Leading the World by Supporting Christian Coaching

Establishing Trust and Intimacy in the Coaching Relationship

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reminds us:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. (NIV)

Coaching is a team effort with the client setting the agenda and the coach leading the process–two people working together for the benefit of the client.  The effectiveness of this relationship is based on trust and intimacy between coach and client; however, trust and intimacy cannot be assumed. These attributes must be nurtured and developed.

Although the coach takes the lead in developing a climate of trust and openness in the coaching relationship, both client and coach collaborate in this effort.  Robert Dale, in Growing Agile Leaders, takes this into account in his definition of coaching:  

“Coaching is a growth-oriented, strategic relationship.  Coaching links two peers, equals who are in distinct roles, to collaborate as thought partners and to find the way forward for the person being coached.” (Dale, Growing Agile Leaders, p. 60)

Coach and client are peers who work together to develop a relationship that benefits the client.  The client is no longer working alone to achieve his or her goals, but now has a collaborator who aids in discernment, goal-setting, and achievement.  Although the client sets the agenda, the coach plays an essential role in helping the client achieve something that he or she would not do alone.

cup 2884058 1920Since the coach guides the process, the coach takes the lead in establishing trust and intimacy.  The third Core Competency of the International Coach Federation recognizes that the “ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust” is the foundation of a productive coaching relationship and is the responsibility of the coach.

The coach does this is several ways.  First, the coach models this behavior by showing concern for the well-being of the client, displaying personal integrity, and respecting the client’s individuality.  Each client is unique, and an effective coach recognizes this.

Second, the coach focuses his or her questions and attention on the needs of the client.  Neurological research by Richard Boyatzis and others indicates that the coach’s focused attention on the client makes the coach particularly receptive to the client’s emotions.  The heightened awareness on the part of the client seems to create a feedback loop that enhances the coach’s perception as well.

Third, a Christian coach recognizes the role that the Spirit of God can play in a coaching relationship.  The Spirit can bless the relationship in unexpected ways. An awareness on the part of both the coach and the client that the Spirit is working alongside them enhances the coaching conversation.

Join us on Tuesday, March 12, at 1:00 pm Eastern Time as we dive deeper into this topic and consider ways that the coach can effectively achieve and  pursue the coaching competency of establishing trust and intimacy in the coaching relationship.

About the Author:

Ircel Harrison, a long-time CCNI member, is Coaching Coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and Supplemental Associate Professor of Missional Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary.

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