graciously accept the experience and chalk it up to more great learning.
Little did I know what experiences awaited me.
You know, they say that it’s the journey, not the end destination, where all the important stuff lies. Heck, I did not realize just how true that was.