Honesty, collaboration and intuition – keys to designing effective working relationships

If you were to engage me as your coach, one of the first things we’d do is design our alliance. That may sound a bit highfalutin or like something they’d do on Game of Thrones but it simply means that we check that we have the same understanding of our working relationship, its commitments, its expectations and its values. We’re building the non-judgmental, secure thinking space within which you will work, learn, explore, plan and develop.

Throughout the coaching programme, this alliance evolves as our relationship evolves but right at the beginning, it’s key to me as your coach to know that you are feeling comfortable and empowered before we go any further.

At this stage, it’s also important to work out how you want me to be as your coach. How do you want me to challenge you? Do I have your permission to be direct with you? When you start to work on the action plans we’ve worked on together, I will be cheering you on from the sidelines. Are you prepared to be accountable to me when I ask you if you’ve done what you said you would do?

Clarifying our expectations of each other at the beginning of the coaching relationship – and being flexible enough to adapt as the work goes on – gives us a firm foundation in our work together. It helps us to get to know each other, to trust each other and to feel comfortable accessing our intuition to help us work better together.

Freeman Thomas design trust collaboration questions integrity intuition

Freeman Thomas was talking about cars when he said ‘Good design begins with honesty, asks tough questions, comes from collaboration and from trusting your intuition’ but the same thinking could be applied to designing a coaching alliance.

However, I don’t think that designing alliances should be reserved purely for the coaching relationship. Many of the issues that clients present to me seem to be about mismatched expectations. I am sure that we all recognise that people make assumptions about each other. We sometimes struggle to remember our differences and are disappointed when people don’t behave towards us the way we behave towards them.

What would it be like if you designed your alliance with your team? Do you know what really matters to your colleagues? Do you know what you expect of each other? Can you be straightforward and honest with one another? Are you happy to keep each other accountable for actions you agree? Time taken to create healthy, accountable, trusting, proactive working relationships would seem to be time well spent.

It may feel a little awkward to ask someone how they’d like you to manage them and they may not know the answer straight away. It will very probably feel awkward for you to take the plunge and tell your manager how you think your relationship could work better. From what I observe and what I hear from my coaching clients, if we don’t do so, it’s as though we’re walking round blindfolded and just hoping we don’t crash into anything.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: which of your relationships could benefit from a designed alliance?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to take action and create positive change in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?



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