How are earning trust and gaining trust similar and different? Jonathan Mueller, an instructional coach at the Western Academy of Beijing, shares thoughts and strategies on ways that coaches can both gain and earn trust. The need for coaches to be consistent and flexible is also explored.
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Steve: 00:19 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:46 Trust for the coaching process. For today’s podcast, we are joined by Jonathan Mueller, a instructional coach and a PYP coordinator at the Western Academy of Beijing. I’ve had the opportunity to work and correspond with Jonathan and consider him a colleague in the coaching process. So I’m glad to have him with us here today. Welcome Jonathan.
Jonathan: 01:18 Hey Steve. Thanks for having me really appreciate your time today. Looking forward to the conversation.
Steve: 01:22 You bet. Well, I had a chance to to read an article on your new website about trust and the the building of trust. And you began by identifying a difference between building trust and earning trust and I wonder if we could start with a little bit of that descriptor?
Jonathan: 01:50 Yeah, absolutely. You know, so I think building trust and earning trust, they are two sides of the same coin. Both take patience and hard work. Building trust I see as the foundation. When I think of earning trust though, it’s something that really needs to be done continually over time and I see earning trust is the currency. You know, and earning trust happens when you follow through on what you say you’re going to do. If trust isn’t built with others, getting people to support you, be vulnerable invite you in to support them, add value to them and help them grow, it’s going to be extremely difficult as a coach. So as a coach, building trust with integrity is a fundamental aspect of good coaching as well as leadership. And it’s important to understand that a strong foundation isn’t a luxury. It isn’t something that’s just nice to have. Also, I think of building trust as a way to get people’s positive attention. You know, people buy from people that they trust. Earning trust and continuing to earn trust turns that attention into action.
Steve: 02:53 And in the in the piece that you wrote, you talked about unconditional positive regard. How does that fit into this process and trust as an outcome?
Jonathan: 03:05 Yeah. So when I was looking at ways, you know, to kind of frame the article and looking at different ways that I can start building a culture of trust, one of the things that I came across was this theory of as you said, unconditional positive regard. So the psychologist, Carl Rogers, he published this theory in 1957 and essentially what it involves is showing complete acceptance and support for another person, regardless of where they may be in their lives, what they say or do and what emotions they may be expressing. So it really means caring for someone as a separate person. And when this happens, it’s a great bridge for a coach to build a culture of trust with people. That, it’s not about just what you can do for the organization or what you can do for students.
Jonathan: 03:55 It’s going in with the mindset of that I value you and appreciate you as a human being. And when you can build that rapport through unconditional positive regard with somebody, it really helps build and continue to earn that trust with people because they feel that you value them. So in the coaching process, in the people in colleagues that I work with, essentially, when I’m able to have the opportunity to work with them, they’re showing vulnerability and essentially asking me three questions. Do you appreciate and value me? Can you help me? And, can I trust you? And I think having unconditional positive regard for people as human beings is an excellent way to start. And that’s really how it connects to building and earning trust.
Steve: 04:44 So the phrase that I frequently use, even if I connect it back to teachers looking at students and then school leaders and coaches looking at teachers, the phrase for me is knowing. That I need to know people in order to build that that positive connection and I think I’m hearing that in what you’re describing. It’s when, you know – I describe the fact that we need to know our students and the students need to know that we know. And I kind of sensed the same thing in my, in my coaching relationships. That the person knows that I know them, I know about them and that knowing them drives decisions and things that I’m doing within my work, just the way a student – I describe the fact that I want students to know the teacher works for them. They don’t work for the teacher. The teacher works for them. It’s their goals that are trying to be achieved. So very much as a coach I want to convince the teacher I’m working for you. We’re going to find out about the goals and the things that you want to achieve, and that’s what’s going to drive the the work that I do.
