Coaches are among most effective tools used to help teams improve. In SPaMCAST 496 – Sam Laing and I highlighted the need for trust between a coach and the team or person they are coaching. Without trust, a coach will not be very effective. Bad coaching can leave a team worse off than they were before. Trust, however, is not something you can purchase at the corner gas station. Trust is something that needs to nurtured and developed. The term”developed” is code for hard work by everyone involved! The overall level of effort needed to find and bond with a coach strongly suggests that teams should have established a relationship with their coach(es) before they jointly have to deal with a crisis (we will explore long-term coaching later in this series). Building trust, for the most part, is a point affair. The behaviors that build trust between a coach and coachee include:

  1. Keep your word. In very simplest terms, you say what you will do and then do what you say. Unless everyone in the relationship can depend on each other to deliver there will be no trust. Breaking your promises, implied or explicit, makes it difficult for people to accept that you are what you say you are. Not delivering to your word is equivalent to lying. Trust provides a basis for sharing work and feedback across the team. Without trust, every individual would have to do everything themselves or spend a large portion of their time managing work.
  2. Communicate effectively. Communication includes listening as well as providing information (talking and other forms of communication). If you can’t build understanding and share expectations there will NO basis for trust.
  3. Make the relationship a goal of coaching. The relationship between a coach and a coachee are important. When establishing a coaching relationship one of the goals all parties need to have is to establish (or improve) the connection between the parties. Making the relationship part of the goals of the coaching experience highlights the importance of making personal connections that facilitate communication.
  4. Practice deliberate action. L. David Marquet, in Turn The Ship Around (featured as part of Re-read Staturday) uses the concept of deliberate action to increase engagement. Deliberate action makes people think before they act by injecting a step into the process where they express what they are about to do. Coaches need to act and react deliberately; before acting (or reacting) stop and visualize the action and the reaction you expect. How many times have you heard someone ask a question that has been answered just seconds before or is tone deaf based on the context of the conversation? This is is a direct reflection of acting on cruise control. Trust is not the outcome of this type of scenario.
  5. Take no relationship for granted. Note this is just good life advice. taking a relationship for granted will reduce the value and effectiveness of the connection which reduces trust.
  6. Honesty is the best policy. A coach and a coachee need to be honest with each other. Changing behavior requires sharing performance, feelings, and observations. If anyone involved believes they are being lied to or placated the basis for the trust will evaporate.
  7. Make it about the coachee, not the coach. This attribute is one of the few that isn’t a two-way street. Coaches help those they are coaching to unlock their abilities so they can shine, not vice versa. A coach that is all about self-promotion will not elicit trust.
  8. Act ethically. Ethics are a framework that guides behavior in a manner that sets an expectation. Embrace a framework to help steer clear of conflicts of interest, lying, cheating and stealing one another’s Butterfinger. In the end, they help make behavior predictable. A common ethical framework helps to establish trust.
  9. Admit your mistakes. Nobody’s perfect, admit when you are wrong. When you have screwed up, learn from the experience, stop making the same mistake and move on. The idea of admitting mistakes, learning, improving and continuing to move forward is an equation. Leaving out any component of the equation is a problem.

Coaching is a great tool but has a basic requirement: trust. Without trust, no real coaching will occur. As an observer, I see coaching sessions that miss the mark by offering more pontification and posturing than unlocking of potential. Trust is one of missing elements!

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