coach trustworthiness

Part Six in our series on the Seven Commitment Traits and coaching leaders.

In our initial articles, we have looked at how to coach several of the Seven Influence Traits. Today, we move to the sixth of the Seven Influence Traits™ - Trustworthiness.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Without it, all else is doomed to failure. With it, people will go to remarkable lengths for the leader.  

Trust is a "reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something."

Trust means that you rely on someone else to do the right thing. Others come to believe in your client’s integrity and strength. This is especially seen if the clients you coach or consult put themselves on the line, sacrificing their own self-interests to accomplish the objective or vision.

Trust provides a sense of safety. When your team members feel safe with each other, they feel comfortable to open up, take appropriate risks, and expose vulnerabilities.

When trust is lacking, innovation, collaboration, creative thinking, and productivity will decrease as people spend their time watching their back and guarding their own interests, instead of using this energy to help the team attain its goals.  If your client’s team members trust one another, they're far more likely to share knowledge, and communicate openly. The “what’s in it for me” attitude as a primary motivator guarantees a lack of team cohesion. The moment membership to the team is tied only to a paycheck, things will go downhill for the organization quickly.

Yet trustworthiness is lacking in today’s professional environment. A recent poll by Maritz indicates that only seven percent of workers strongly agree that they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. In addition, a survey by MasteryWorks indicates that a lack of trust correlates highly to employee turnover. Fifty-nine percent of individuals indicated they had left an organization due to trust issues citing dishonesty and a lack of communication as key factors.

How to Develop Trustworthiness in Your Client

Here is how you can help your clients empower others.

Jon Gordon, author of the book Soup, provides 10 ways to help your clients build trust. When you see them violate one of these axioms, stop them and address it.

Teach your clients to:

1. Say what you are going to do, and then do what you say!

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Frequent, honest communication builds trust. Poor communication is one of the key reasons marriages and work relationships fall apart.

3. Trust is built one day, one interaction at a time, and yet it can be lost in a moment because of one poor decision. Make the right decision.

4. Value long-term relationships more than short-term success.

5. Sell without selling out. Focus more on your core principles and customer loyalty than short term commissions and profits.

6. Trust generates commitment; commitment fosters teamwork; and teamwork delivers results. When people trust their team members, they not only work harder, but they work harder for the good of the team.

7. Be honest! My mother always told me to tell the truth. She would say, “If you lie to me, then we can’t be a strong family. So don’t ever lie to me, even if the news isn’t good.”

8. Become a coach. Coach your customers. Coach your team at work. Guide people; help them be better, and you will earn their trust.

9. Show people you care about them. When people know you care about their interests as much as your own, they will trust you. If they know you are out for yourself, their internal alarm sounds and they will say to themselves “watch out for that person.”

10. Always do the right thing. We trust those who live, walk and work with integrity.

11. When you don’t do the right thing, admit it. Be transparent, authentic and willing to share your mistakes and faults. When you are vulnerable and have nothing to hide, you radiate trust.

Trustworthiness Starts with the Individual

Creating an environment of trust only becomes a part of the cultural fabric of an organization when all individuals start becoming trustworthy. This is why it is vital for leaders to exhibit that they are able to be trusted. Anytime I meet with people working for a leader who lies, hides his or her faults, or paints uncomfortable truths opaque, I always see a radical decline in morale and even morality. After all, if the leadership is in it for themselves, why shouldn’t I be getting all I can regardless of implications? Thomas Friedman coined a word for when trust completely breaks down within an organization or government - “kleptocracy.” Bribery, manipulation, and self-interest come to rule the roost and any element of serving others or a higher interest is lost.

You, the Trusted Coach or Consultant

As a coach or consultant, you must therefore be completely trustworthy and honest with your own clients. We must model the behaviors we desire to see reproduced in our clients. Once we demonstrate that we are trustworthy, it is much easier to challenge, to encourage and even to correct our clients. They’ll receive this from us primarily because they trust we have their best interest at heart.

Ken Blanchard speaks of three ways we can shape and build trust; here is how these apply to the client coach-consultant relationship.

1. Be Accessible
As a coach or consultant, particularly during tumultuous times, it’s important to be out in front of the organization sharing plans for the future. Personalize your coaching. Don’t hide behind pre-fab templates or delegate the challenging task of communicating uncomfortable things to your client. As a consultant, leaders look to you for insight. That means you have to be very clear about the plan for their growth. “What are we going to do?”, “When does it start?”, and “How does it get implemented?”

2. Acknowledge Your Client’s Concerns
Once you’ve communicated a plan for development for the leader, you also need to take the time to listen for concerns and anxieties that he or she might have. Create opportunities for dialogue. This doesn’t mean coddling your client, but it does mean making sure that you are listening.

3. Follow Through
If you don’t know the answer to a question they have and promise that you will get back to the client with resources, make sure that you do so in the promised amount of time. Keeping your word on small things demonstrates dependability and reliability that your clients can count on when it comes to big things. It builds credibility, and you’ll find your clients eagerly putting your recommendations into practice.

Coaching each of the influence traits provides you an area in which to grow the influence of your clients. For more resources on coaching towards trustworthiness or coaching for improvement in the six other traits, visit


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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina