Coaching Principle 5: Trust

23 January

This is the last in the series on coaching principles. You can find previous parts here.

Coaching helps clients explore their goal and their situation. To have a deeper impact, this exploration needs to happen in a safe space where the person will be capable of being honest with herself.

In coaching, we allow the people we are working with to suspend their routine, their performance mode, and help them step into the reflective, transformative space. Trust is the footing on which a safe space is built.

This is similar to how W. B. Yeats’ protagonist implores:

‘I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams’

Coaches need to ‘tread softly’ for we deal with delicate matters.

Our aim is to support full expression and full realization of who our clients are. And that means, we need to help them be vulnerable to share their fears, be bold to share their dreams, and be comfortable to voice their doubts. When they feel fully accepted and not being judged, they can be vulnerable.

When people relate their fears or doubts they are able to loosen their grip on their lives. A lot of coaches can share stories where that happened to their clients.

Take, for example, impostor syndrome. Many people feel it to a certain degree. And impostor syndrome is often accompanied by the feeling of shame and fear of being ‘caught.’ Good work with impostor syndrome starts with expressing those insecurities, and it’s crucially important that the person won’t be self-censoring during that process. The client needs to feel support and to feel understood, otherwise, those feelings, unexpressed fully, will continue to simmer inside.

The International Coach Federation lists ‘Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client’ as one of the core competencies coaches should possess. And here are some of the behaviors coaches need to demonstrate as part of this competence:

— Show genuine concern for the client’s welfare and future
Trust will never be established if the client doesn’t feel that the coach is on her side and that coach is there for her. If the coach doesn’t demonstrate that he cares for the client why would the client care to share what’s deeply important for her?

I personally find Buddhist practices of metta (loving-kindness) and mudita (sympathetic joy) especially helpful to tune into this state. Before the session, I spend a few moments wishing my client happiness and good fortune by saying internally ‘May you be happy and free from suffering’ and ‘May your good fortune continue.’

— Demonstrate respect for client’s perceptions, learning style, personal being
To create a supportive environment, the coach needs to be non-judgemental about what comes up in the session. If you allow a furrowed eyebrow at the wrong moment or a slight hue of sarcasm in your voice, the client will withdraw and won’t go deeper.

Additionally, the coach needs to respect the way the client is advancing toward her goal. It’s not our job to impose expectations, for example, about how quickly the client should achieve a certain goal.

— Ask permission to coach client in sensitive, new areas
In order to feel safe, the client needs to be ‘in control.’ That is why the coach must get the client’s agreement in order to dive deeper into areas which might be too personal. Fundamentally, the client should always be in charge. Even when the coach challenges or provokes the clients, it should be up to them whether to accept the challenge.

These are only a few of the things which help coaches establish an environment conducive to change. We need to pay attention to and be aware of many things. The focus should always be on what is beneficial for the client and what can help them open up and learn more about themselves. They can then grow the seed of greatness which is concealed in each of us.

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