Trusting agile coaches

I was re-reading a book called The Speed of Trust and it had some reminders in it that are both energising and scary.

The book starts by setting a challenge that it should provide advice that is Timely, Relevant and Actionable. Great I thought, I can apply that to any coaching advice that I give too.

But then it had a scary reminder about trust. The book referred to companies being trusted, but I am going to twist it into a comment about coaches:

If a coach’s teams do not trust them, then the coach does not have a sustainable value proposition

James King – twisting the words of Stephen Covey

It is stark but true – coaching breaks down if people do not trust the coach. The obvious conclusion is that good coaches are good at establishing trust and great coaches are amazing at establishing AND MAINTAINING trust.

I have read some books and spoken to some people who have referred to the “fact” that teams are likely to be intimidated by a coach, but this is not at all aligned with establishing and maintaining trust.

So how do we go about building trust and sustaining it for the duration or our relationship with the people we coach?

Apparently one way is to be good at trusting others. Apparently being good at trusting others is a good step towards asking for trust in return. This is a little subtle though – it is not about blind trust (assuming, regardless of the evidence that we can trust people), it is about Smart Trust.

Smart trust involves both

  • A belief that we should trust people – that our results will overall be better if we trust rather than distrust; and
  • Being good at analysis – observing and exploring why and when we are let down or rewarded for trusting people

OK, let’s assume that coaches are good at analysing situations, what about our belief that we should trust others IN THE REAL WORLD and not in a theoretical situation?

Confusing actions and intentions

It is surprisingly common to assume that others know our intentions were good, even when we do not tell them, or when our actions (due of course to circumstance and not our innate cruelty or laziness) do not suggest our intentions are all that good.

Unfortunately, it is probably just as common for us to judge others by their actions and then infer poor attitudes or intentions.

So the absolute starting point is to start with some self reflection. I know right- we do that too much already, but this one will only take somewhere between 15 minutes and 60 years.

An exercise

Start by assuming that you own some “trust glasses” that alter the way you see they world. They were created over time by your history, your existing beliefs and your experience with different people over time:

  • What kind of “glasses” would you say you have – rose coloured glasses that lead you to be too trusting? Dark glasses that cause you to see shadows and become distrustful?
  • Where did those glasses come from?
  • You will act on the basis of what you see – are the glasses you see through creating the right outcomes for you? Is your instinct to trust/not trust in different situations serving you well, or is it constraining your opportunity to experience the joy and success you want?

Too easy right? Maybe.

But this one is harder. We are moving from thinking to acting.

Others do not get to see your intentions, but they are constantly seeing your actions and they might mistakenly trust you too much or judge you too harshly based on only that evidence.

When you interact with people:

  • Do you believe that you are worth trusting?
  • Do you present to them someone worth trusting?
  • What evidence does the way you act (say at work) suggest
    • That you trust (or do not trust) others?
    • That you believe you are worthy of their trust?
    • That you believe and apply the principle that you should lead with trust to be successful, while also setting high, clear and achievable expectations?

Anyway – this was not an article about others trusting the coach, it was an article about the “Trusting Coach” demonstrating that they trust others – not naively and not only in theory – but in practice, they are demonstrating Smart Trust and building a coaching relationship from there.

Creating the credibility needed to get others to trust us comes next week – trust me.


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