About that identity crisis I once had

In Chronicles of a CEOby Rebecca Liston

In March of 2017 – yes, two years ago – I went out on a limb and wrote an article that I had been carrying around in my body and my Being since 2012. 

It was hard to write it because I didn’t want to offend anyone. I didn’t want to thumb my nose at those who really identified with this “thing” that I was going to talk about — didn’t want them to think that I didn’t appreciate them or that I was being critical. But I finally had reached a place of Grace from which I could write with openness and humour and share the experience I had lived, so in 2017, I told my story.

A story about my Identity Crisis. 

A story about finding myself playing a part I did not particularly like.

A story about discovering that that which I had been taught was, well, not “right.”

A story about how I found my own way, and reclaimed my work for my Self.

And now, you may ask yourself, why am I sharing this story again now, in 2019?

It seems to me, Dear Reader, that many people around me are experiencing what I often refer to as an Identity Crisis in their work. They’ve come through this recent Equinox with some startling new revelations about Who They Are and How They Wish to Serve. They are tossing aside the mantles of Who They Were Told They Were and How They Were Told To Be, Act, Do and embracing their own ways. And I thought it might be helpful to share a story from my own Journey, just so y’all know you’re not alone if you happen to find yourself here, too.

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For about 18 months, starting in late 2012, I hated being called a coach. It made me somewhat sick in my gut. I never “outed” that about myself, but those close to me knew that they should think twice before uttering that word in my presence for fear that I would either break down in tears or glare at them icily.

I was having an identity crisis.

It took me a long time to figure out what was really going on inside of myself but it boiled down to these simple truths:

1. The coaching model that I was “raised in” was failing thousands (YES I do mean thousands) of business owners. It was very much a case of: “This is what works. It worked for me. It worked for my coach. Don’t deviate. Just do what I tell you to do and you, too, will experience success.”  And it was bull****. Did that business building model work for some people? Sure. Did it work for all of them? Big. Fat. No.  So the trouble was, when faced with a business whose model didn’t “fit” into the box, many coaches didn’t have a clue what to do to support their clients. They only knew one way of doing business — what they had done (which was what their coach had done) — and if your business didn’t fit, didn’t respond to being shoved into this box, then most coaches were at a loss. They simply were not equipped to help. At all. And thousands of good people went into oodles of debt to get advice that didn’t — and would never — work for them.

2. The marketing that was being done made me nauseous. Somewhere, somehow, it had been determined that the only way to “sell” your coaching program was to make people feel insecure, stupid, or like they were somehow missing out on The One Thing that was going to suddenly create The Big Break that they needed to Hit 6 Figures. Everyone was drinking the 6 Figure Koolaid. Everyone had a “secret” (or 5 or 7 of them) to share that would get you there, too. All you had to do was spend more money and you, too, would be handed the keys to the treasure trove of money that was just waiting for you. Even writing about it now makes my guts churn.

3. The sales techniques that were being taught made me cringe. “If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to pay me,” said the coach. “You could hawk your grandma’s ring…take money out of retirement savings…rob a bank. You will do whatever it takes if you want it bad enough…and if you don’t? Well…kiss your business dreams goodbye.” Ugh. Now while I do believe that it is paramount to our forward movement in life and in business to have skin in the game, I do not for one moment think that it is good business advice to tell someone to do whatever it takes to invest in a coaching program! So many great people were left with debt that they will never dig themselves out of simply because someone, somewhere, convinced them that spending yet another $30,000 was The Answer to their prayers for success. Oh the places that they could have spent that money that would have truly made a difference in their bottom line! But instead they blew it on some program that wasn’t ever going to really work for them.

4. Many coaches weren’t really coaching…they were “guru-ing.” They were not helping their clients find answers that worked for them and their unique style and their specific business. They were simply telling people what to do. And when it didn’t work, they blamed the client. It wasn’t pretty.

Now, let me be clear:

Not all coaches were like this. But I think it’s safe to say that many — MANY — were. It was the trendy thing to do. AND most of them were (are) really, really good people! But they were caught in a frenzy — a trend — that was very hard to resist (and get out of.)

And let me also be clear about this:

I, too, did all of these things. Well, I never told anyone to sell Grandma’s ring to work with me…but I came close.

Too close.

So close it made me sick inside.

So close that I almost packed in my business completely because Who Was I if I could no longer identify as a COACH?!?

My identity crisis was long and harrowing. I had, thankfully, the support of a few trusted colleagues who encouraged me to find my own way in the industry — to make it my own.

And so I did.

And today I am proud to be a coach. Proud to OWN my “title.”

I have flourished because I was able to toss out the idea of “one size fits all” business-building protocols — the tool of business intuition allows me to see the opportunities for growth that are in play for any kind of business and to create a strategy that really will work. Individualized. Tailored to the business owner and the customers. And aligned with the specific goals of the entire team.

I quit marketing to my clients like they were fragile little cupcakes who couldn’t possibly succeed without me. Good Lord, my clients are already successful as hell. It is my job to simply support them as they grow and evolve, and the language that I use shows my prospective clients how much I admire and respect them, and wish to work with them in collaboration as they move to their next level in their business.

I started selling my work in my own way. With ease. Grace. Humour. Honesty. And no script! And before we even begin to talk about investing in coaching, we talk about budget…and fiscal responsibility…and the difference between “stretching” money to get support and “drowning.”

And I stopped believing for one second that I had the answers. My clients have the answers. Their businesses have the answers. Their customers have the answers. And yes, I’ve a few good insights to toss into the mix. But that’s what it is really all about — a collaborative effort in which we bring all of what we know to the table and make decisions from that place, together. That’s what brings the sweet success we all truly desire.

So, dear reader, here’s the thing: Sometimes the things we are taught to do are wonderful and good, and perfect for us. And sometimes they are not.

And so this is my wish for you at this time: Should you find yourself questioning your work and your identity within it, may you find the support you need to bring your Self into your Work, to stretch and grow the model to fit YOU, and to rediscover and remember that Your Work is YOURS to do, your way.

Big love,

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Rebecca Liston helps her clients predict, pivot, and compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace. Her clients quickly uncover the root of their challenges and know the actions to take to overcome them. A six-time nominee for the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Award, Rebecca combines business strategy with intuition, giving her clients the edge on forward-thinking, elegant answers to their most complicated problems. Her clients are entrepreneurs with CEO-mindsets and executives with entrepreneurial instincts. She is based in London, Ontario. What if you could get the answer to your biggest business challenge, in one sitting? Visit rebeccaliston.com to find out more.