Pragmatic advice for coaches, managers & leaders

Trust me: I’m a coach

I have seen the following equation (Maister, Galford & Green, 2002) used to describe how the various elements combine to make up the amount of trust we would place in someone:

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy


 Credibility = Refers to the words we use and our credentials

Reliability = Refers to the connection between our words and our actions

Intimacy = Refers to how safe or secure the client feels in sharing with us

Self-orientation = Refers to where your genuine focus is. Are you paying attention to better understand in order to better help or are you doing so, to sell more of yourself, your services or your brand?

Note that the total score from three numerators (above the line) can be hugely impacted in a negative way, by a high self-orientation score. There is much to be gained here for coaches and mentors who understand the implications for their practice.


Your credentials and thus credibility are a key factor. Knowing what you know and being able to share knowledge for the benefit of the client is key. The trick is to do so in a way that does not appear (indeed, is not) self-serving i.e. to prove you are “the man/the woman”. I think, if you have been engaged by the individual client or their organisation, there should be little need to continue to ram past glories or complex research down their throats, in order to prove your worth. Allow your current practice to be the evidence of your expertise.


This can come in many forms for coaches and mentors, from simple things like arriving at appointments when you said you would, to writing that post-session feedback for the project sponsor as comprehensively as you had agreed to, despite your busy schedule.


I don’t like the use of that word here, as it is easy to misconstrue but I wanted to be true to the original formula. This element should be ‘bread and butter’ for great coaches and mentors. The rapport you establish and grow throughout the relationship should allow your client to remain open and share freely with you.

It is important that you established understanding about the requirement for openness from both sides, in the initial “contracting” phase but worth repeating if you get a sense that your client is holding back. Assurances about the level of confidentiality usually help get this right from the first meeting. You can further reinforce it by truly paying attention. I have seen so many coaches, mentors and managers who say they are great listeners and lose the thread of the client’s replies because their own head is too full of thoughts, that interrupt deep listening.


This is something that coaches are usually especially good at. Indeed I have written elsewhere about the challenges that the ability to suspend one’s ego so readily, can have. Usually, as your focus is so completely on your client, the perception is that coaches have a low self-orientation score, which has a beneficial effect on your Trust score. Remember: “it’s not about you, stupid!”

Working hard at each of these elements in a conscious way can certainly boost trust. The impacts of increased trust are usually increased openness in the relationship, which should result in even more effective coaching and mentoring.

Your turn

If you score yourself, as your last client would have rated you – giving a mark out of 10 for each element – how would you do? What could you do differently to improve your score?

Here’s my self-rating of how I think a client from last week, might have rated me:

Credibility: 8

Reliability: 9

Intimacy: 10

Self-orientation: 3

Which results in a Trust score of: 9 (27/3)

Photo thanks: loufi

 Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to  raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.