TRUST People first, knowledge second
A positive and impactful coach-client relationship is founded on knowledge and experience, but driven to success by something else
By John Noonan
I’ve spoken a lot on podcasts lately about the importance of a ‘people first’ philosophy in our industry. As coaches, for centuries we’ve invested in knowledge, evidence-based and anecdotal rationale to support practice. And while a considered ‘balance’ between developing scientific knowledge alongside the soft skills is a more common message in our industry, do you honestly consider relationships as the most important asset you have above all else, or is this just something you say?
The notion; “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is not a new one. Many, many coaches fall into the trap of believing ‘knowledge is king’, and of course you can’t truly influence (smart)people with knowledge from the back of a cereal box. Acquiring high quality knowledge takes deliberate and intentional learning in many forms, and this should always remain a strong focal point for coaches. By in large, our coaching currency is represented by our degree certifications, highlighting a level of knowledge and to fulfill a job criterion. But like the health care industry, the S&C industry has a problem–competition for roles drives a mentality for higher professional qualifications to meet the ‘minimum qualification’. Frankly there’s no hiding from the number of letters, or lack of, following your name. Black and white, its a mark of distinction.
“Forming relationships takes time, mutual investment and considered effort to give back. It is deliberate, not by chance.”
Similar to the education pathway, building effective coach-athlete/client relationships takes a considerable amount of time and effort. With people skills and emotional intelligence accepted as vital elements for effective conversations and skill to influence over coach/athlete behaviour. So lets get real for a second, the likelihood of a head coach changing their session plan based on our recommendation, or the reality that our athletes will make a decision based on something we said ultimately comes down to – do they TRUST you….
- Do I trust this person and the information?
- What’s the benefit to me, and the cause?
- Will it help? (the result, fitness, injury)
Notice the order…Before we can even begin to spout evidence and knowledge from scientific literature, we will have little influence if the trust stock is low. People need to feel that you’re invested in what they want and need.
Does your intention and belief resonate with something they believe in and value? If we’re to gain personal trust, these elements must be present for someone to begin to trust in our message. And so, how we construct and deliver this message requires thought and tact.
You hear people complain that universities aren’t teaching practitioners the soft skills of communication, reflective thinking, emotional intelligence. Sure, the importance of teaching “how to coach” is important, but honestly, the responsibility lies with the coach. This knowledge should be cultivated from readings,understanding who you are as a person, your values, beliefs and cross referencing these against your experience from coaching. Then, figure out how you will relate and use this with the environment and people you work with. In essence, have a plan about how you intend to communicate and stay alert to the effectiveness and impact this has.
Forming relationships takes time, mutual investment and considered effort to give back. It is deliberate, not by chance.
Bottom line: Take care of your assets and your assets will look after you.