Leader as Coach: Establishing Trust and Intimacy


trust and intimacyEstablishing Trust and Intimacy with the person you are coaching is paramount if they are to do their best thinking.  They need to feel confident that they can be vulnerable and share their truths, their whole truths and nothing but their truths.  If they keep certain things to themselves for fear of being judged, they will not access their best thinking.

It doesn’t always happen immediately, as people are assessing how much they can trust us, and whether everything really is confidential.  That means that as leaders, we may wish to coach people whose performance we do not manage – there is that added complication that anything that is said in a coaching conversation might get used against us at performance management time, so we hold fire on exposing what is really important to us, and don’t tell our whole truth.

So what does it look like to establish trust and intimacy?  First, think about those boundary issues, and who you are coaching.  Are there any conflicts of interest that might make it better to offer them coaching from someone else?

Then think about how you would normally set people at ease.  This will be unique to you, so what is it that you do that enables people to open up in other spheres of your life?  When have you felt a closeness with others in a professional setting?  What did you do or say to enhance that?

Then pay attention to meeting the needs that the other person specifies in the contract for the session.   What is it they said they want to walk away with?  Keep to that contract.  So if they said they wanted X, don’t steer them towards Y (e.g., ideas and thoughts vs actions).

Pay attention to how they say they’d like to work too.  So if they want to talk things through, do that; if they prefer to draw or use some other pictorial representation of their system, do that; if they want you to be particularly challenging, be challenging etc.

So you can see that much of it comes back to the contract that they have asked you to work with them to achieve.

What else do you do to establish trust and intimacy when coaching?