Building Trust in Professional Coaching Relationships

In my current coursework for my Digital Education Leadership program we are looking at what is needed to be a successful Educational Technology coach. Using the ISTE Standards for Coaches as a framework, for this module we are looking at these standards (ISTE, 2017):

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

b. Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels

d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

Although there are many factors and qualities of a successful coach, one that I wanted to explore this week is trust. Establishing a culture of trust is key in all relationships, and professional coaching relationships are no different. But how do you build trust professionally? Especially if the relationship is short-term or in group environment (versus 1-1 coaching). I think one of the biggest hurdles to successful coaching relationships in school is that the term “coach” is so broad. Both coaches and those being coached aren’t clear about what specific coaching role is needed in their situation. So expectations aren’t defined and often one (or both) parties feel misunderstood and that their goals aren’t being met. This is a tremendous missed opportunity and loss of valuable resources. I want to focus on exploring trust and building positive and effective coaching relationships and I believe the first step to making this happen is for coaching roles and expectations of all parties (administration, coach, teacher) to be clearly defined.

Developing a relationship based on respect and trust between coach and learning partner is nonnegotiable for successful coaching.(Foltos, 2013)

When doing my research on this I came across I read Les Foltos’ book, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. In this book “The Building Blocks of Trust” were discussed. I found this graphic and idea to be very easy to understand and it has helped me grasp both the importance of trust in coaching relationships as well as how to build this trust.

The Building Blocks of Trust are composed of 3 levels. Compassion, communication, and commitment make up the base of the pyramid. Without one of these trust cannot exist and the coaching relationship will not be as successful as it has the potential to be. Collaboration and Ability make up the middle level and integrity is at the top of the pyramid.

“Trust must be present in order to have meaningful conversations about practice. Trusting relationships among professional colleagues are often the missing ingredient needed to sustain Peer Coaching success” (Robbins, 2015). Robbins, in her book, Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice,

School Culture, and Student Learning, goes on to say that many literacy and math coaches haven’t been successful in recent years because, although coaches might have a content area knowledge, without focusing on building relationships and trust coaching efforts fail.

From the reading I have done on this topic and using my own experiences of coaching and being coached I have come up with 4 “must- haves” for building trust in a professional coaching relationship.

Must-Haves for Building Trust:

1. Clarify that you are not an evaluator.

2. From the first meeting be transparent and honest about setting up expectations and norms for your meetings and work together.

3. As the coach, it is important that you have instruction and practice with communication skills and strategies. Use these.

4. Be reliable and follow through on your coaching responsibilities.


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, November 30) from:

Robbins, P. (2015). Peer Coaching to Enrich Professional Practice, School Culture, and Student Learning. Chapter 1: Establishing the Need for Peer Coaching. Found online at:

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