Building Trust in a Career Coaching relationship – Part 1


One of the most important elements in any Coach and Client relationship is TRUST.  Without establishing Trust in life we know that relationships and dialogues between two people can quickly and easily fail.  We have also been told that establishing Trust is pivotal and it takes time. Equally it can be broken quickly with sometimes serious and far reaching results.

But how important is Trust in a Professional work relationship and how can we assess Trust and measure it?  Any Career Coach will tell you how key the Trust element is to their client relationship and how they take time to establish rapport and set out boundaries in the early stages of any client programme and certainly at or before the first meeting.  Many of us have our own distinctive and natural way to gain our client’s trust and we are both comfortable with it and know immediately and instinctively that it works irrespective of the client and his or her background or personality.

So can we break down “TRUST” in any way into a set of ingredients to help us understand how to recognise it in others and to measure how good we are at building it ourselves?


A way I have found useful is to look at  “THE TRUST EQUATION”


Let’s go through the trust equation piece by piece and look at the best way to quantify the formula.

T = C + R + I / S,

where T = Trust, C = Credibility, R = Reliability, I = Intimacy, S = Self-orientation


Credibility          = Words = Credentials plus honesty

Reliability          = Actions = Promises kept

Intimacy            = Emotions = Feel comfortable talking to you about the sensitive, personal issues connected to the surface issue

Self-orientation = Motives = Know that you care about serving our interests


If you fail to be any of these you’ll be seen as:


Credible            A windbag

Reliable            Irresponsible

Intimate            Vendors

Unselfish           Manipulative



Credibility is the area most commonly achieved. It focuses on technical expertise…plus presence. Presence refers to how we look, act, react, and talk about our technical expertise. You must illustrate not just assert. It takes a moderate amount of time to establish compared to the other components of trust. The rational part of credibility (believability – not telling lies) can be examined or checked pretty quickly (i.e., references). The emotional side of credibility (honesty – telling the complete truth) takes longer to evaluate because honesty has to do with being comfortable with you. You must allay any unconscious suspicions of incompleteness.


Two things do this quicker than anything else:

1). anticipating needs and

2). speaking about needs that are not commonly talked about (best to do this in the form of a question).


A few ways to enhance Credibility:

Tell the truth.

  1. Don’t over exaggerate.
  2. Avoid saying things that others may construe as lies. (e.g., “We’ll put our best people on it.”)
  3. When you don’t know, say so quickly and directly.
  4. If you don’t really belong there, don’t put yourself there in the first place.
  5. Do your homework.
  6. Love what you do.



Reliability is about whether clients think you are dependable and can be trusted to behave in consistent ways. It is determined mostly by the number of times the client has interacted with you. We trust those we know the best and assign less trust to those whom we have not interacted. Judgments about reliability can be borrowed by checking experiences others have had with you but these are estimates that can be quickly revised by direct client experience. Reliability links words and deeds, intention and action. This action orientation distinguishes reliability from credibility.

The rational part of reliability is the repeated experience of links between promises and action (you do what you say). This is done formally by meeting due dates, increased quality levels, increased sales, etc. but also seen less formally in how long it takes someone to return a phone call, whether meetings are cancelled or kept, quality and timeliness of day-to-day communications, etc. The emotional side of reliability is revealed when things are done in a way the client prefers, or to which they are accustomed. We unconsciously form opinions about someone’s reliability by the extent to which they seem to anticipate our own habits, expectations, routines, and quirks.

Thus, reliability in an emotional sense is the repeated experience of expectations fulfilled (see the importance of personality profiling in quickly revealing someone’s personality expectations?). Consistency (rational reliability) in terms of the client’s preferences (emotional reliability)


The next part of understanding The Trust Equation will appear in our next Blog.  Watch this space!  For more information email us at, call us on 0845 0035.


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