Cultivates Trust and Safety: ICF Core Competency 4

Posted On: February 12, 2021

ICF Core Competency 4: Cultivates Trust and Safety part 2

See/read part 1.

Written by: Jennifer Kumar (Managing Director, head Coach of Authentic Journeys) 


[00:00:01] And welcome. I’m Jennifer Kumar. I’m actually here for part two of the core competency number for deep dive, which is revolving around the topic, cultivating trust and safety. So let me edit in that conversation. Hold tight.



[00:00:25] All right. So when we are looking at the third section where we are trying to avoid assigning meaning, I actually I’m trying this through discussing the PCC markers here, because although we are assigning some meaning to the PCC markers, we’re going to see if we can use these markers to help us avoid assigning meaning when we’re coaching, especially when we’re looking at this competency. So I want to take a little time to go through each of these points. So when we look at

4.1 “Coach acknowledges and respects the client’s unique talents, insights and work in the coaching process.”

Now, some of this obviously might take time for us to understand our clients personalities because they’re going to be different. Even if someone grew up right next door to us, they’re going to be different than us. So we also want to remember that their culture is going to be different. Their family culture is going to be different. Some things about their way of living are definitely going to be different than ours. It’s like a fingerprint. Our culture is a fingerprint compared to another person’s fingerprint. Even within the same household, there’s going to be different viewpoints. We all probably know that all too well. So we can only imagine that even within the same community, there’s going to be so many different viewpoints and approaches to how we think, learn and dissect our world and want to make sense out of it. So when we expand that out to our states, our country, a different country, we’re going to obviously see and hear about a lot of different things and learn about a lot of different things that we never experience. I’ll give you an example here.


[00:02:16] So I was coaching a professional in India about being agile.


[00:02:23] All right. So as we were discussing this, he shared a very interesting story with me about his first experience about being agile. But he could remember there’s probably ones that were much earlier in his life than this one since this one took place when he was around, I think, 18 years old when he was learning to drive. It’s very common in that part of India to just stop in the middle of the road and kind of take a U-turn wherever you want, almost like what I’ve seen and I call the Utah U-turn. But he was saying that when his father taught him how to drive, he said, one way I’m going to teach you to be flexible and learn how to handle stress under any circumstance is stop in the middle of the road and take a U-turn. So you’re going to stop in the middle where there is no stop sign or there’s no traffic light or signal and you’re just going to stop there. You’re going to wait until there’s a gap big enough for you to make a U-turn. And these roads are very narrow in India. They’re not wide like the Utah roads or streets. They’re very narrow. And sometimes you have to make a K-point turn when you’re actually trying to make a U-turn. And his dad made him do this over and over again. So he said this really helped me to learn how to handle stress under pressure and not worry about other people because it would be honking at me and people probably even swearing at me because I’m getting in their way.


A wide residential road in Salt Lake City looking toward the Oquirrh Mountains. 

The wide residential roads in Salt Lake City, Utah


A narrow street in Kochi, India (riding into Mattancherry).



[00:03:59] I found that a very interesting approach because definitely growing up in the U.S., that would not have been something in my world experience at all. In fact, doing something like that where I grew up in New York State would be considered illegal. So so it was definitely a way…he gave me a perspective that I hadn’t thought of before and that helped me adapt to communicating with him on a different level.


[00:04:28] And I’ve always remembered that although that happened probably a decade ago…. that… That interaction.

Let’s look at…


[00:04:36] 4.2 Supporting, showing support, empathy or concern for the client.


[00:04:44] So interestingly enough, how we show empathy, support or concern differs from culture to culture. I actually wrote a blog quite a while ago about how motivation differs from culture to culture. Because of that, it’s natural that support, empathy and concern would naturally vary from culture to culture. We might think it’s global, but actually it’s not. And even even if a smile kind of means the same thing, how it can be interpreted in different situations, sometimes is different. In some cultures, that smile would mean that you’re happy and you really are there to help a person. But in certain situations, that same smile and a different culture could mean you’re being sarcastic or condescending. So maybe this is why in some cases people prefer to turn the video off when they’re coaching across cultures.


[00:05:41] And I’ve been guilty of, you know, using the wrong expression at times.


