This caught my eye, the change from the previous competency of Establishes Trust and Intimacy to Cultivates Trust and Safety. I felt that the dynamics moved from a more authoritative approach of client-centricity towards a more nurturing and supportive tangent to the coaching process. Perhaps the quote below best illustrates how I see it.
“Your job is not just to establish the relationship, but to “cultivate” the relationship, finding ways to gently communicate value to the relationship in an ongoing, non-obtrusive manner.” ~ Bob Burg, Speaker & Author.
Before we dive into definitions and sub-competencies, there are some big words here to dissect and understand. The word trust in itself, creates a whole magnitude of perception based on our own filters and experiences. A basic meaning to the word is the believe in the reliability, truth, or ability of. Hence, Coach Mel’s short video on The Believe in Human Potential encapsulates this for both the coach and the client. For the coach, it is quite natural, direct and transparent to hold the container of believing in the best potential of the client. For the client, it will take some time, effort and environment to take that first step to open up and trust the coach with the situation at hand. It will impertinent to believe in the reliability, truth or ability of the coach, aka to trust the coach. (Sometimes for corporate coaching, it may take longer, as the client is suspicious of the motives of the stakeholders).
I was suddenly intrigued by this word trust. And dug about a bit more to uncover more about this word that we sometimes use so freely and casually. According to Psychology Today, trust is an emotional brain state, not just an expectation of behaviour. Emotions like trust are neural patterns (formed brain paths) that combine representations of the situation that the emotion is about (perhaps a childhood reference), appraisals of the relevance of the situation to goals (perhaps success factors), perceptions of physiological changes (possibly even using bodily manifestations to display emotions), etc that make it so complex. Trust is also not absolute, it needs constant massaging, respect, reliance, reassurance and consistency.
In the ICF definition: Cultivates Trust and Safety: Partners with the client to create a safe, supportive environment that allows the client to share freely. Maintains a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
The importance to partner with the client to create a safe, supportive environment that allows the client to share freely, therein lies with the coach. Unfortunately, in today’s world, especially in the rat race, potential sometimes gets left behind, should there be no conducive environment to transform. As adults, the need to create a safe, supportive environment (even in training, facilitation and learning platforms), is a necessity to cultivate trust and safety towards transformation. The coachee, the client (the participant, the attendee) must feel that the environment created will enable him/her the safe space to explore, express, make mistakes, learn, and transform without repercussions to work, job, career. I’ve seen one too many, blank expressions in a fancy hotel training room, where participants believe that they are there based on company’s agenda and that there is no value-adding for them.
At the same time, it is expected to maintain a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Just like any working relationship, both parties need to hold the partnership with reciprocal respect and trust, failing which it would just be expensive conversations and time wasted.
The sub-competencies here are as below, which revolves on being inclusive, open-mindedness, respect, empathy and transparency.
- Seeks to understand the client within their context which may include their identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs
- Demonstrates respect for the client’s identity, perceptions, style and language and adapts one’s coaching to the client
- Acknowledges and respects the client’s unique talents, insights and work in the coaching process
- Shows support, empathy and concern for the client
- Acknowledges and supports the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs and suggestions
- Demonstrates openness and transparency as a way to display vulnerability and build trust with the client
In particularly, I like the acronym TRUST from the 2019 web-torial. It sums up the 5 elements for this competency very aptly.
T = Transparent; R = Respect; U = Understanding; S = Safe & Secure; T = Together
There are many ways we can build trust and safety. Now how can we cultivate, nurture it and continue to enhance it to ensure an effective coaching process?
The IRW Magic Triangle of Trust and Safety, made me to understand the continuous process of trusting our client, trusting ourselves as coach, and trusting the coaching process. Due to the fact that as a coach our time with the client is limited, the lack of real life interaction to observe the client in action, and the absent of context in many instances, the 3 points act like a sextant, where you navigate between the points using the perspectives of the client and the coach.
- Intention – always focus on the outcome, the reason, the why of the entire coaching engagement. There will be many distractions like office politics that could sway the client.
- Relationship – client / coachee focused, it’s always about the coachee. Their perspectives, their environment, their challenges. We will never fully understand what they go through, as we don’t walk in their shoes. But let’s focus on keeping the mutual respect and cultivating trust.
- Words – be sensitive and focused on the conversation, the language, the tones. The better we can sync and partner together in the coaching process, the more trust and safety exist.
My key take-away from this session are:
- As a coach, I have to ensure that I cultivate trust and safety and be sensitive to whether how well it measures at every coaching encounter/ session.
- The success and continuity of the coaching engagement especially for transformation, relies on this competency. Trust and safety.