Jonathan: 06:03 Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s one of the things that like in starting off a coaching relationship and having that intake session, just having the opportunity where it’s like, you know, we’re going to get to goal setting and we’re going to get to all that. Let’s just have a conversation. What drives you? What do you love to do? You know, what is it about people – certain people that you love that make them important to you? How do you believe that trust should be built with people? What is it that I can do to support you the best? And you know, if you are able to do that with people and show that, you know, I’m here to serve you, I’m here to add value to you and my only agenda is for you to be successful in whatever it is that you want to learn about and get better at, right? You know, like this is a really equal partnership and I’m here to support you as best that I can. Yeah, it’s absolutely right. That just goes into showing people that they know that you care about them and them realizing, you know what, this person sees potential, and they’re here to help me and I know that they’re going to give me their best efforts so now I’m going to give them mine.
Steve: 07:14 Jonathan, I’ve got some people I’m working with right now, that are that are brand new coaches. They just started in the position this year which was a different time to be to be starting. I’ve got some coaches haven’t met the people they’re working with yet face to face. Their initial introduction and everything they’ve been doing is in an online format. I think what you’ve just described and that I labeled as knowing is an important first step. I’m wondering if there’s other first steps that you’d lay out there for coaches who are either new to the position or new to the staff that they’re currently working with?
Jonathan: 08:06 Yeah. I think a big thing is, you know, making sure that, you know, you talk to people about what your role is and you know, that it is, I’m not here to evaluate. I would love to have the opportunity to come in and just support you. And also if you give me that opportunity to come in, I like to tell people that I work with too, like, you know, this might be, you might find this interesting and you might find this a little weird because you know, you haven’t had the opportunity to engage in the coaching process before. But if you’re looking for me to do some type of observation, I’m just going to come in and look for the good. I like to do that at the same as even if I’m not working in an instructional coaching capacity, but working with teams and building team dynamics, you know, I want to help you guys get better.
Jonathan: 08:54 I don’t have all of the answers, but I can come in and give you a different lens. And I just want to come in for the first one or two sessions and see the good things that you guys do in terms of working together as a team. That kind of helps build that element of trust either where I’m not being judged and then sharing back, like, you guys do a great job at X, Y, and Z, and being timely specific with that feedback. Now, what are some things that you guys think that you would like to explore as a team, or, you know, through that, with what do I observe in your practice? What did you feel didn’t go the way that you wanted it to? Is that something you might want to explore?
Steve: 09:31 There’s a caution I’d toss out there for new coaches. And that is, if I’m coming into look for what’s exciting, I think you used the term, you know,
“what’s good,” the critical part is to get people to tell you what that is before you go looking. So that way that way it allows you to stay out of the out of the evaluative role. If I come in and decide what’s good, I actually ended up entering into the evaluative role. But if you tell me what it is that causes you to be successful with this group of kids, and I can come in and look for what it was that you told me, and I can reinforce that, I find that builds that initial trust that they’re willing to risk and then I can add a few more things to the list because I was able to first find what they said was important.
Jonathan: 10:34 Absolutely. I also think too, that if you, if you come in with a, I’m going to look for the bad, it’s almost like me as the coach saying, I’m the expert and I’m here to fix you. Teachers don’t necessarily need fixing. You know, I don’t think there’s any harsher critic on a teacher than the critic themselves. You know, they know where they want to improve and it’s, hey, let’s get there together and let’s make this fun in the process as well.
Steve: 11:01 I’ve also found for new coaches that my beginning coaching sessions being built more around what it is the teachers getting the kids to do and then backdooring from, you know, the kids really dug into activity, or the kids really got excited s you shared that piece of information. You know, what do you think caused that to happen? And then it’s almost I can get the teacher to tell me why they’re being successful and then I can reinforce those strengths that they laid out to me and that allows me to take it another step further.
