Can You Be Coached?

Last night I had the opportunity to speak/facilitate a small group discussion around Coachability and Listening.

So the guys didn’t need to take notes, I promised I’d circulate the culmination of ideas and discussion points captured as we shared the dialogue. I thought it might be a good blog entry, so decided to simply publish my notes on this blog entry which is somewhat a “Part Two” to the Coachability posting that I wrote weeks back.

So here’s the outline, Coachability Part Two from the Men’s Small Group last night:

Coachability. Who cares, why’s it matter?

It’s upstream to all other wisdom, knowledge, and best practices. If we’re not coachable (learners, teachable, open, listeners, willing to change behavior and improve, etc) then we’re hugely rate limiting our potential–regardless our talent.

The resources used for the dialogue:

“They Call Me Coach” by John Wooden, book of Proverbs (whether you’re religious or not, this is a book filled with wisdom that people from all various faiths could appreciate–at least in part, if not whole), and a YouTube clip from Marshall Goldsmith–not exactly riveting, but it’s five minutes of a great premise and I think he’s right on:

So out of the dialogue, here were some of the best practices and ideas generated that I’m passing on. BTW, one of the key premises to the evening was that we’re not striving for anything profound, if that happened great. But the real objective were a few clear, simple, and actionable items that we could use starting today to take meaningful steps towards improvement:

1. Realize being “Coachable” isn’t innate in most of us. Most of us don’t even like receiving, let alone asking, for sincere coaching. And though you might have all the talent in the world, we won’t come close to fulfilling our potential without the key Coachability factor.  Realize you’ll resist, defend, brush off, or deflect feedback. It is in your nature to want to hear things that will stretch and sharpen you. For most of us. But it can become a part of you with time, patience, and practice.

2. Also realize, the more you ask, the easier it gets to hear the feedback and focus on your improvement areas (or, simply improving those things you’re already naturally talented in). Learn to love feedback. Takes training and discipline. At first it hurts. Then it hurts a bit less. Then a bit less. Then not much at all. Then you start to enjoy it (usually). Pretty soon, it becomes a natural habit that’s easy and conversational.

3. Coachability seems defined beyond just teachability, though synonymous to a degree the Coachability factor incorporates both the willingness to listen/learn as well as change and improve behavior.

4. Make it a point to ask people for feedback at least once a week. If you haven’t done it before, ever (and some in our group hadn’t), find someone you respect, pick something that you really want to get better at, and ask them candidly for a few things you’ve done well and a few things you can improve upon. And when you’re picking people, don’t just pick people who like you or you know will go easy. Get it from a variety of sources, your employees, customers, friends, mentors, kids, spouse (though I know for those of us married it seems like we probably get enough feedback as it is, that seemed to be the humorous consensus of the group yesterday 🙂 ).

5. Find a mentor, someone that can give you unvarnished feedback regularly and that will help you progress along your journey.

6. Speaking of unvarnished feedback, remember how hard it is for the giver to actually provide candid feedback. Either they might fear you, or they might fear a “retaliation”, or they might simply not want to hurt your feelings or get into what could be an awkward dialogue. Make sure you explain you want to improve, and help them peel back the onion. First pass and they might only be sharing with you superficial stuff. To get good feedback, again and again, you can’t retaliate. You can’t resent, you can’t become bitter, you can’t become defensive.

7. Focus on your non-verbal, be open and friendly/warm, calm, relaxed–not all tensed up, arms crossed, scowling and whatnot (which we’ve all done–or at least I have). And with your verbal, don’t get defensive, don’t be annoyed or frustrated

8. Don’t assume all feedback is right on. Try to reflect rather than respond. Sit on the feedback for a day or several days, and really try to assess whether it’s relevant to you. Don’t dismiss it because you don’t like it, dismiss it only if it really is inaccurate.

9. Let’s remember that you can’t please everybody (but don’t use this as an excuse either). Part of your vice is probably your virtue. For example, for me personally I know there are times when I’m too hard charging, or too demanding and have too high expectations. But that’s also part of what is my strength, so for me to eliminate it altogether would be neutering something that’s innately me–and a skill. For me to balance it and know when to emphasize and minimize is what’s important. So remember there’s an ebb and flow, and also that not everybody is right about the feedback you receive. You can’t make everybody happy, and you can’t be doing anything productive in life without some criticism.

