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Helen Green

Quest Leadership

Leadership Collaborator

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Coaching – a partnership of trust


Whether in the sporting arena or in the office it is all too easy to see the coaching relationship in terms of hierarchy; between someone who needs help and someone who can provide the answers. Whilst that level of relationship may work on certain superficial levels, the best coaches operate on an entirely different plane.

Great coaching works because it is a partnership. More than that, it succeeds because it is built upon trust and mutual respect. In fact, according to Ashridge and others, the single most important factor for achieving a successful outcome in executive coaching is the quality of the relationship between the coach and the coachee.

The start of that relationship is the recognition that the role of the coach isn’t simply to instruct or to share expertise. Rather, their role is to help people to operate to their potential. So whilst they may provide ideas, they may also question, challenge or provide support; all with a view to helping others to grow. It may be self-evident therefore to say that great coaching starts with a great coach but  this is a factor which is all too often omitted from the coaching relationship.

Quite simply, in order to have an impact a coach will need first to focus on their own development and self awareness levels. This puts them in a stronger position to build positive relationships with those they are looking to help. Not only that, being self-aware gives coaches the confidence to leverage a blend of technical skills including great questions, appropriate use of silence and a balance of challenge and support.

Building trust

We headlined this article on coaching as being a partnership of trust because trust sits at the cornerstone of the coaching relationship. In order to develop this theme we can turn to the work of David Maister and Charles Green who developed a model for building trust which provides useful guidance when developing coaching relationships. This includes:

  • Credibility. If I don’t trust that my coach knows what they are talking about then I won’t apply myself to improving. This means that the way in which I experience my coach as a person, the relationship which we have, the experience and skills and which they bring to the table can make a measurable difference to the outcome.
  • Reliability. Here again I have to trust that I can rely on my coach in order to apply myself fully to self-improvement. I therefore need my coach to be there for me when they say they will and to follow through on agreed actions.
  • Client orientation. The more I sense my coach is generally interested in me and helping me to explore avenues of improvement the more that trust is built and the more that I grow in confidence.
  • Intimacy. Building on the above three traits, with empathy and listening to the fore and honesty in the relationship flowing both ways it becomes easy to set aside any remaining barriers to self-improvement and to concentrate on personal development.

Of course, coaching isn’t all about the coach but this is a side of the equation which is all too often neglected. With trust and partnership to the fore, the coaching relationship can be a mutually rewarding and fulfilling one, delivering value on both sides alongside ongoing performance improvements.




Author Profile Picture
Helen Green

Leadership Collaborator

Read more from Helen Green

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