Jonathan: 11:49 Absolutely. The coaching process, I think I described it as, you know, curiosity having a party. And when you’re, you know, when you’re working with those teachers and really getting into that first time, like asking those questions, like, why do you think it works so well? Like, you know, they’re going to start figuring it out for their own and you just see kind of that brain working. And it’s almost like, you know, you catch a bug when you ask really good questions and then you see teachers thinking through it and actually coming up with their own responses. And it’s like, oh yeah, I got this figured out. It’s just – it’s almost like you’re figuring out yourself and you see the excitement in them. It’s like seeing a light bulb on for a student when you’re a classroom teacher as well. It’s really cool. Love it.
Steve: 12:27 It’s that same it’s that same smile that that I get to make when a teacher looks at me and says, “oh, that’s really a good question.” And then they gotta pause before they respond and you know, that they’ve really gotten into what the real process is now, because the real process is about what they figure out much more than any anything that comes out of what we, what we might tell them.
Jonathan: 12:51 Absolutely.
Steve: 12:54 Jonathan, I’m wondering if you might have a story about about some missteps or mistakes that have occurred for you in building trust and and maybe how you worked around those?
Jonathan: 13:09 Definitely one. I would say that at the beginning, when I first went into the role, I actually wasn’t necessarily sure what the role was, what it entailed. I’ve had to do a lot of learning over the last three to four years to really figure out what it means to be a coach. So I think that putting the goals of the organization ahead of the people, right? Like, it took me time to figure out this idea of unconditional positive regard and appreciating people. And I moved from the classroom into the coaching role and it’s like all of a sudden something switched for a little bit. You know, where it’s like, I’m not in that anymore. How could I so quickly forget at the difficulty of the job? So that was one. The other on, is consistency. That, you know, I don’t think there’s a harder job than being a teacher or a harder career than being a teacher and working with kids and helping them learn.
Jonathan: 14:02 I don’t think there’s a more rewarding one either. You know, and we all have good days and bad days. So you know, as a coach, it’s really important that I maintain consistency in how I work with people in that the quality of the day cannot be the dictator of how I work, serve, and value others at all. Continuing to have that passion and that compassion with and for people and showing that empathy. You know, appreciation and showing your appreciation with words and actions that people are valued walking slowly through the crowd asking for thoughts and opinions and, you know, like I really needed to put my ego in check as well. You know, I talked with people about, you know, we need to drop our egos and work together, and yet I would find mine hiding my back pocket that I can pull out when I wanted to and it’s like that wasn’t okay. So it was like aligning my actions with what I was saying.
Steve: 15:00 It’s tough to to hear a teacher’s resistance perhaps to a direction that the that the system is headed in and not personalize it. And the real power of the coach comes from the ability to listen and think it through with the teacher. But as soon as it as soon as it smacks at my ego, that becomes increasingly difficult.
Jonathan: 15:31 I also think the, you know, going back to the idea of somebody getting defensive, or, you know, kind of like digging their heels in, it took me a while to realize that that is because of a lack of trust and rapport. So really kind of internally processing that and being like, okay, I got some pushback here. I didn’t think that I was doing anything like too bold or being too directive, but there was something that happened, you know? So then going back to those conversations and just saying, you know, hey, we’re here to work together. If, you know, if I did something that caused that lack of trust or made you feel less valued, you know, can you please tell me what that is because, you know, I want this relationship to work. Because we’re all on the same team, we’re all doing the best we can. And being willing to have that conversation and showing that vulnerability first. Being the trustor.
Steve: 16:26 It’s actually the piece of asking for coaching on your coaching.
Jonathan: 16:31 Yeah.
Steve: 16:31 So if you can begin to build into the process, those times where you stop and create the opportunity for the person that you’re providing the coaching to, to provide coaching feedback back to you on the process. Which again, we’re modeling exactly where we want to be with students. So that the teacher’s ability to get coaching from the kids on what I, what I could do differently here that would make my work of greater value to you as students. As a coach, I want to be in the same spot with teacher.
Jonathan: 17:06 Absolutely.
