What does “being coachable” mean? Does it mean taking a passive role and accepting whatever your coach (or boss, or mentor, or upline) says?
A friend is wrestling with his ability to be coached. For the coachable, “Turn right at the light” is seen as a helpful suggestion for someone lost in a strange town… the advice goes in, is considered and then acted upon. For someone wrestling with coaching, though, it’s like surgery. It’s painful, it has side effects and it might lead to a bad reaction.
Coaching happens all the time. Most often, it’s not from a boss or a professional coach. In fact, the best insights and advice usually come from informal or unexpected sources.
In fluid marketing and organization environments, where the world changes rapidly, coachability is a key factor in evolving and succeeding. Not because all advice is good advice. In fact, most advice is lousy advice. No, the reason coachability is so crucial is that without it, you don’t have the emotional maturity to consider whether the advice is good or not. You reject the process out of hand, and end up stuck.
Symptoms of uncoachability:
- Challenging the credentials of the coach
- Announcing that you’re being unfairly singled out
- Pointing out, angrily, that the last few times, the coach was wrong
- Identifying others who have succeeded without ever being coached
- Resisting a path merely because it was one identified by a coach
Years ago, at the great Bolshoi Ballet, auditions for the troupe were conducted among 8 year old girls. That’s because it took ten years to become great. How did the auditions work? The teachers weren’t looking for the best dancers. They were looking for the dancers who took coaching the best. The rest would come with time.”
Coachability requires trust, trust from the coach to the player, and from the player to the coach. Trust is based on shared values and shared goals.
This is why I rarely offer coaching to someone. They have to ask me to help them. The coaching relationship cannot be imposed, it must be earned.
(See also my article “Some Thoughts About Trust” for a deeper discussion on breaking and building trust.)