“You’ll be meeting your client on Tuesday, 10am.
Come a few minutes early.”
This was to be my first counselling client ever.
I was half an hour early.
I assumed my supervisor would be in the room with me.
I figured there’s no way known they’d let me loose with a person alone.
To bear witness to her inner world.
To somehow make a difference.
A few years earlier I’d dropped out of a Masters in Counselling Psychology degree. They said, “next semester you’ll start seeing clients”.
I thought, “No way, Jose”.
I’m outta here.
Not ready for that.
A scaredy cat.
I had neither the confidence or the courage.
Being a good counsellor is not unlike being a good leader.
You need to be able to handle whatever people bring.
To neither collapse nor retaliate.
But to consider whatever they bring thoughtfully.
To respond helpfully.
With just the right words, at just the right time.
Sometimes that’s a gentle hand.
At others times, it’s firm.
Whether it’s a good day for you or not.
You must find a way to set yourself aside.
And make yourself available for the person in front of you.
A counsellor usually knows how long that will be and when.
A leader doesn’t have that privilege. It might be for one second, one minute or one hour, and anytime from now.
Whatever it is you want to do…
How do you start when you don’t yet have the skills?
And you don’t know if you ever will.
10,000 hours doesn’t guarantee mastery.
All you know is that you think you want it.
So you have to take steps towards it.
You must start.
As a counsellor, I knew it’d be just a client and me in a room eventually.
But when you’re scared, staring over the precipice into the abyss?
Tomorrow looks much better than today.
Of course, my supervisor wasn’t there on Tuesday at 10am.
Turns out they trusted me.
Over 20 years ago, when I did that kind of work.
It wasn’t confidence. It was courage that got me started.
And a push with a safety net.
The push…I had no choice.
The client arrived.
The safety net…The agency and my supervisor had my back.
I wasn’t their first newbie.
That client stayed with me 4 years. My first appointment and, as it turned out, my last at the agency where I volunteered.
I did bear witness to her inner world.
Her poignant note when I left confirmed I’d made a difference.
The agency and my supervisor’s faith in me weren’t enough.
After a briefing, everyone is let loose with a person.
There’s nothing special about me.
My confidence grew with experience.
As I became more skilled at the work.
That my first ever client stayed all that time made a difference. We grew together. I hope she gained as much from me as I did from her.
What about you?
Is there something at work where you’re saying to yourself:
“No way, Jose”?
You don’t feel ready for that.
You’re being a scaredy cat.
Sure, you may need a push.
Sure, it’s smart to have a safety net.
And yes, you know you must start…
But it’s not a lack of confidence holding you back, it’s courage.
Whether it’s a difficult conversation, a new strategy or a major change initiative…
If you want to be a more confident leader, start with being more courageous.
As Christopher Robin says to Winnie the Pooh,
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Do you agree?