Steve: 17:08 There’s another piece that you that you touched for me when you talked about consistency. So I would really reinforced that term and then I’d stick another word with it and that’s flexibility. So in the classroom, I’m looking for the teacher to be consistent and flexible, which means the kids know they can count on the teacher’s consistency, but also the teacher has the ability to be flexible when the need arises. And I think that in that coaching relationship, teachers can be looking for the same thing. You know, I know I can count on Jonathan to do this and this. And I also know that Jonathan’s got a bit of flexibility, which says his agenda doesn’t trump the teacher’s agenda.
Jonathan: 18:00 Yeah, absolutely. I think it also touches upon, you know, the importance of, you know, coaching essentially is like, you know, staying in a dance with somebody, right? You’re kind of feeling it out and where they want to go and you know, making the right steps and asking the right questions to help kind of guide each other. And a lot of what comes with that is competence as well. You know, you can be as kind and caring as anyone and build that trust at the beginning. But if you’re not consistent and competent as a coach either, others won’t trust you and buy into you as a coach. I think this is kind of when earning trust really starts to take hold. You show your competency by doing what you say you will be doing and doing it successfully. And competence is about a high quality delivery delivery and part of that is having the flexibility to adjust to what the teachers need in time.
Steve: 18:49 And the coach’s ongoing learning, I think, reinforces that. So when the teacher sees the coach as a learner, not an expert who came into the process with all the answers, but engaged in his or her own learning, that extends that out further. Well, Jonathan, before we wrap up, I turned to you several months ago because you were you were one of the coaches I knew who went into quarantine earlier than the than the rest of us did. And I was asking you for some advice at that point, based on your experiences, I’m wondering I’m wondering what you see at this point many months down the road, how the work of a coach is is impacted by the global situation that we’re in.
Jonathan: 19:44 I think that it is a really great time to be a coach because there’s people that we work with you know, including ourselves, right? Like, even through COVID, like one of the things that I did was, you know, I got a coach for myself, like I needed to become a product of the product. And just how much that helped with my thinking and finding balance and making sure that I’m focusing on, you know, my health and wellbeing, as well as the health and wellbeing of the people that I was working with, and then helping them focus on the health and wellbeing of the community, the kids and the families that we serve. It’s really, really a great time. So yes, we’re in crisis and it might look different, but don’t underestimate the importance of being a coach right now and find ways to continue to connect with people and, you know, help people understand that we’re in this together. It’s not something that we used to – you’re valued and you have a lot of worth. And I just think that those things be stressed enough right now, and a coach can play a big help in continuing to support teachers and learning communities to help continue to support kids and move schools forward.
Steve: 20:59 Well, Jonathan, thank you so much. And would you tell folks about how to find your your website?
Jonathan: 21:05 Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for giving me a chance. So I just launched it yesterday. It’s called onnectedlearningpartnership.com. And there, you can reach the homepage, there’s an about me page as well as a place where you can find blog posts. I posted the first one yesterday called, “Building Trust: The Power of Appreciation and Unconditional Positive Regard.” And then within the next month, we’re looking to launch a podcast as well. I also created a coaching model called, “To Growth” and that resource is available there if anybody would like to check it out with the acronym and then as well as some guiding questions that I found to be really successful in my working with teachers, as well as educational leaders in providing a good structure and process to take people through. So I found it to be really successful. So but would love to give you the opportunity to go and have a look and make some comments or anything. But yeah, I appreciate your time today, Steve.
Steve: 22:02 That’s terrific. And we’ll be sure to to put the link to your to your site there in the lead-in to this podcast in case people were out walking as they listened and it would be tough to remember the whole thing, but they’ll find it there. So repeat it one more time for them.
Jonathan: 22:20 Connectedlearning partnership.com.
Steve: 22:24 Okay. You have a great day, Jonathan.
Jonathan: 22:26 Thanks Steve, really appreciate the time today. You take care.
Steve [Outro]: 22:30 Thanks again for listening, you can subscribe to Steve Barkley, ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.