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7 December 2020


2020 has been a challenge

December is a good month to consider the year that has passed, so I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on my first blog post, The importance of Trust, from November 2019, which examined why Trust is such key element of a strong client/coach relationship.

In this post, I argue that this is still the case, because trust is crucial to all strong business relationships, and I ask how my trust in others has been impacted by the year we have experienced and how the trust of others in myself may have changed over the past 12 months.

2020 has been a year like no other for making me think about my trust on many fronts: trust in city living, government, health, travel, friends, neighbours, news media, employers and leadership. In some of these cases, my trust has been challenged, while in others it has grown considerably. Where it has been challenged, I believe that it will take time to recover that trust, and where it has grown, that it will enhance those areas of my life for some time to come.

As an Executive Coach, I also want to look, however, at how to trust in our work relationships has been adjusted by the challenges that 2020 presented to us.

In my original Trust blog, I referenced the trust equation from Maister, Green and Galford’s book. The Trusted Advisor, in which they suggest that trust is dependent on an individual’s credibility (their proven credentials to do the job), their reliability (the fact that they deliver on their promises) and intimacy, in the business sense (how people like to work with them). All these three qualities added together builds trust, while self-orientation is what destroys such trust. For example, if a client senses that you are less interested in them than in yourself, then that client will trust you less.

The Trust Equation

As I think about the challenges that 2020 has thrown at me and my coaching practice, the biggest example of this to my mind has been in appreciating that clients had bigger fish to fry than coaching during the year; understanding how to work remotely for themselves and their staff, while balancing the challenge of work and home schooling (to name but a few). This rightly meant that many of my clients put coaching on hold whilst they focused on some basic challenges. 

In my experience, people have adjusted to “the new normal” and are now restarting their coaching, with new potential coaching clients coming in.

So, what impact do I think this may have had in others trust in my coaching? 

Whilst 2020 has been painful, the time it has taken for clients to restart their coaching has actually been relatively short, possibly as little as six months, which is not so long that my credibility might have waned during this period. Plus, in the meantime, I took the opportunity to undertake further training in team coaching and climate change coaching, which is a great way to upskill and enhance professional credibility. 

In terms of reliability, it is quite a challenge to be so if you are not meeting others, but over the past year I have continued to blog and post regular content on coaching, and I hope this has been helpful to those interested in this topic more generally. In terms of intimacy, I have also checked in with clients who had themselves put coaching on hold, to check on how they were, to remind them that they could restart coaching sessions whenever they were ready to do so and to offer them the opportunity to have a chat whenever required, if this was considered helpful.

In terms of self-orientation, this year my focus has been on being ready for when clients wished to return to the coaching process and to being supportive until that happened, rather than trying to push such clients into returning to coaching to suit my needs.

With hindsight, I think we can all say that there probably have been things that we would have done differently this year, but I think I have done what I can to maintain trust in my coaching. 

So, my challenge is to ask everyone reading this blog how you did to maintain trust in the workplace and what would your customers, staff, suppliers or Board members think today of your credibility, reliability and intimacy? 

I am not proposing this as a self-flagellation exercise, but rather as a constructive critique and opportunity to identify if there is anything that you may need to focus on going forwards, to repair a loss in trust or to continue building on an area where your trust has grown, based on your actions to date. 

2020 might have been a year we may choose to forget, but it has also been 12 months that we can also learn a great deal from.

I hope this is useful and thought-provoking and if you have any questions, please do get in touch.

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

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