If the term “coachable” takes you back to junior high gym class, perhaps hanging on for dear life at the chin-up bar, taking in LOUD encouragement from a red-faced, whistle-blowing gym teacher, stop right there. That’s not where we’re going today. I’m here to talk about mindset. Specifically, a mindset where you are consciously open to feedback and willing to undertake some frank, honest self-assessment. This is at the heart of what being “coachable” is, and it is key to personal growth and success.

Characteristics of the Coachable Mindset

Desire to Improve

In my personal coaching practice, I’ve found that the typical client – one who is proactively seeking coaching – in a general sense, someone who has already experienced a degree of success, and a high achiever. S/he is cognizant of an internal drive to achieve more. “More” will always be client dependent, but is often a mix of personal and professional areas of desired improvement. What I underscore here is that the individual is seeking the growth. The coaching works because there is a willingness to receive feedback, analyze and take action in order to grow.

Why Having a Coachable Mindset Matters

Being Coachable Means Being Open to Feedback

We’re often tempted to shut out or undervalue less-than-positive personal feedback as a defense mechanism. When we aren’t in the right mindset, hearing a critique of our self is uncomfortable and can be undermining. If we want to be coachable, it is important we foster
an openness to feedback from others. Wharton School of Business Professor Adam Grant, a successful author and researcher of organizational psychology, has said, “Once people take ownership over the decision to receive feedback, they’re less defensive about it.” Being coachable means being open to hearing feedback from others. When we remove our defensive barriers, we are able to consume and process personal information logically.

I do caution you to be discerning with your opportunities for obtaining feedback. You should seek feedback from individuals in a position to share the feedback, those with true knowledge about you. Unless it is simply surface-level feedback you are after, the feedback giver must have real experience with you. Always consider the source and understand their motivations, if any. Finally, be honest with yourself. Don’t set out to avoid negative feedback. You want
authentic feedback.

One important aspect of being open to feedback is creating an atmosphere of trust. The good news is we can develop environments of trust. The act alone of asking for feedback is a great way to foster the trust. Assessments that offer 360 Degree Feedback provide a formal
structure for receiving feedback from superiors, peers and subordinates. But simply asking for feedback directly, individual to individual, is a great practice as well. My suggestion is to let someone know you are seeking personal growth when you request specific feedback. Asking or honesty upfront can be very disarming. Communicating your objective of self-improvement not only promotes trust, it can also help the intended giver of feedback understand the purpose of the engagement.

Self-Reflection Is A Mandatory Component to Being Coachable

Self-reflection is a big part of the coachable mindset. Honest self-reflection brings about actionable self-awareness. You might start with an area of your life you are not satisfied with and begin to question why you act the way you do, and perhaps why others react to you the
way they do. This works great when you want to capitalize on a positive tendency, too! Study areas where you’ve been successful. Gather feedback on what is working and then seek out ways to recreate the elements that drive your success.

We choose the way we respond and act. And though we only have direct control over our own behavior, how we behave certainly influences the behaviors of others. Mood contagion is a real thing and can be further explored with Energy Leadership. This assessment tool will hold up a mirror reflecting your perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and overall leadership capabilities. When we invest in thoughtful self-reflection on our interpersonal dealings, we can make changes that positively impact our leadership. Keep in mind, we are all leaders in some aspect of life. Leadership gains are the natural byproduct of a coachable mindset.

An Illustration of Un-coachable to Make My Point

It is quite easy to default to “un-coachable” behaviors and beliefs. Do any of the following
sound familiar to you?

  • Feeling dread or defensiveness when you receive a formal review of your work
    performance or hear a personal observation from your spouse or loved one.
  • Having immediate skepticism of feedback you receive from someone with authority or
    intimate knowledge of you.
  • Reacting with sarcasm or anger when receiving constructive criticism.
  • Attempting to dissuade someone from analyzing your behavior or performance.
  • Defending a tendency you have by stating something to the effect of, “That’s just who I
    am.” Or, “That’s how I was born.”

Back to my point above, once we make a conscious effort to seek out feedback on ourselves from others, we relieve much of the discomfort. Then, with a commitment to self-reflection, we can begin to learn more about ourselves, opening the door to positive change.

Create a Culture of Coachable In Your Organization

Successful organizations are those that value open, honest feedback at all levels of the organization. This becomes a driver for continual improvement, enabling the enterprise to build on achievement and go even further. The process will naturally uncover areas for improvement to move beyond a challenge. A culture of coachable creates a cohort of people primed to receive and act on information so they can optimize their performance.

Professional Coaches Are a Great Way to Get Started

Looking for a structured engagement to jumpstart your coachable mindset? Not sure how to begin to create a coachable mindset in your organization? Professional coaches are formally trained to guide individuals down a path to actionable self-awareness. The coach doesn’t come to the table with all the answers, s/he uses proven tools and intensively researched techniques to guide the client along their own unique journey. A successful coaching engagement will set the stage for a sustained coachable mindset.

Choose Coachable for 2020

With a coachable mindset, we are open to feedback from others and thereby gain invaluable external, actionable feedback on our self. I’ve seen coachable mindsets transform individuals. I’ve witnessed growth I know was only possible given the coachable mindset. I’ve also seen an un-coachable mindset greatly stymy one’s progress. Sure, people can transform situations and create opportunities outside of themselves, but I’d say a coachable mindset is the difference between good change and great change.

The coachable mindset – a desire to improve, an openness to feedback, and a commitment to honest self-reflection – unlocks potential. Where would you like to see improvement? Are youaware of what might be standing in your way of going further? Who around you is available to share open, authentic feedback you can use to fuel your honest self-assessment? Do you really want to hear it? I encourage you to make 2020 your year of being truly coachable.

Through her work at Brain Basics, Kathy Walter has the privilege of guiding individuals to their full potential. A fierce champion of the coachable mindset, she fosters actionable self-awareness using proven tools, like the Emotional Intelligence Assessment, and personalized coaching techniques. Contact Brain Basics to learn more.

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