Do Your People Trust You? Strengthen Work-Relationships with a Coach-Approach

August 1, 2019, Uncategorized

Would your team members come to you if they made a mistake?

I recently facilitated a skills development workshop for a group of early career professionals and found myself disheartened by a comment that the notion of their leaders really supporting their professional growth and development was as unlikely as “world peace”. When snickers and nods of agreement quickly spread in the room, my internal radar went off.

The belief that surfaced was that it’s hard to trust someone who seems to place financial targets as their top priority, while the well-being and individual success of the “worker-bees” seems to fall off the radar.

While it may be unfair to assume that leaders really only care about the bottom line, the perception exists.

If you’re curious as to whether some of your team-members feel this way, consider:

When was the last time that… 

          a team-member told you that they were struggling with some aspect of their work?

          a team-member told you about a mistake they made or a complaint they received about their work?

          a team-member asked you to support them in their application   for a development opportunity or new job outside of your shop?

If you answered “never” or “once a long time ago” this may be a sign of a lack of trust. Unfortunately, this can lead to disengagement, low productivity, lack of accountability, and attrition.

The good news is that trust can be built, re-built and strengthened. While a trusting relationship is a “two-way street”, I have found that leaders can begin to bridge the gap between supporting the growth and development of their team-members AND achievement of business goals by taking a “Coach-Approach” to leadership.

What does a Coach-Approach Look Like?

Some bosses are good at setting agendas, focusing on task accomplishment, giving advice, and sharing their own success stories.

On the other hand, leaders who take a Coach-Approach:

  • create and hold a safe and respectful space for conversations 
  • are curious about what their team-members consider to be their most important agenda items and focus on these
  • listen to learn and understand, not to defend or judge
  • acknowledge when something sounds difficult and provide the time and space to process and clear the situation
  • positively challenge team-members to recognize and utilize their strengths when they face a barrier
  • avoid problem-solving for their team-members
  • trust in team-members’ capability to find solutions that may be different or better than those of the leader
  • actively provide and seek feedback
  • know when it’s time to shift from being “coach-like” to a different role such as manager, mentor, counsellor, etc.

How Does Taking A Coach-Approach Build Trust?

By approaching conversations in a coach-like way, you will interact with and develop others more effectively. By showing support and providing positive challenge, you will help your team-members come to their own insights and promote their growth and development.

The focus of your conversations will shift from what team-members should do, to who they want to be in the context of the workplace.

Don’t get me wrong, all of your conversations won’t be about what they want. Being clear on goals, objectives, expectations and providing advice and direction can all be integral to a successful work-relationship.

By taking a Coach-Approach whenever possible, team-members will ultimately become more engaged and accountable; a win-win situation.

With higher levels of engagement and accountability, team-members can also build trust with their leaders, making the “two-way street” of a trusting relationship operational.        

If you would like to find out more about how I coach professionals and leaders to strengthen work-relationships, and provide skill development workshops for groups, email me at or check out

Karmen Masson. CEC, LLB, BA