The role of coaching in building a culture of trust
I remember when I first heard about the catastrophic event at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. I was a child, trying to understand the connection between the explosion somewhere far away in the Soviet Union and my parents’ debate about whether my older sisters should go on an upcoming school trip. It was only later that I understood my parents’ concern and the impact of this accident on the planet and human lives.
Now, many years later, the story and its meaning have been brought back into my life through the HBO Chernobyl miniseries. No one can ever be prepared to see the stressful death scenes caused by radiation in this horrific tragedy, but what I find most deeply tragic about this story is the harsh truth about human nature. Individuals are very often willing to cover up, lie and refuse to take responsibility knowing that doing so could save lives. In many circumstances, we choose to protect and put ourselves forward rather than expose ourselves.
I tell this story because there are so many lessons to be learned from it. Not only the lessons that come from the acts of heroic individuals, but also, and perhaps more importantly, from leaders who have failed outright. The Chernobyl miniseries gives us both.
Did Chernobyl happen once, somewhere far away, and will never happen again? Or is it a story that continues to be told today only with a different plot and different actors?
Unfortunately, today as in 1986, when catastrophic leadership decisions were made, we are often pressured by a culture that upholds the belief that “what gets done, gets done”, no matter what. the price. Rather than challenging the status quo, we are driven by the fear of “rocking the boat”, believing that to do
would therefore be a dangerous move. Even if the danger is just perceived, it is just as powerful and affects our judgment and ability to be effective leaders.
The question to consider is how many leaders today rely on a culture of fear that they consciously create? I’m sure we’ve all encountered them, in our careers and in life. We meet them and recognize them too often. So when we recognize them, the question we have to ask ourselves is how much are we feeding into their power, even deciding to mind our own business or not “rock the boat”? If we mind our own business and decide to avoid conflict and not take sides because we don’t feel directly in danger, what are the consequences? Are we complicit in the perpetuation of this culture of fear? By avoiding taking risks and resisting this type of leadership, we may be compromising more than we can imagine.
Fortunately, most of us don’t run nuclear power plants, but the lessons of this story are profound and applicable in today’s unstable world. Supporting a culture of toxicity, based on fear and manipulation, will only lead to distrust and ineffective leadership. One of the lessons from Chernobyl is that if we don’t create a culture of trust and transparency in times of stability, people won’t act with trust and transparency when the going gets tough.
Coaching can play an important role in building the necessary trust and integrity in the workplace to build that necessary trust.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in an empowering and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The coaching process often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.
While trust is the foundation of productive relationships and high-performing teams, it’s not something that can be achieved overnight or just by putting HR policies in place. What we do every day to build the culture of trust, especially when it comes to creating an open coaching culture, makes a difference.
Here are three simple tips for leaders to build trust and integrity through a coaching culture:
Coaching to establish a new mindset that supports change
People will generally resist change if they fear failure. Also, leaders sometimes avoid responsibility and blame others if things don’t go well. The combination of these responses can lead to a cycle that does not support leaders or employees through change. Leaders can break this cycle and build trust by explaining how change can be embraced, adopting behaviors that promote desired risk taking, and using coaching to unleash individual creativity and potential. Through this supportive process, employees will feel more secure and confident as they navigate change or disruption.
Ask thoughtful questions and stay curious
Before, I thought that the role of a coach was to ask this “magic question”. However, what I have found much more effective is using reflective inquiry. By staying curious and asking thoughtful questions, people are more likely to engage with each other. Then, by listening carefully to their responses, you will connect more deeply with the person you are talking to. This builds trust, the foundation for strong, lasting relationships and a culture of trust.
Listen with empathy and have your team’s back
Trust is built when others experience a moment when you have your back. How you react when the project is likely to fail and how you demonstrate your coaching skills during times of high pressure is the catalyst for building trust. Empathy is key to gaining trust and reducing resistance to change.
Trust is not built overnight and is not easy to do. There is no miracle solution. However, every leader can become motivated to adopt positive behaviors that reinforce the culture of integrity by practicing coaching skills that support diverse stakeholders and promote shared goals and values.
According to Building Strong Coaching Cultures for the Future, a 2019 study by the International Coaching Federation and the Human Capital Institute (HCI), developing coaching skills for leaders is an ongoing process in organizations with strong coaching cultures. coaching.
Integrating the 3 key tips for leaders using coaching skills can be difficult at first and require conscious effort, but the result can be as powerful as avoiding catastrophic events like the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
If you need help with your organization and leader’s coaching journey, contact us at ICF and our team of volunteers in the UK will be happy to help.