One of the things that will make or break a coaching relationship is the level of trust and honesty between the coach and the client. This is not only the degree to which you are able to be candid with your coach but also the degree to which your coach can be honest with you. Let’s look at this from both perspectives.
While the coaching engagement might include a 360-degree assessment and a calibration with your supervisor, for the most part, the only insight your coach will have into your performance is what you share with them. Sometimes, though, I find clients trying to position themselves in the best possible light or avoiding talking about situations that aren’t going the way they had hoped. The coaching space should be one where you can come as you are, share what you are experiencing, and engage in dialogue with your coach to determine a path forward. Therefore, the more you are able to be straightforward, the better able your coach is to guide you.
Conversely, a coach can help you see aspects of your behavior that you may be getting in your way. These may be behaviors that have been brought to your attention, such as through a performance review or in a development conversation. Or, these may be behaviors that you are unaware of but the coach is able to discern in their work with you. This means being open to hearing things that may, at first, feel a bit hard to hear. The coach is your partner in not only bringing these behaviors to your attention but in helping you to address them.
A coach has your best interest at heart. If, however, their approach doesn’t work for you — if they aren’t offering feedback in a way that you can hear it, truly take it in — then it is important that you be able to share with them what is and isn’t working for you.
The coaching relationship is reciprocal. While it is important for the client to listen with an open mind and to process any emotional reaction that may arise from the coach’s insight if they are to see the opportunity, it is just as important for the coach to listen deeply to the perspective of the client, to reflect on what they are learning, and to use that understanding to refine their approach. At its best, the coaching relationship is a partnership based on mutual trust and honesty.