Madonna has it. Beyonce does too. Diddy possessed it in overdrive from day one as a kid in New York City. Justin Timberlake took the spotlight fast as a teenager crooning for N'Sync because he had it most. It's a quality that is unmistakable. When it's genuine you can feel it light a room and boost your own sense of certainty. If it's false bravado you can pick it up too and often respond with the opposite of faith. What is it? Confidence. For professional coach Pamela Wills, confidence is her niche, so much so that she should be called the "Confidence Queen". She doesn't just tell you to turn on the charm, she does you how. Wills explained just how she does it in the following Q&A.
Many business coaches emphasize confidence as the foundation for success in business and life. Confidence has been described in different ways. How do you define confidence in the context of your coaching of clients for confidence?
Confidence is definitely a key element for success in all areas. In fact, I believe that confidence is the single most important success factor we possess. It is the bedrock for everything we do. Confidence, for me, includes knowing who you are and believing that you are valuable.
You coached yourself to have confidence growing up. Why did this lead you to become a coach that specialized in confidence building?
I know what it’s like to feel insecure, shy and invisible. I know the pain those feelings cause. I know the opportunities missed due to those feelings. I know the dark corners we paint ourselves into because of those feelings. And I know how to dismantle them, dissolve them, ditch them and disregard them. I know the amazing powerful sunny feeling on the other side of ditching them! And I want to help others get to that other side. It’s a much more exciting and joyful place.
In your own life, you described yourself as an introvert growing up, but you challenged yourself to go past your fears to build confidence. One of the ways that you were able to gain confidence on the stage was through dance and the performing arts. What was it about dance that helped you develop confidence on stage?
Dancing is one of the coolest ways I know to feel good in my body, free in my spirit and calm in my mind. It’s similar to yoga and meditation but a little wilder! A little noisier and more fun. I was a quiet bookworm of a kid so getting wild – safely – through dance was always very liberating for me. Whenever it was time for a school play or a dance recital, I was more than happy to do the dance part. As long as I did not have to open my mouth and sing or speak by myself, I was happy to be up there.
What did you learn from pushing past your comfort zone over and over again?
That it would not kill me! Haha! In fact, I saw repeatedly that I felt more and more comfortable on the other side of what had previously been uncomfortable. So, my comfort zone expanded. Pretty cool.
A common tactic is “fake it till you make it” when it comes to confidence. This has worked but in some ways it can only go so far. Why is that?
Well, I think we can fake a smile or fake confidence for a while, until we start feeling the warmth of that smile or the strength of that power. But faking things consistently over time just leads people to be, well, fake. You have to be yourself. If you’re not being yourself, it shows in everything you do. So yeah, I believe it makes sense to use that idea of faking it til you make it mainly as a boost, as a launching pad to help you really feel or do something authentically. Authentic being the key word. Otherwise, you might as well just stay home because fake sucks.
How would you define the distinction between false confidence versus true confidence?
Authenticity, all the way. False confidence is evident a mile away, in a million different insecurities that show through people’s ways of walking, talking, laughing, doing business... everything. It’s loud and obnoxious. Or slimy and manipulative. Or needy and whiny. Or aggressive and pushy. Just too much.
True confidence, on the other hand, isn’t anything like that. When you’re truly confident, you can sit back and wait for the applause, you don’t have to chase it. You give yourself applause all the time, anyway! So it’s kind of a nice bonus when you get outside approval, but you don’t really need it.
Do women have different needs when it comes to cultivating confidence that are unique to them compared to men? What patterns and trends have you seen in your coaching practice?
There are a few subtle differences. Women like to talk about vulnerabilities, or at least are more open to talking about them. Guys, not so much. Women base their confidence more often on feelings, men on achievements. And women gain a lot from sharing with other supportive women, it’s a big confidence builder. Guys tend to prefer going it alone. My male clients don’t care for group settings as much as the women do.
What is your “Turn on the Charm” program about?
Oh, it’s still in top secret mode while I work out the details! It’s brand new and launching later this spring. I will give you a hint that it’s about using your natural gifts, your authentic voice and your creative charms to win the hearts and loyalties of your tribe. This applies to interactions on the stage, on the phone, online and in person.
How do you define charm?
There are a couple of different ways to talk about charm. There’s the noun as in a lucky charm or a charm that’s also a magic spell. Then there’s the verb RE the power or quality of giving delight or arousing admiration, the ability to captivate, and then the possibility to control or achieve by or as if by magic. It’s a mysterious and powerful word, wrapped up in the idea of charisma, that IT factor that we think we either have or don’t have. I happen to think we ALL have it. We just need to tap into it and let it out, express it with verve and yeah, confidence!
Does your knowledge of physical and expressive movement influence your coaching style? If so, could you give me examples of how you apply your dance training in coaching sessions?
