Manageable Articles

Thought-provoking perspectives on organisations.

Are you coachable? The answer will affect your career and legacy

Coachability is going to become the key factor when it comes to hiring, keeping and promoting talent. If you're not coachable, then you aren't learning, you're atrophying or, at best, staying where you are. Who wants that?

Think of an elite sportsperson who doesn't need a coach. Silly, right? What about the person who has a coach just because it looks good? Even sillier.

When CEOs and senior executives seek out coaches left, right and centre, they set trends. Silicon Valley executives, including Google's ex-CEO Eric Schmidt, even wrote a book about the trillion dollars of value created by their coach, the late Bill Campbell. Here's what they said:

Bill developed trusting relationships, fostered personal growth, infused courage, emphasized operational excellence, and identified simmering tensions that inevitably arise in fast-moving environments.

There's ever more demand for high quality coaches like Bill, who not only have outstanding coaching skills but have also walked in the shoes of the leaders they're helping. These coaches boost productivity and well-being.

But is everyone coachable? In my experience there are five types when it comes to coachability:

  1. Those who have a growth mindset, always seeking to learn and be helped no matter how much they've achieved in their career; if coaching is on the table they take it up and use it as best they can to have more impact and fulfilment
  2. Those who are in the grip of a me-last mindset who work hard to deliver and please others tactically, finding no time to develop themselves for reasons that only they really know; I tend to find that fear of change or failure is somewhere in their background, holding them back with limiting beliefs
  3. Those who have a check-box mindset who feel that being coached will tick a box and look good; they don't think they will learn much and just go through the motions, saying all the right things and even giving their coach great feedback when required to get through the ordeal
  4. Those with a one-up mindset - even early on in their careers - thinking they have accumulated so much wisdom they are one-up from others and need to help them rather than be helped; they find the idea of being coached rather worrying because they know deep down they don't know it all and will be exposed
  5. Those with a closed mindset who think being coached is a sign of weakness or just weird so they make themselves too busy to be helped, or feel (or pretend) they don't have any problems they can't solve themselves

Which type are you? No doubt there are other types still and a lot of combinations. The thing is, if you're not coachable, then you're putting yourself at a disadvantage. And the earlier you get started, like saving for a pension, the bigger the dividend down the line.

Being coachable does require some important qualities such as the courage to be wrong and change. These qualities are the mark of effective leaders. Here's what Harvard and UCL Professors Amy Edmondson and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic say about this:

In a complex and uncertain world that demands constant learning and agility, the most apt and adaptable leaders are those who are aware of their limitations, have the necessary humility to grow their own and others’ potential, and are courageous and curious enough to create sincere and open connections with others. They build inclusive team climates with psychological safety that foster constructive criticism and dissent.

It's becoming ever more complex and uncertain. So, what about your coachability?