Cultivating an Environment of Trust through Coaching

January 03, 2022

When it comes to planting growth, the pH of the soil, the temperature, moisture, and availability of nutrients all constitute the soil’s environment and play a vital role in the growth of the plant. In the same manner, the work environment plays a crucial role in employee performance and overall business growth. It is thus important that a conducive environment is established and continuously maintained in the workplace. The key to this is cultivating an environment of trust.

Trust in the workplace is a two-way phenomenon; it entails trusting your employees, as well as employees trusting the organization. A Gallup study found that only one-third of employees surveyed globally trust the leadership of their organization. Low levels of trust can be detrimental to organizational performance as they are characterized by low employee commitment, low employee initiative, and high attrition rates. Similarly, an organization’s lack of trust in staff can be evidenced through a command-and-control dominated management style, as well as a rigid workforce. These practices date back to the 1900s industrial era where workers were predominantly seen as no more than manual laborers. Times have changed drastically and over the years we have witnessed the emergence of ‘human resources, ‘people development’, and ‘coaching’ that all highlight the importance of the worker, not just as a manual laborer, but as a significant contributor to the success of the organization.  In his book titled ‘The 8th Habit’, Stephen R. Covey describes the new era as the Knowledge Worker Age where emphasis should be placed on accessing the unique talent, voice, and potential of each worker. He highlights that organizations must adopt a new mindset, new skillsets, and new toolsets to harness the potential of their workersin short, a whole new habit!

21st-century managers simply don’t and can’t have all the right answers. Instead, the role of the manager should focus on providing support, guidance and creating an environment of trust where employees can thrive best; essentially managers must take up the role of a coach. He/she asks questions instead of providing answers, supports employees instead of judging them, and facilitates their development instead of dictating what has to be done. There should be an overall organizational shift from being “know-it-alls” to being “learn-it-alls”, thus reflecting a growth mindset.

One of the best ways to establish this environment of trust is by incorporating coaching into everyday conversations through the use of the GROW model as described below:

(G) GoalWhat is the goal at hand? This may mean the goal of a specific task, or the overall goal of the organization, but it is important that the employee is able to establish what he/she is looking to achieve per time. Begin a conversation by inquiring about their immediate goal, and how that fits into the larger organizational goals.

(R) RealityWith the goal established, ask questions centered around what, when, where, and who. This allows the employee to focus on specific facts, by considering different aspects of the task they may have initially overlooked.

(O) OptionsJust like anyone else, employees often feel stuck and at this point may be discouraged. As a manager, you can help your team think more broadly and deeply, by encouraging them to explore the strengths and weaknesses of each presented option. Do not be quick to shut down new ideas, and introduce activities such as brainstorming sessions and mind mapping initiatives that allow them to think outside the box.

(W) Way ForwardNow, this is the time to draw out the line of action. It may be tempting to tell the employee what to do here, but as highlighted in my previous publications, autonomy is a key motivator to achieving tasks and is also vital in building trust in the workplace. Ask questions like “What will you do?” or “How will you execute this?”  If their answer seems bulky, ask them to break it down further into actionable steps.

Remember, your role is to partner with your employees in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.  Cultivating a coaching culture by creating an environment of trust and safety is no easy task, and is neither a quick fix. It is one that takes time and effort by all parties involved but reaps multi-faceted long-term results. Incorporate the GROW model today in your workplace conversations and note the difference it makes.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash