Are you coachable?

Publication: Law Practice Today

Section: Articles

February 2006

Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.

Executive coaching is quite the rage. Suddenly it seems that everyone has a coach or is one. But is executive coaching for you? Will it advance your professional development? There are many questions that could be asked about this topic, but let's focus on a single, but critical issue: coachability.
As someone who was a coach before coaching was fashionable, I think this is the first issue to consider. Before you spend money and time on a coach, be sure you are ready to take advantage of coaching, by asking yourself the following four questions to determine whether you are coachable:
  • Do you acknowledge something that you need and want to improve about your style or behavior? For example, a goal of finding better ways to work with incompetent people is really still seeing the problem out there, in other people or the situation. The only person you can fix is yourself. Don't waste your time or a coach's time unless you want to work on yourself.

  • Are you open to feedback? There's no point in having a coach gather and deliver feedback from interviews, surveys, or assessment tools unless you are willing to listen to it, not rationalize it away. An experienced coach can provide candid feedback on your style and its impact on others.
Outside feedback, from the coach and others, can provide new and useful information to uncover blind spots, unintended impacts of your behavior, and priority areas to address. The feedback may be hard to hear, but it can improve your effectiveness and ultimately to more successful and satisfying relationships and outcomes at work.
  • Are you willing to acknowledge your need to change publicly? An important ingredient of a successful coaching program is often going to others and letting them know that you heard their feedback, that you are committed to making some changes, specifying the changes you are planning to make, and inviting feedback from them on how you are doing.
This does several things: it publicly commits you to making changes, it implicitly apologizes to others, it wins the respect of others for being brave enough to acknowledge things you need to fix, and it makes others more willing to support you, despite the inevitable stumbles in implementing the changes.
This is not really as difficult as it sounds: in my experience, the things that clients acknowledge to others are open secrets anyway. Public acknowledgement and repeated attempts to solicit feedback from others on progress to date in meeting coaching goals is related to successful outcomes.
  • Are you willing to make the change effort a priority? The research on adult learning shows that adults learn one-on-one, with intensive work over a long period of time, using small, measurable steps to make change happen. The goal of good coaching is not just to make changes happen, but to sustain them.
If you are not going to make the coaching work a priority and devote the necessary time over the long haul, wait until you are. In my experience, successful coaching outcomes depend on creating momentum through small wins and successes. Momentum will elude you if you devote occasional spare minutes to the process. A good coach can help you come up with simple, small steps to take, but you need to take the steps. As a famous coach once said, it's simple but it's not easy.
Coaches can help you accomplish great things but unless and until you are willing to acknowledge the need for some changes in your own behavior, to acknowledge those changes to others, to listen to feedback, and make the change effort a priority, you are not truly coachable and even the best efforts of the best coaches are doomed. Are you coachable?
Copyright Notice:
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.