I was struck a new this week with what an awesome privilege it is to be a coach. Whenever a client shares his or her professional journey and the current challenges or situations facing him or her, it’s both exciting and humbling. Exciting in the sense that while I am often awed by all that the client has accomplished, I’m also confident I can help him or her gain new insights or consider a new approach to help reach the next level.
It’s also humbling because there is a vulnerability on the part of both client and coach that must occur for coaching to be successful. The client must be willing to be open and transparent. This only happens as trust is established and typically only after the coach has been both open and transparent with the client. Establishing Trust and Intimacy is a core competency identified by the International Coach Federation for coaches. This is defined as “the ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust” (ICF Core Competencies).
As an internal coach, trust was often awarded or the result of my position within the organization. My internal clients had worked with me in a variety of capacities over the years and I became known as a trusted advisor. As an external coach, establishing trust can take a bit more time. The client needs to know my focus is on their growth and development, not reporting back to someone else regarding their progress. Fortunately, I have been able to create this type of environment for new clients relatively quickly and I am both awed and humbled by being invited into a client’s world.
Karol Wasylyshyn (2019) described the successful coaching engagement as one where the initial goals were achieved and perceived within the organization. Working as a coach, my objective remains focused on listening actively and empathetically to clients while helping them to articulate and attain their goals. This is achieved by being genuinely curious and sincerely interested in the client’s growth and development. Additionally, the use of evidence-based tools and assessments based on social and behavioral science research is critical to sustaining long-term success. The outcome of these efforts are successful coaching engagements where clients attain their desired goals. And on occasion, transitioning into the trusted leadership advisor (TLA) role described by Wasylyshyn (2019).
To be clear, coaching and the TLA role are not all about making the client comfortable; they are about helping the client grow. Mutual respect and trust must be maintained while at the same time to be effective, on occasion the client will be very uncomfortable with the questions the coach/TLA may ask. Clients may have reached a point in their career where very few people ask them uncomfortable questions or probe potential ‘blind spots’ in the clients leadership style. That type of uncomfortable moment is, at times, exactly what we need to reflect, redirect, and purposefully pursue alternative behaviors as leaders. We only have those types of moments with people we trust. Which leads me back to what a privilege it is to be invited into a client’s world as their coach!