Coachability – What’s that all about?



Just as being change-ready is the first step in any change management process, being open to personal development is a prerequisite for effective coaching outcomes.

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
(As You Like It, William Shakespeare)

The opportunity to undertake developmental coaching fulfils what many career aspirants would consider an entitlement – support from their employer to develop their knowledge base, augment their job skills and enhance their career prospects. But when offered the opportunity, how many of us look inside ourselves with honesty and candour to make sure we are ready for coaching? And how would we make that assessment of ourselves?

Well, a recent article in Forbes magazine suggested that coachable people share five distinct character traits:

  • The first trait is humility. From humility, we learn that there are things we need to do that we can’t do on our own. It teaches us that learning requires fundamental changes in our outlook and behaviour. Humility requires a change of heart as opposed to a change of mind.
  • The second trait is an action bias. Effective coaching requires you to do the work. You need to adopt the mindset that you are prepared for the effort it is going to take. No goofing off – no shortcuts.
  • The third trait is purity of purpose. If you see coaching purely as a means to increase your income, or make your resume look better, then it is highly unlikely that you will enjoy the benefits that coaching can give you.
  • The fourth trait is to be prepared to surrender control. It is said that the reason most of us need coaching in the first place is to give up control. “Unwillingness to surrender control is ironically the single biggest reason for the lamentable fact that most authentic change is precipitated by crisis”.
  • And finally, the last trait is faith. Often, the benefits of change are only really understood after the change has happened. Life must be lived forward, and understood backward. That’s the way it is.

Otto von Bismarck once said, during a heated parliamentary debate: “…a fool learns from experience. A wise man learns from the experience of others”

Another view of coachability comes from the high-stress environment of the financial trader’s desk. In this environment, resistance to learning and coaching could be catastrophic. In the view of this commentator, to be coachable is having to be “reality-oriented”.

To begin with, it means having the ability to listen. Obvious, really, but how many of us truly practice this fine art?

It also means being someone who understands that life is about sharing the stage and being aware of not just one’s own surroundings but the needs of others in those surroundings. These individuals, who know and admit they have weaknesses and understand the emotions brought on by attachment, are able to learn from their mistakes. As a result, they take direction much more easily than are people who want the spotlight and see themselves as being smarter and more deserving than others on that stage.

Reality-oriented refers to someone accustomed to going with the flow, not trying to orchestrate the flow. It also entails understanding that there are at least two sides to every story and knowing the value and freedom of not being judgemental. It is far easier to grasp the reality of any given situation when you have no attachment to the outcome.

Posted by Bob Pierce

If your organisation is about to embark on a program of coaching or leadership development, it may benefit all participants to make sure they are prepared and “coachable”.  Please contact Bravo Consulting for advice and support on candidiate profiling, team assessment and organisational readiness.

BonnieSue Nevin

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