Creating Learning Partnerships

Jaletha Smith

Jaletha Smith

As a coach, I believe it is my responsibility to create an environment of trust where coachees feel comfortable being themselves, being open and vulnerable, and taking risks to understand what’s holding them back and creating space for growth. 

A positive coaching relationship is essential for successful outcomes. What key ingredients create a high-quality coaching relationship? Is it common interests or likability? Or something more tangible? 

Coaches who understand what’s involved in positive coach-coachee relationships are best-equipped to help guide others on a path towards growth and success.   

Let’s explore some essential components that make up a strong relationship skill set for coaches:

  1. Trustworthiness: Good coaches build trust with their coachees. They respect them as people, maintain confidentiality, and communicate clearly. This creates a safe space for growth and change. 
  2. Empathy: The best coaches are interested in their coachees and care about their feelings. They show this through both words and body language. 
  3. Honesty: When coaches earn trust, they can share observations; successful coaches confidently engage in difficult conversations. 
  4. Guidance: Through listening and asking questions, the best coaches guide their coachees toward making their own successful decisions. 
  5. Respectability: Exemplary conduct goes a long way. Great coaches are professional and reliable. They’re confident, and humble. 
  6. Integrity: Good coaches can help others improve because they’ve experienced growth in their own lives. They remain willing to change and develop.
  7. Reassure on confidentiality. Confidentiality must be discussed up front, then strictly adhered to. One breach can undo weeks and months of trust-building. Be a person who keeps things confidential.
  8. Build rapport through body language. Mirror your coachee’s style, using the same tone, posture but also key words. When naturally delivered, this technique helps put the coachee at ease.
  9. Be 100% mindful. During coaching sessions (not distracted) and not judgmental, even in the choice of questions. Listen actively and manage the little chatter in your brain.
  10. Be reliable and accountable. Be true to your word and follow through with your action. It goes a long way when it comes to establishing trust in a relationship.
  11. Establish your credibility.  Share your track record, mention credible sources and provide evidence to support your ideas. Your ability to draw on your experience and various resources will be vital to helping those you coach. 

Putting These Skills to Work 

Building strong relationships is critical to my coaching success and the success of the teachers that I coach. Leveraging these skills creates a safe and trusting space that gives the coachee the confidence to do new things and operate outside of their normal comfort zone.

Because rapport is the number one indicator of success in a coaching relationship, positive results are highly correlated with a coach’s level of proficiency in these six relationship management competencies.

Know that building relationships takes time, so it might not happen right away. Relationship building works both ways. Both you and the person you coach must be invested in developing the relationship and this might take some time. Continue to find ways to keep working on the relationship if it doesn’t happen right away.