Coaching Fundamentals Part Seven: Trust


September 23rd, 2015

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Why is Trust only Number Seven on the Coaching Fundamentals list? Surely it should be up there with listening… Because it takes so long to build. Seven weeks, seven sessions, seven months, years even.

Sure, we all rattle off the usual elements of contracting right at the very beginning: confidentiality, openness, trust, non-directive attitude, unconditional positive regard… But do clients really believe us? Would you? Or do they think: Fine to say that, but my organisation is paying for this coaching, and I am sure the HR department and my line manager will want to know what’s been discussed.

And you know what: they’re right. Yes, the HR department and the line manager do want to know, and it’s a brave – and experienced – coach who quotes back confidentiality at them.

But there is also a deeper meaning of trust, that – like all best coaching interventions – starts with self-awareness. Trust in oneself as a coach. Trust that one will come up with the right tool, right silence, right question, at the right time; the one that will unlock something in the client and effect lasting change.

And this trust is even harder to come by. In all honesty, I don’t think it even comes to all coaches, no matter how long they’ve been practising. And, judging by the number of manuals and coaching approaches that are mushrooming across our bookshelves, digital media and coach training schools, there’s a market out there for filling out this void of trust with more tools and approaches. “If only I follow this process, and ask this question at the right time, and then remember to say and what do you think, surely the client – and the person who’s paying for their coaching – will have an effective experience.” Except they won’t. Or at least the client won’t.

shutterstock_108189845It will be easy to fill out the evaluation sheets, and to use the same approach for your next coaching assignment, or pitch, or chemistry meeting, when you’re asked “and what coaching methodology do you use?”. Because there’s a clean and neat answer, an answer that’s easy to write down, explain and share. An answer that shows a basic lack of trust in our own readiness to choose the right tool at exactly the right moment, to build a new tool, or even to down tools altogether.

And if we as coaches don’t trust ourselves, why should our clients?