How To Establish Trust and Intimacy as a Coach

In this in-depth look at the third Core Coaching Competency: Establishing Trust and Intimacy, we touch on the importance of walking your talk and being the best coach for your clients. If this resonates with you check out our experiential online course Decoding The Coaching Genome, accredited with 21 CCEU by the ICF, here.

The ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust requires both “being” and “doing” skills. As a Coach you may feel more comfortable doing things to create safety and trust. Or maybe you rely on your emotional expertise to provide this to clients. Knowing your natural bias is helpful so that you can continue to grow your opposite muscles.

Mary was frequently late to meet her clients, periodically forgot to carry out her promises to her clients and was secretly embarrassed that she was unable to live as well as her clients did. Consequently, Mary had a hard time keeping her clients. Eventually, she hired a coach to hold her accountable for all that she wanted to create in her life and her business began to grow.

It Takes Two

Consistency, doing what you say you are going to do and “walking your talk” are all skills that comprise the “doing” of creating safety and trust. Showing up on time, creating a consistent structure for your meetings, conducting your business and your life ethically and acting on your promises to your client all create an atmosphere of safety, believability and trust in the coaching relationship. However, this is not sufficient to bind the trust permanently. Your client must also follow such practices as well since you are both co-creating your coaching relationship. In this way, your coaching agreement is a mutual contract.

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“Being” and “Doing”

The “being” skills of creating trust and safety are not necessarily as easy or overt as the “doing” skills. Above all, the coach must be able to monitor his or her judgments about their clients and manage their responses. Because coaching is a professional relationship, a coach cannot say the first thing that pops into their mind particularly when they are negatively judging their client’s behaviour in the moment.

Learning to stay conscious of one’s thoughts and feelings as well as managing them in a way that serves clients goes a long way in creating a safe and trusting relationship. This is not to say that you should not be honest in your responses. However, your phrasing must be in the service of your client and not merely your own self-expression.

Three other “being” skills that are necessary to create safety and trust are confidence, transparency and vulnerability. These three feeling states are intertwined with one another. Without self-confidence and belief in yourself, it’s very hard to be transparent or vulnerable. And yet, success in being transparent and vulnerable grows one’s confidence. The more vulnerable and transparent you are with clients, the safer and more trusting they will feel with you. Your confidence in your ability to coach well and your belief in both your training and life experience will also engender safety and trust in your clients.


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About the Author:

Judith has been following her calling for the past 33 years, originally as a licensed psychotherapist and then for the past 20 years as Co-Active Coach. After training her, CTI (The Coaches Training Institute) invited Judith to become a faculty member in 1996. She received her Master Certified Coach certificate through the International Coach Federation in 1999. Judith currently is a Senior Faculty member at CTI as well the principal of her own international coaching practice.

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