Coachability is about demonstrating the willingness to be corrected, and to act on that correction. Coachable people are prepared to be wrong, and withstand—even welcome—high degrees of candor concerning their performance with the goal of improving it. As a result, coachable people are able to grow to levels that life’s “know-it-all’s” never experience. So, how coachable are you? The answer has much to say about your personal and professional potential. The following are criteria to help you personally evaluate and adjust where necessary. They should also lend insight into what you can expect from those on your team you’re trying to develop, especially in relation to your potential return on investment of time and resources into their development. It’s not enough for someone to want to grow; they must be ready and able to grow. Success or failure in this regard will depend largely on the quality of one’s attitude, character, and humility in response to coaching.
In this piece, I’ll present three opening and foundational bullets on the topic of coachability, and then proceed with seven ways to become more coachable.
1. If you’re un-coachable, it’s probably not a secret. After all, it’s very difficult to disguise the arrogance of being a know-it-all for very long.
2. In essence, coaching is feedback. Thus, a key indicator of how coachable you are is how productively you respond to feedback.
3. While not all feedback is helpful or valid, one’s attitude upon receiving it reveals much about their coachability; regardless the validity.
Seven Ways to Become More Coachable
1. Change your attitude about feedback. Don’t look at it as an attack, or as an insult, and don’t take it personally. Rather, look at feedback as a chance to make changes that will allow you to live your career and life at a higher level—as something that happens for you, and not an offense that happens to you. Even if the feedback is presented to you poorly, don’t miss the potential value in the message because the delivery was lousy.
2. Ask questions to clarify the feedback. Don’t do so defensively, but to encourage the giver to be more specific so you can better evaluate changes you’ll need to make. After all, general feedback is not nearly as helpful as feedback that is specific and given with examples. Sometimes a giver will offer general feedback to gauge your attitude in receiving it, before taking the risk of becoming specific or outlining particular behavioral examples.
3. Maintain good eye contact and positive body language when receiving feedback. Not only does this make you feel better about yourself, it increases the chances that the individual giving the feedback will feel comfortable to be completely honest in their conveyance.
4. Resist the temptation to reflexively make excuses for your actions, or to try and justify them. Focus first and foremost on the message and consider if there isn’t at least a grain of validity or truth you could possibly benefit from, and grow from as a result. Practice the discipline of suspending judgment of the feedback, and of the giver, until you’ve had a legitimate opportunity to consider its value. To become more coachable you must prioritize getting better over being “right.”
5. Don’t just agree with feedback, change your behavior because of it. Just affirming that feedback is correct or helpful doesn’t deem you as coachable unless you actually change something because of it. At the end of the day, acting on feedback, and doing so quickly, is the true test of coachability.
6. Overall, the proper attitude and response to feedback—even feedback that is off-base—is to sincerely say “thank you.” This doesn’t affirm you agree with the feedback, or will change because of it (it could be misguided or based on wrong information), but it does demonstrate a humble attitude and eagerness to consider uncomfortable situations that may be able to help you grow.
7. Be proactive and seek out feedback, don’t just sit around waiting for it. This attitude takes your coachability to a higher level, and can absolutely accelerate your growth. Ask questions like:
“What do you suggest I do to improve performance?”
“Where do you see that I’ve gotten off track?”
“How can I make this even better than it is?”
“What can I do to have a more positive impact on teammates?”
“Where have I developed blind-spots that I need to fix?”
When you ask questions like these in earnest, they demonstrate strong humility and coachability which, when all is said and done, are essential allies in your endeavor to improve who you are, what you do, and the results you reap.