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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Earning Trust in the First Five Minutes:
A Formula for Impact

By Angela James, Learning and Development Consultant, Gallup

As a strengths coach in a strengths-based conversation, you are the expert. Conveying that message in the first five minutes is key to building trust and, ultimately, to building your success. How do you establish a conversation that makes an impact and leaves them wanting more? How do you quickly build trust?

You may be thinking, “I need to ask great questions.” And you’d be partially correct. More than simply asking great questions, you need to consider the very best questions for the individual you are coaching. What are the best questions to ask this person, and how will they react to the information being shared? Remember the odds of meeting someone with identical themes are one in 33.3 million, so every conversation is different.

The good news is the secret to personalizing a meaningful approach for any individual is right in front of you.

It all boils down to how much you prepare with the themes you are given. An individual’s StrengthsFinder results provide you with valuable clues to thinking proactively about how to present the information you may be sharing.

Earning trust takes time. But you can plant early seeds of trust with careful and quick preparation. You need simply to determine where to begin and what to share.

For example: If the person has high Analytical, you may want to begin your conversation with a review of the StrengthsFinder background, statistics and data to grab their attention and convince them to continue listening. Know that whatever information you share with them will be received with some skepticism, so provide the background and anticipate that this person will ask lots of questions.

If your client is high in Deliberative, know that they may be more of a private person. Some of the traditional questions we typically ask in the initial meeting, they may not want to answer yet. Trust is not built yet, so share a bit about yourself and give them your agenda as to what the call will be about and what they can anticipate from these sessions. 

Someone high in Learner may be curious about the opportunity to learn more, but may not necessarily be as interested in the immediate application of their strengths. 

Someone high in Individualization naturally gets the idea of strengths, so be prepared with more ideas about the application of their strengths, rather than focusing on basic information about why strengths are important.

If you have someone high in Achiever, you need to begin by sharing with them how using their strengths will help them go further in their career or to be a better leader and drive business outcomes.

As you can see, I could go on and on. As you prepare, ask yourself what this person’s themes may need in order to build a relationship. You’ll find there are clues among their top five strengths for individualizing your approach in a way that ensures you are speaking the same language from the start.

Once you are off and flying, another important consideration is to determine how mature or raw this person is in their knowledge -- and the language -- of StrengthsFinder. Be careful not to assume that since they took the assessment, they spent a lot of time reading and understanding their own report. Ask questions in the beginning to determine this. Things like, “Is this your first exposure to StrengthsFinder?” and “Have you had any additional learnings around StrengthsFinder?” and “Which of your themes resonate with you?” This last question has always been a big one for me. If I have someone tell me that not all of their strengths resonate with them, then I will begin discussing the ones they don’t connect with first. This is in order to reduce any skepticism they might have about the validity of the report, instead of starting at the top and going in order of the top five.

Let’s review -- here’s what I’ve found to be a helpful way of considering the difference we can make as coaches.

Formula for success: Preparation x Building Trust = Impact

  • Preparation: Analyzing the StrengthsFinder report to determine where to begin the conversation
  • Building Trust: Asking the right questions and sharing the right information based on their top five themes
  • Impact: Anticipating how they may use the information you share

While your client is the expert in their own experiences, in the coaching relationship, you are the expert in strengths-based performance. Preparation and a desire to build trust creates an environment for your expertise to truly shine. And regardless of the individual strengths you bring to the table, I think we can all agree that making a positive impact on someone else benefits everyone. 

Angela James is a Learning and Development Consultant with Gallup. Since joining the company in 2006, her client work has focused on change management, performance improvement through coaching and learning and development programs. Her areas of expertise include strengths-based development, employee and customer engagement and leadership development.

Angela's top five strengths: Restorative | Developer | Belief | Includer | Harmony.

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