Fear As Fuel For Your Coaching

By Toku

I was talking to a coach recently who was really struggling with their confidence. They knew they wanted to be a great coach, but every time they got on a call they were full of doubt. And along with doubt came all the usual fears coaches often feel:

    • fear of failure,
    • fear of being a fraud,
    • fear that you’ll ask a dumb question,
    • fear that you’ll ask a question that triggers you client and won’t know what to do about it,
    • fear that you’ll ask a great question, but then won’t no what to ask.

We all have these fears as coaches and all of these are perfectly ok to feel and have. There’s nothing wrong with feeling doubt or fear when you’re coaching, nothing could be more human.But it isn’t very helpful in most situations, and so we can bring our attention and practice to it, learning to ask from our gut, even in the midst of fear and doubt.

Before you can learn to do this, you must learn to accept that fear is part of what it means to be a master coach, a warrior coach, a Samurai coach. <!–more–>


Fear is actually very useful in helping you discern which questions really hold a charge and the potential to reveal deep insights.
When we’re afraid to ask a certain question it’s usually because it’s the kind of question we don’t think we should ask. Maybe it’s a question that challenges our clients’ worldview in a fundamental way, maybe the question will ask the client to confront a part of themselves they’re trying to manage around. Maybe the question just FEELS scary and we don’t even understand why.

In the rest of our lives, we avoid asking these kinds of questions and we avoid being asked them. And if we’re unfortunate enough to come across a person who is willing to ask us tough questions, we do our best to avoid answering them. Let me give you some examples from my life:

  • There’s a relative I go and visit sometimes and their house is FULL of stuff. Every time you open a drawer there’s piles of it. Their kids have so many toys piled up it’s amazing the kids can ever find what they are looking for. Every time I go over to their house I want to ask: WHY DO YOU NEED ALL THIS STUFF? Does all of this really make you happy? (But of course I don’t because I’m afraid they’ll be insulted, that they’ll get mad at me, that it’s not my place)
  • I had a friend a while ago whose relationship made her miserable. It seemed like every time I talked to her she was unhappy. They had just had a fight, they were struggling to connect, their sex life was pretty bad. Every time we talked I just wanted to ask: WHY ARE YOU WITH THIS GUY? Why do you stay even when you seem so unhappy? (But I didn’t ask because I was afraid, afraid she would feel insulted, afraid she wouldn’t really be able to answer my questions or that I’d cause them to break up and it might be a mistake)

In each of these situations, I had questions in my mind, questions that brought up fear and doubt for me, questions I longed to ask… but didn’t know how.

The people around us often have these questions about us in the same way we have them about them, but no one asks, no one asks the obvious questions, because we are afraid.

We spend most of our lives avoiding these questions, trying to think them and not ask them. And part of the magic of coaching lies in getting to ask the questions that other people are too afraid to ask.


Once you get clear on the possibility that fear holds for you as a coach, here’s how you can begin to practice being with fear and ask questions that crack things wide open:

  • LET YOURSELF FEEL FEAR WHEN YOU COACH – Instead of shutting fear out or down by going into your head, simply allow the fear to be there. You don’t need to DO anything with it just notice it and get curious: Where do you feel it? What’s the texture of it? What story comes along with it? What is it that you’re ACTUALLY afraid of?
  • USE FEAR AS A GUIDE POST – As you allow fear into your coaching, use it as a data point to help you serve your clients. When a question pops in your head and fear shows up too, write the question down and put an F next to it. Explore what the fear may be pointing to.
  • REVEAL FEAR IN YOURSELF AND YOUR CLIENT – When a question makes you nervous, let your client know by saying: “I’ve got a question to ask, but I feel nervous asking you, are you open to a question that might feel scary?” When you feel fear show up in you, check if it’s also there for them by saying, “I noticed I just got a bit nervous, I’m curious if you’re feeling nervous too? Is there something about this topic that scares you?” Then get very still and quiet.
  • TELL YOURSELF AND YOUR CLIENT IT’S OK TO BE AFRAID – If fear gets the best of you in a session and you don’t ask the scary question you want, forgive yourself. Remind yourself that fear is a normal part of being a human being. Beating up on yourself will only makes things worse. This will help when your client fails to take an action because of fear. You can remind them fear is a normal part of being a human, you can tell them that beating themselves up will only make the fear worse, you can help them work with fear because you’ll be doing your work as well.

If you practice in this way, you might start to loosen the grip fear has on your coaching sessions. You might begin to be able to use your fear as fuel to create powerful sessions, overcome your doubts, and develop a trust in your coaching and in your clients beyond fear. If you do this, fear might no longer hold you back.

What would your life be like if you could feel the fear, but do it anyway?

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