10. When you get great feedback, focus on a few core things and them implement, practice, refine, and re-assess.

This is only a small smattering of what we came up with, but I wanted to try to limit it to ten key ideas or principles around the Coachability factor. If you have other ideas or suggestions, please share them as a comment below.

So to the guys that I got to hang with last night (Neal, Bob, Mark, Doug, David, Matther, Don, Chris, Dan, and Alfred) thanks for such a lively discussion and the great ideas you helped to generate on ways we can be more successful at one of the key characteristics most of us lack to varying degrees. Loved the time, the ideas, and inspiration I received from each of you.

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6 Replies to “Can You Be Coached?”

  1. Great advice – thanks so much for sharing. Very applicable to my professional life right now, and this “Coachability” approach can help maximize my career growth and personal success. Thanks!

  2. There is a very relevant passage from the Book of Proverbs that coheres around this idea of coachability. The Book of Proverbs is sometimes thought to only consist of small thoughts in single verses (beginning with its Chapter 10). But here, as in other places, it weaves a complex thread around the beginning idea of “those who take advice” (contrasted with “fools” who are in the closing verse), and clearly in this Book such is about “good” advice, deeply good advice, and not just itty bitty tactical/mechanical stuff.

    Proverbs 13:10-19 (New International Version)

    10 Pride only breeds quarrels,
    but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

    11 Dishonest money dwindles away,
    but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

    12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

    13 He who scorns instruction will pay for it,
    but he who respects a command is rewarded.

    14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
    turning a man from the snares of death.

    15 Good understanding wins favor,
    but the way of the unfaithful is hard.

    16 Every prudent man acts out of knowledge,
    but a fool exposes his folly.

    17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
    but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

    18 He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame,
    but whoever heeds correction is honored.

    19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
    but fools detest turning from evil.

  3. Thanks Raz!

    Such a tough topic to put into words, very intuitive/sub-conscious!

    I can only imagine the great stuff you guys came up with! Your first point is one that all of us should pay extra attention to. Matter of Fact, the more successful we think we are the less likely we may be coachable.

    As we have success we tend to think we are right more often than not and so often advice can be wrong so we stick with what we “think” is working and rely more on determination (I’ll MAKE it work).

    Also, as you said… people want to be polite and usually when asking for advice or feedback you get back what they “think” you want to hear or what is the least confrontational.

    It’s the same way in marketing… you could ask people all over “if” they would buy a product and “if” they think it is good… the answer more often than not will be yes. The story becomes different when they are asked to get out their wallet and plunk down the money!

    In life this same approach can be beneficial too. To be coachable you have to be willing to try a new or different belief/action on so you can discover if this new behavior or action is beneficial. Thinking and Doing are two different things!

    Also, the best coach can be your own sensory acuity! Most of us are caught up in the action and not the result! Ultimately it is the result we are looking for but we’re in our own head going through the process and when there, it’s easy to miss what is truly going on! Then, when the result is less than desirable we may even contribute that result to the wrong thing altogether (best guess).

    One thing that may help is a statement I have used many times.

    “The meaning of your communication is the RESPONSE you get!”

    Try that on! Being clear on your intention/outcome is critical. Implementing this thought does several things.\
    1. Gets you out of your own head (paying attention to the result, in communication that would be the other person). This is best because now we are really listening etc…

    2. Gives more control of the outcome. Now if the intention is not received (we get a different response than we expected) we have the opportunity to adjust our action/communication to get our desired outcome.

    3. This forces us to try on and really evaluate our actions based on a result which is really openness to coachability! We are being coached by the results.

    Living this way really opens one up to personal growth, improvement and discovery. For some people this will move them away from being right or wrong and into getting a beneficial outcome. Much more important, in my opinion.

    Sorry for the rant.

    All the best,
    John M.

  4. Wow! John Wooden past away and you were talking about him all this time. Interesting timing… thanks for sharing his message to the masses.

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