Monday, July 28, 2014

Building trust

Trust and rapport were discussed during the 3 days of the cognitive coaching course that I did over the summer, and now returning to Mumbai I am picking up again in The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar and the chapter I read today is also about trust.   Aguilar refers to building trust as an ongoing process that can take many months.  When you start coaching it's important to gain trust in order to have the coachee become excited about the relationship and what coaching can offer.  It's interesting to note that distrust is not actually an absence of trust, but involves more active negative expectations - distrust can be part of a school culture and even historic negative experiences can contribute to a distrusting institutional memory.

Although coaching books and courses often offer a framework and tools for coaching, what is really essential is emotional intelligence (a book I'm about to start this week is Daniel Goleman's Working with Emotional Intelligence).  In her book, Aguilar outlines 10 steps to building trust:

  1. Plan and prepare:  as a coach you will be more confident when you are well prepared and the coachee will be looking for indicators of the competence, credibility, integrity and character of the coach in order to develop the relationship.
  2. Be cautious about gathering background information:  what you hear before you start coaching can influence your feelings about the coachee and it is essential that you go into the first meeting with as many positive feelings as possible.  Aguilar argues against gathering information in advance as the coachee is the expert on what s/he wants to work on and may be feeling vulnerable.  If you have as little information as possible beforehand, this will prompt you to be more completely focused on the coachee and to be authentically curious about where s/he wants to develop.
  3. Establish and maintain confidentiality:  it's good to discuss this during the first meeting or even beforehand in an email.  While administrators may need to know who the coach is working with and what topics and tasks are being worked on, information shared by the coach should be non-evaluatory.
  4. Listen deeply and with acceptance: to truly understand where the coachee is coming from and where s/he wants to improve.  In the cognitive coaching course active listening involved us paraphrasing what the coachee said to check our own understanding and to let the coachee know that s/he has been heard.
  5. Ask questions:  with the aim of shifting perspective, deepening learning, changing actions and transforming practice.  Clarifying questions are often an invitation for coachees to go deeper into their thinking and can promote powerful reflections.
  6. Connect:  rapport was another area we worked on during the coaching course.  Being able to connect is vital.
  7. Validate:  uncover a coachee's strengths and validate what they do.  Echoing what you have seen and heard shows you are listening carefully and recognizing both the triumphs and struggles the coachee is experiencing - the metaphor given by Aguilar here is a good one.  A coach holds up a mirror to teachers to help them see their strengths reflecting back.  The eventual aim of coaching is to have the client hold up the mirror himself.
  8. Be open about what you do:  make sure there is not a hidden agenda.
  9. Ask for permission to coach:  the coachee should be in control of the process.
  10. Keep commitments - so be careful not to take on too many requests for help.
Are you a coach?  Do you agree with this list?  What would you leave out and what would you add?

Photo Credit: ~Liliana via Compfight cc

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