When coaching, trust is the golden thread that builds the connection with our clients. How can we leverage our strengths to master the art of cultivating trust? As Gallup Certified Strengths Coaches, we share insights on cultivating trust, fostering authentic coaching presence, and crafting coaching agreements. Sarah Crittenden, an experienced coach, shares her research exploring the relationship between strengths, trust, and coaching relationships.
As Gallup Certified Strengths Coaches we recognise the importance of building the coaching relationship and cultivating trust as essential foundations of our coaching practice. Coaching is a creative process, therefore I want to consider how cultivating trust and utilising strengths can enhance this. I lead with the CliftonStrengths® Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking talents. Here I show how I apply these strengths in establishing steadfast coaching relationships built on trust.
At the heart of effective coaching lies the partnership between the coach and the client. Trust starts to be built through the essential co-creation of the coaching relationship (O’Broin & Palmer, 2010). This collaborative process enables trust to grow, reminding us trust is built over time. Seth Godin (2020) says a creative practice requires us to trust in ourselves, therefore the journey of building trust in the coaching relationship begins with the coach having a strong sense of ‘self’. This means part of the creative process involves the coach developing greater self-awareness. The turning point is “being” a Coach, rather than the Coach “doing coaching”. This makes it possible for them to authentically engage with their client in deeper, meaningful and impactful conversations (Joseph & Bryant-Jefferies, 2019).
Authentic Coaching Presence
Maintaining an authentic coaching presence is closely connected to embracing our unique combination of strengths and trusting our strengths. This is another essential building block to cultivate trust. Sills (2021) says that whilst coaching involves raising awareness and fostering growth for the coachee, it is of equal importance for coaches to recognise the crucial role of their presence in the coaching relationship. The Associate Professor of my Masters course in Coaching (University of Warwick) says. “This is your relationship, put a human face on it, bring your whole self to it, make it a shining example of your coaching presence” (Blakey & Day, 2012).
Another key part of building a coaching relationship is establishing and maintaining the Coaching Agreement in partnership with the client. This again builds trust. Passmore (2020) talks about three levels of coaching agreement, the strength and depth of each part impacts the others.
The initial agreement for the coaching relationship
I use my Strategic® thinking and Connectedness® talents to support the working alliance, ensuring it is jointly negotiated from the start, revisited and renegotiated (O’Broin & Palmer, 2010). Foy’s “PROMISES” framework can serve as a good starting point. (Purpose, Relationship, Outcomes, Margins/Boundaries, ‘In Case of’, Safety, Expectations and Strategy )
The agreement for the overall Coaching Plan and goals
The agreement often revolves around shared goals, tasks and connection between coach and coachee, creating the basis for successful outcomes. However, effective coaching agreements differ as each coachee is unique (Individualisation®), who they are, what they bring and their dynamic goals (Gysbers et al, 2014). I leverage my Strategic® thinking, Developer® and Individualization® strengths to tailor coaching plans to coachees’ unique preferences, goals and personalities to ensure a customised approach.
The agreements for individual session goals and objectives
Getting clarity of the overall and individual session agreements enables me to regularly check in and partner with each coachee to see if we are on track, progressing and maintaining the agreement (Passmore, 2020). This is especially important when working with individuals who have faced disempowerment and trauma, particularly the refugees I coach. Here I use a holistic approach leveraging Connectedness®, Strategic® thinking & Empathy® talents. I sensitively adapt my approach and techniques, considering each individual’s journey, needs, hopes and reality which may vary across sessions.
Cultivating trust and safety creates a supportive environment for learning and growth. Just as cultivating soil prepares it for growth, cultivating trust paves the way for the coachees’ personal and professional development (Bluckert, 2005). For individuals who have experienced trauma and had their trust broken by professionals trust can be more challenging to establish (Vaughan, 2019). Focusing on the individual’s unique strengths, past successes and going at their pace helps build/rebuild trust over time, empowering coachees to trust and embrace their authentic selves (Alvey & Barclay, 2007).
We can see that cultivating trust and building the coaching relationship are interconnected and take time and work. Together they construct a solid foundation that enhances the individual’s coaching journey. The building blocks combined with our strengths and values enable us to co-create the relationship, show compassion, and trust ourselves. We demonstrate our authentic presence with ease and flow, trust the coachee and trust the creative process. All of which help establish and maintain comprehensive coaching agreements. As coaches, our commitment to cultivating trust and safety empowers each coachee to explore and discover. They learn more about themselves and their strengths, learning to trust themselves to new depths, inspiring them to realise their most meaningful aspirations and thrive.
This is just a summary of Sarah Crittenden’s research.