Yeah I think it really does. I’ve been dancing my whole life, since I was a toddler. These days, I’m also a choreographer for musical theater; I still take dance classes and perform regularly. So dance is my fun creative outlet but it’s also a super tool for developing new ways of reaching higher confidence levels, for understanding fears, for teaching people how to move and speak with purpose, for creating exciting new programs and even for networking.
One volunteer project I’m doing this spring involves helping the competition team at the dance school where my daughter and I take classes to overcome their intense feelings of stage fright. They are all gorgeous smart talented dancers who are terrified before every performance. I’m going to give them a series of targeted group sessions on how to let go of those limiting chains of fear before they get onstage.
One thing my dance teachers always told me was to keep smiling and keep on dancing if you make a mistake. No one will look at your feet if they are looking at your brilliant smile! This advice translates into so many different situations. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when we are nervous and speaking to an audience. So what? Keep going. Or laugh it off. Nobody expects you to be perfect!
Another great piece of advice from one of my dance teachers was this: when you’re choreographing a dance and you get stuck, just fill in the blanks with something easy like four steps or a shuffle ballchange and then move on to the next part. You can always go back later and make that part more complex. What I’ve realized is that often, we need those simple little bits in between the more exciting moves. That tip has helped me many times when choreographing and writing, for that matter! It has also helped my clients to know that pausing during a speech, stopping to drink some water, taking a moment to smile and breathe are all important parts of a presentation, too.
Here’s the most important answer to this question: Because I know for sure that everyone is able to dance, – trust me, I have worked with all kinds of people at all levels of dance ability in my role as a choreographer – I also know that if I’m teaching you, you will learn. I know that might sound overly confident but, it’s true! I am very confident that you will learn what you ask me to teach you. Because I know that you have it inside of you already.
How do you offer confidence coaching, either in individual or group sessions?
Right now, I offer both. I work with many individuals over the phone and in person on a weekly or biweekly basis. I also offer a virtual group starter program called Fight Your Fright in 30 Days that runs periodically via email, with an ebook of the whole program available separately.
Additionally, I’m teaching a virtual group course with Angel Quintana through her new school, The Willow House of Design which is called The Lola Charm, launching in early May. And my own Turn on the Charm course comes out around the same time.
Do you have a methodology that you use when working with clients or are the sessions customized for the person?
Yes and yes! Currently, I use my own six-step method for mastering stage fright, which I cover in depth in my Fight Your Fright in 30 Days program. But when I work with clients individually, I also customize according to each person’s specific needs. That way, my clients really get what they need and really learn what they ask me to teach them in depth.
Why do people have such fright about being in front of an audience? How much of public speaking anxiety is based on past experiences versus anticipated bad experiences?
Funnily enough, stage fright is a direct result of our caveman ancestors’ fear of judgment. Back in the day, if we did anything to make the others in the cave angry enough to kick us out of the tribe, we would have to leave the cave and struggle to survive on our own, which was considerably more difficult then... So this fear of being kicked out of the cave still informs our current DNA (in varying degrees) and makes us quake in our boots at the prospect of messing up in front of people.
Here’s the thing, most of us experience public speaking for the first time as kids in school, when we have to get up and present a project, usually around ages 10 to 13. Which is the absolute WORST time for this kind of thing, by the way. This is the time when peer modeling and judgment is at its most intense. Furthermore, we rarely get any input from teachers about how to manage our stage fright feelings. So we’re kind of stranded in the spotlight, with no tools and no protection. This is the scary awkward feeling we download for public speaking for the rest of our lives. It’s no wonder the majority of us dread it so much!
So I have to say, it’s really a combo. When we get onstage, we get into a fight or flight situation where our subconscious is telling us that getting up to speak is going to be a dangerous affair that we either have to battle through or run away from. Enter major adrenaline surge!!! Trust me, there are effective ways to manage that. You can learn to enjoy speaking from the stage, I promise!
How did participating in the Signature System with Angel Quintana make a difference in your coaching practice?
Angel Quintana’s expert guidance has helped me gain tons of clarity plus increased confidence in my message. Her Signature System is the BOMB. I highly highly can't even say how highly I recommend you do this program. She helps you see pieces of the puzzle you never thought of putting together before, in such a creative yet familiar way that you say, Wow! That is sooo ME!
What’s more, she encourages taking a leadership position with your brand that feels like riding an elevator straight to the top of the Eiffel Tower, super fast! Even during the program, working with Angel lead me to new heights so quickly that I'm doing a dizzy happy dance practically every morning to get stuff done and out there. It is nothing short of amazing how she helps you figure out your best big picture. Angel’s Signature System is beyond worthwhile!! FIVE STARS