The Coaching Case: A Matter of Trust

Micheline Germanos October 14, 2015 0
The Coaching Case: A Matter of Trust

As coaches, we have many of the tools of effective facilitation in our toolboxes. Curiosity, openness, and the ability to listen both for what is and is not being explicitly said are all essential for working successfully with groups. Being genuinely empathetic to the issues the team is grappling with and providing direct yet respectful feedback is as useful with a group as it is in our individual coaching work. I have found that working with teams once every quarter or so complements my individual coaching work and allows me to feel temporarily part of a tribe—probably the only aspect of my past corporate life that I sometimes miss.

Recently, I had the opportunity to do exactly that when one of the sales leaders I coach wanted to bring her leadership team together in order to enhance their collaboration and overall effectiveness in a year of dramatic change.

The situation: A strong and charismatic leader who needs to implement deep strategic, executive and organizational changes. A leadership team dispersed across Russia, where ongoing tension between Moscow and the other regions fuels the lack of trust quietly growing within the team. A two-day off-site workshop intended to create a different mindset within the team.

As my client and I explored the key issues preventing the team from operating at its best, the theme of trust—or, rather, the lack of trust—arose again and again. This was exacerbated by the fact that only half the team was based in Moscow. The further a team member worked from the city, the likelier that his or her trust in the team had given way to defiance and frustration. We agreed that she had to bring all of the leaders on her team together to address the situation, and scheduled a two-day off-site workshop in Moscow.

My client recognized that she could be biased in her own assessment and welcomed my offer to interview the 20 participants in advance to get a complete, unbiased picture of the situation. Those interviews revealed critical information that guided the agenda and contributed to the overall success of the workshop. I learned that the regional teams felt the challenges they were faced with were not appreciated by the central team; as a result, they felt less valued. The Moscow team, on the other hand, believed their regional counterparts weren’t sufficiently transparent about the issues they faced. Their constant probing and requests for weekly meetings and reports fueled the regional teams’ belief that they were treated as “less-than.” Every communication glitch, however minor or unintentional, fed into these beliefs and perpetuated the cycle of distrust.

In addition to providing valuable insights, these interviews helped me create a connection with each participant. They also signaled that their leader valued their perspective.

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