Trust: The most vital ingredient in coaching

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Coaching Skills Series

This is one of many articles I intend to post this year considering the range of principles, skills and experiences you’ll need to be an effective coaching manager for the people in your team.

This post is all about trust. The next one will look at encouraging coachees to welcome self-responsibility.

trustI believe that increasing and improving levels of trust in organizations would make a massive difference. The absence of trust leads to a host of unnecessary, time consuming, and bureaucratic processes that few people would miss if they disappeared. If we can’t trust people not to fiddle their expenses, do we really want them let loose on our customers and suppliers where they could do far more damage? Rather than tying managers up in ‘back to work’ interviews would it not be better to have them examine a culture so deficient that people would rather lie about their health than come in to work? Call me naive but I believe that there is a better way and that a coaching approach facilitates it. Let’s first examine the components of trust in a coaching relationship.

Dear Manager

I need to trust you, my coaching manager. This requires you to be a trustworthy person doing trustworthy things. I need to know that anything I might reveal in a coaching session will be treated in confidence unless I am up to something illegal, unethical or harmful. I need to know that discussing areas of my work which I find challenging will not automatically disbar me from applying for a promotion or some other advancement. I want to be able to turn to you for coaching help whether to solve a problem or make progress on an already strong area. I want you to make time for me and our coaching conversations, to be taken seriously and for you to accept I have a point of view, even if it differs from your own.

I need to trust the coaching process. I don’t want to be coached if I neither need it nor have requested it. I don’t want to be coached just because it’s my turn or because you’ve got a schedule to stick to. Do it this way if you want (and far too many do) but don’t be surprised if I don’t seem fully engaged. Don’t be surprised if I offer only superficial answers to your coaching questions and seem mistrustful of the whole thing. It’ll be because I sense it is all about you and not me.

Help me to trust myself. To become the best I can be and achieve my potential at work I need someone who believes in me, even when I’ve lost faith in myself. You’re my manager; I respect your position and what you’ve achieved and your backing and support means a lot. With it I can achieve great things which creates a ‘win’ for you, me and our organization alike. Without it we all lose in the end.

Thank you

To be a manager who coaches thus requires a high level of integrity and trustworthiness and quite right too. Managers who coach in a climate of trust find they have advantages when things go wrong and/or pressure builds because their people are more willing to ‘go into bat’ for them when needs be. People who work for managers they cannot trust or who don’t believe they are trusted themselves tend not to do this and in extreme cases will look to sabotage the manager’s efforts


Matt Somers

Matt Somers

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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2 Responses

  1. Very interesting article Matt but I’m struck by the scale I challenge this will pose to many managers I know. Trust empowerment and accountability . A tough equation.

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