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Maister's Trust Equation

The most typical length of a coaching assignment is just about 6 months. This means that typically, coach and coachee want to form a trusting relationship quickly so that they can maximize their time together to focus on the coaching work.

I like to turn to Maister’s trust equation to illustrate what is needed to form a trustworthy relationship. Expressed as an equation, it speaks to my love for math and logic and looks like a reliable place to be amid the degree of volatility that you may experience when starting a coaching assignment. Maybe, you, like most of my clients, have never worked with a coach before!

Here is a depiction of Maister’s framework of how to look at trustworthiness:

In words, Maister describes trustworthiness as the sum of credibility, reliability and intimacy divided by self-orientation. So, what does that mean in long form?

Credibility centers around the question whether you can trust me to coach you in light of my experience and how I present my experience to you. My coaching certificate will not be sufficient to you to experience me as credible. Do you experience me as believable and honest?

Reliability is about whether you think I am dependable and can be trusted to behave in consistent ways. You will find me to be reliable if you experience me as doing what I promised to do.

Intimacy is about whether you experience a level of closeness with me where you feel validated and safe. Do I share enough personal information with you that you feel you get to know the real me and have the courage to confide in me? Can I be a safe haven for your tough issues?

Self-Orientation is about whether you believe that you and your success are the most important part of our relationship. Alternatively, do you think I am selfish and coach you “just for the money”? Am I present in our conversations, or do I seem to be pre-occupied? Am I fully present and listening to you?

If you are interested to learn more about Maister’s Trust Equation framework, please check out this link:


Maister, D., Green, C., Galford, R. (20th Anniversary Edition, 2021). The Trusted Advisor. Free Press

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