A Coaching Power Tool Created by Helen Burgess
(Leadership and Innovation Coach, ITALY)
Every day we make choices – big and small- between trust and control. We are often on the automatic pilot of our personal belief system. Let’s explore how trust and control may show up in a coaching context.
The dictionary defines them as follows:
1. to command, direct, or rule. 2. to check, to limit or restrain. 3. to regulate, verify, or curb.
to have reliance on and confidence in the truth,worth, reliability of a person or thing; to have faith in someone.
Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. Stephen Covey
The CEO of an international company, described as “brilliant” by his team, appreciated for his many strengths, needed to be constantly in control. He wanted to make all the decisions no matter how small. His managers soon learned that they should copy him on every email and refer to him before making any decision. Subordinates feared that the CEO might discover something that they had not told him and the key objective of each day was not to get caught out. The outcome was a team of frustrated and demotivated managers, very slow decision making and a CEO who worked 18 hours a day and every weekend. The CEO, his family, his management team and the company efficiency and results paid a high price for this control.
Various attempts to improve the situation had failed – the default response was to take even more control and work even longer hours. This was a hierarchical organisation in a country with a hierarchical culture so the CEO’s behaviour was not challenged openly and everyone became stuck into a way of working that was more survival than motivational.
Paul had a 17-year old son John who was in his final year of high school.Paul loved his son and wanted him to do well academically. It was an important time in John’s life and both wanted him to achieve high grades to study engineering at university. Paul often checked up on his son’s homework and made him re-do any areas that were below standard.
When John went out with his friends his father wanted to know when he would be home, who he was with and what he was doing. He and his son often argued and he sometimes caught his son sneaking out of the house which made Paul introduce new house rules. But it wasn’t going well and there was constant stress at home. They all felt stuck in a downward spiral of control, disappointment, frustration and arguments.
In both examples there was reasonably good agreement between all the parties on what the final outcome or goals should be (hitting company targets or achieving good grades in high school) including the “why” (creating a successful business or getting into college). The disconnect was mainly about the “how” or “what was the best way to achieve these goals?” The CEO and Paul were operating within the limiting belief that there was only one way to achieve these goals – their way!
Here are a few examples of limiting beliefs around control that any of us might be stuck in:
- Making mistakesis bad
- Belief that I am the only person who can complete the task properly
- Concern for others that they might find the task too difficult
- Fear of looking incompetent or not on top of my job
- Fear that I will be judged or criticised for work that is not my own
- Fear that I may have to admit “I don’t know”
- Fear of failure
So, a lot of fear and worry to be holding on to…
He who does not trust enough will not be trusted. Lao Tzu
Instead, let’s put “control” down for a while and pick up “trust”.
Self- application: a trust exercise:
Answer the following coaching questions:
- How is trust different to control for you?
- Think of a time when you gave trust to someone.How did you feel?
- How did the other person respond?
- What was the outcome for you when you gave trust?
- Where in your body do you feel trust?
- What did that person say or do that helped you to trust them?
- Think of a time when someone else gave trust to you.How did you feel?
- What did you say or do to show that you could be trusted?
- What was the outcome of them offering you their trust?
- What risk was that person taking in trusting you?
- How do you react when someone breaks your trust?
Trust yourself, you will start to trust others. Santosh Kalwar
Trust is personal
Trust means different things to different people. We do not all build trust in the same way. For example: I may trust you because I know that you will do what you say. You may trust me because you know that I will always make time to listen to you.
We tend to be more aware of trust when it is broken than when it is being built. Almost everyone can give an example of when a single action broke the trust that was built over years.
In our virtual, long distant, and fast changing world, relationships of trust are created in different ways than the more personal, face-to face shared experiencesof the past.
Some people feel comfortable giving trust easily at the beginning of a relationship and then dial it down based on the actions of the other person while others start at an initial lower level and build it gradually over time. How do you build trust?
Coaching application 1
As coaches we must have absolute trust in our clients. We trust that the client is the expert of their own life and dreams. We trust the client:
- To choose the topic that is important to the client
- To have all the abilities and resources necessary to meet their challenges and fulfil their dreams
- To take responsibility for their own actions
It is a coaches’ challenge to stay in the trust zone and ignore the temptation to ask a leading question or direct towards a particular solution. When we take control of the content or drive towards a solution we move backwards from trust to control.
Coaching application 2
Shifting from control to trust: some coaching questions:
- Name a person that you really trust. What are the reasons you trust them?
- How do you feel when you can trust another person?
- What dreams (or goals) do you want to fulfill?
- If you had more time what could you achieve?
- What important things are you not doing at the moment?
- What is the risk of not doing them? For you/for your family/for your organisation?
- What would trusting your manager/son/colleague give you?
- What do you risk by not giving trust?
- What must the other person do for you to trust them?
- How do you communicate your trust needs to others?
- What actions do you want to take to give trust to others?
- For you, what is the first step to give trust?
- What resources can help you?
Trust is contagious
Learning to trust is a skill that takes practice and can be learnt. The more we trust the easier it gets. Trust is also contagious and is shared, reciprocated and multiplied.
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. Ernest Hemingway
The Speed of Trust by Stephan M.R, Covey 2006
TED talks by Simon Sinek