Trust v clarity of purpose matrix

A team’s readiness for learning and achieving

Having the right environment for learning together is critical. One useful way of looking at this is the matrix below. Read the description and consider:

  • Realistically, where is this team?
  • If we are not in the high trust/ high clarity of purpose quadrant, what could we do about it? (How can we all take responsibility for getting there?)
  • If we are in the high trust/ high clarity of purpose quadrant some of the time, what can we do to make sure we are there most (or all) of the time?
  • What could we do to make sure we recognise when we slip back into one of the other quadrants?

The reality of teams is that you have to work hard to maintain both trust and clarity of purpose. It easily dissipates, especially when everyone is hard pressed to meet deadlines. Taking time to reconnect and recalibrate regularly prevents slipping back – and greatly reduces the amount of unnecessary work, mistakes and minor irritations with colleagues!



High Clarity of Purpose


Low Trust Task focussed.
Debate rather than dialogue


Open dialogue
Shared expectations
Openness to mutual benefit
Sense of urgency

High Trust
“Going through the motions”


Lack of focus
Opportunistic in dealing with issues
Short-term perspective



Low Clarity of Purpose



High trust/low clarity about how coaching will help the team achieve results. This is likely to lead to enjoyable and stimulating conversations, but not much impact on team or individual performance. You will need to build on the good quality of relationships within the team to have honest initial conversations about specific improvements coaching can make. So module 1 is particularly important.

Low trust/high clarity. Results in “safe” conversations. Conflict tends to be below the surface, but may break through when tensions run high.  Coaching tends to focus on task issues and basic skills rather than behaviours. You will need to place more emphasis on helping members learn to trust each other. A simple way to build greater trust is to ask everyone to commit to doing one thing to make life easier for another colleague in the team. Get them to write the commitment and seal it in an envelope, without saying what they intend to do. At the next Everyday Coaching Conversations meeting, everyone says what they think each colleague has done for them. When the envelopes are opened, there are often surprises – colleagues see positive behaviours and intentions where they did not see them before!

Low trust/low clarity. Teams like this have very little chance of creating a coaching culture unless the leader is prepared to be demanding of both the team members and themselves. Indeed, they are almost certainly only a team in name. It is probably better to have some specialist external coaching, to help them become more like a genuine team.

High trust/high clarity. This is the ideal situation. It is certainly where the team should be at the end of the Everyday Coaching Conversations modules. If this describes your team, you can be confident in adopting a more challenging approach to the conversations and in expecting them to be practise coaching behaviours from the early modules.

Copyright – David Clutterbuck

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