Coaching is a tool to help individuals or teams improve performance. Effective coaching requires trust but – not all trust is the same. Christophe Hubert (@christopheXpert) responded to our essay, Trust, the Backbone of Coaching by tweeting:

“Could we define a trust level on a scale?”

The answer is obvious, we do not trust everyone to the same level. I trust the person that delivers mail to my house differently than my wife or family. The knowledge that trust is variable is important to help coaches tailor their approach.

Most of the academic research on the variability in trust has focused on personal or societal relationships rather than directly to coaching in business environments. Coaches can use the ideas from academic research to provide ideas for tailoring coaching to both individuals and teams. For example, Yamagishi and Sato’s Trust Scale was developed to measure an individual’s general level of trust. The research makes two base assumptions: the first is the belief that people will generally support team norms, and the other is that trusting others is risky. This knowledge suggests that a new coach needs to build bridges to reduce the natural wariness. In another study Rempel, Holmes, and Zanna assess 17 items on a 7-point Likert scale to assess trust. The authors grouped the 17 items assessed into 3 subcategories: predictability, dependability, and faith. While the faith component is not very relevant to an agile coach, understanding that predictability and dependability affect trust is useful. There are many studies that project trust across a scale. Simply put, the academic literature supports our day-to-day observation that some people are more trustworthy than others.

As a coach, why do we care that trust is not binary?  We care because as a professional, the coach can use the knowledge to build a plan to establish relationships and trust. The behaviors reviewed in Trust, the Backbone of Coaching are the table stakes for establishing trust in a coaching scenario.  A coach can assess which of the attributes are currently the most important in establishing the relationship.  The coach can focus on helping the team and individual (including the coach him or herself) to understand how to improve performance on those attributes over time to increase trust.

The remainder of the conversation on Twitter drives the point home:

Thomas Cagley@tcagley

I am sure there has been research on the topic. We both can agree that there are some people you trust more than others.

Christophe Hubert@ChristopheXpert

Sure, trust is the first criteria to choose the persons I am working with!

Coaches need to establish trust and then have a plan to continue to build trust over the life of the relationship because trust is a continuous scale.