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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