[00:05:47] So I was I was in a training program as an example. I was doing training not coaching. And it’s common in the American culture for teachers to show support to the students by sitting on the side of the desk. And as soon as I did this in India, I sat on the side of a table because it wasn’t really a classroom, it was a corporate  boardroom. I sat in the side of a table and suddenly I noticed that the participants in the training program were looking at me suspiciously and some of them looked almost like they were offended. And then immediately it came to my mind. I’ve been in India. I studied my master’s degree in India. I had never seen a teacher sit on the side of a table or a desk, never, not once. And then I realized, oh, my gosh, this must not be the proper etiquette here in this country, even though it’s considered completely natural, a way to build trust and rapport in the U.S., at least in my experience. So suddenly I got down from the desk and actually it was a perfect example. I use it as a perfect cross-cultural example since it was a cross-cultural training program and that opened a lot of conversation in the classroom.


Read: A Cross-Cultural Approach to Learning and Teaching: US & India Comparative Study


[00:06:57] And and I obviously adapted my behavior after that and did not sit on the corner of a desk in a training program in India.

4.3 Coach acknowledges and supports the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs or suggestions.


[00:07:17] I don’t think I really need to go into that. I’ve already mentioned that. So I’m going to go on to number four.

4.4 Coach partners with the client by inviting the client to respond in any way to the coach’s contributions and accepts the client’s response.


[00:07:34] So here’s what I’m I’m considering, is that when we are coaching our clients who are from a different culture than us, especially if we are very aware they’re from a different culture than us it might might be wise to remember, we should not jump to conclusions because how they how that situation unfolded and how they assign meaning to that will be completely different than us, especially if we have never grown up in that country, never been to their country, never been to their culture, never been to their town, never been to their house, never been close to that environment. It’s offensive to assign meaning to anyone’s life, regardless of the culture and regardless of how close they are perceived to be to us, even if they are our own family members, our own spouses, or children. So we want to really avoid doing that. So instead, we might approach the situation by mentioning I’ve noticed that. Or is it is it OK with you if I share an observation of what I…I’m hearing? Mentioned that if the client says yes and then ask them to assign  meaning. So I noticed this. What how would you define this or what does this mean to you or how would what’s a word you would use to describe this particular experience or situation? We learn a lot that way and then we can actually take that information, that word, that phrase, that explanation and we can remember that every time we interact with that particular client and we can use their vocabulary and how we speak to them. One of the most important lessons I learned while working in India, there’s too many to count, really, but when I first started working for one of the largest clients I’ve worked with, the H.R. manager came to me and said, the best advice I can give to you right now is learn the language of the teams that you’re working with. This will help you to get hired by them quicker. And we all know that in a corporate sense, the more you know their wordings, their jargon, their language, you put it into your resume, you put it into your interview, you put it into everyday corporate speak, you’re going to rise up in the organization. So if you are a senior software developer and you want to be a manager, you start speaking like your manager and over time you will evolve into that position. So just like that, the more we learn to speak the language of our client, we relate to them quicker and easier. So they will resonate with us easier and build that trust quicker. Have you experienced something like this in your life? There are so many other aspects of this competency I can discuss, but all the competencies somewhat overlap, so I’ll definitely be able to share more in more videos coming up. And I know between all this conversation, it’s almost 20 minutes. So I appreciate you listening throughout this. I hope you found it useful and you found it something that you can actually practically think about when you’re going to go into coaching.


[00:11:16] Let me turn off the screen here.


[00:11:20] So, again, I just want to end this by reminding you that, I’m Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. I do cross-cultural training and coaching. I do specialize in working with software development teams that work in India, that work with the U.S. clients.


[00:11:36] I do individual coaching, team coaching and training and consulting. In addition, I’m also running mastermind for a coaching competencies under the ICF and I’m happy to coach you or mentor coach you. 


Take a moment to listen to our insights into other ICF Core Competencies (2021):

  1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice. Definition: Understands and consistently applies coaching ethics and standards of coaching. … 
  2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset 
  3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements  
  4. Cultivates Trust and Safety (part 1) (part 2
  5. Maintains Presence 
  6. Listens Actively
  7. Evokes Awareness
  8. Facilitates Client Growth 
Jennifer Kumar, author and ICF PCC credentialed coach initiated the Coach 2 Coach Mastermind through the ICF High Country Chapter in 2021. Members who join the chapter can get a great deal on attending future cohorts, or look to this page for more information. The Coach 2 Coach Mastermind deep dives into the 2021 updated ICF Core Competencies 3 through 8 through discussion, application, peer coaching and feedback. Upon completion, you will receive a certificate of 7.5 CCEUs from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). We hope you can join us.


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