Successful coaching relationship is a trust based coaching relationship. But trust doesn’t just happen, it requires intent and energy to achieve and maintain. Good coaches implicitly look to focus on this from the outset.

There are many ways to develop trust with coachees, and the coach has to adopt various approaches to work with an array of clients. All clients will have different life experiences requiring the coach to adapt their styles to the them to make the relationship work. Propensity to trust must be acknowledged by the coach in their work. Having trust allows the client to be safely vulnerable and express themselves without fear.

Trust starts early on

Coaches don’t have the luxury of time to develop trust with clients so need to hit the floor running right from the initial client call. Clients might be feeling anxious and vulnerable, not knowing what to expect. This presents the first opportunity to begin to establish trust. Websites or profiles which details experiences, feedback, assignments and qualifications will indirectly begin to instill confidence in the client. Sharing about their style and personality again will contribute. Clients only begin to engage with someone they relate too, demonstrates successes and feels approachable.

Thanking them for their contact, their time, and providing reassurance, sets the tone for the call. Similarly, with emails, after looking at their words, emotions and tone of the email, the same processes is applicable.

Clear contracting

The contracting process is a key element to enabling trust. It is an opportunity that combines formal professional elements and the human touch. Physically talking about confidentiality creates opportunity to talk about working together for the client and what they need from the coach. Contracting conversations will be reflected in the coach’s approach

Be present and authentic

Many clients will never have experienced coaching or a coaching relationship before. So they will never have experienced having meaningful and powerful time and focus purely on them in the moment. Giving the client undivided attention and interest will be a new experience for them. This is tremendously empowering. However, the client must sense that there is genuineness to the behaviours and intent shown.

Ask questions and listen

Pick up on what is being said and ask non-personal questions. Listen holistically and patiently to all that is being shared. Listening without judgement or expectation. Understanding their context and what is behind what is being said. Being curious about them as people not just as clients. Generally, people like people who show a genuine interest in them.

Put self to one side

Sharing coaching experiences is valid, it shows experiences and professional abilities, but will be kept to a minimum. Only really bring to the table if asked. The more you bring of you to the conversation the less space there is for them. Put any agenda to one side.

Pick up on cues

Being diligent and picking up on their words, tone, language, movements and patterns helps develop understanding of them. It also allows you to reflect these back to the client in your own behaviours and approaches. Being ‘like’ the client creates rapport and also trust.

Develop their thinking

The more stimulation of their thinking and curiosity will get them to view themselves and situations differently. This demonstrates your abilities and success will encourage trust to ensue.

Share observations

Picking up and acknowledging powerful moments or sentiments then providing observational feedback will show you are listening to them. It will also demonstrate empathy, critical to developing trust. 

Develop own EI

Emotional intelligence is all about relationships. How the coach responds or reacts in situations or with people. Managing own emotions, empathy and motivation will impact upon awareness and abilities when working with clients. Being aware and ‘practicing’ relationships will make the coach a stronger ‘people person’.

Trust is two way

As much as you need to get the client to trust you. In reverse, the coach demonstrating or expressing trust in the client empowers them and in its own way can lead to the coachee have more trust in you. Expressing belief in the client will stimulate hope in them and trusting you to achieve their outcomes.

Trust is a small word but complex in nature and being able to fully achieve. It underpins the coaching dynamic and successes. Developing ways and language that builds trust is essential for any coach from the outset.