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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Coachability

coachability

Here’s a short entry that, I believe, is a key success factor in life…Maybe one of the success factors for YOUR life. And this will also help me break my complete absence of blog posts in the last ten days.

I also read the leadership books, magazines, listen to the stories and the speakers, and blah blah blah.

But there’s one critical ingredient that’s a huge success factor for your life and mine, that’s rarely (relatively speaking) acknowledged or addressed:

Coachability.

There are tons and tons of “best practices” that list everything imaginable: right seats on the bus, empower people, principle-centered leadership, sharpen your saw, words that work, servant leadership, and more blah blah (blah blah blah only in the most respectful of ways, I’m just trying to prove my point). And yet, the absolute irony is that none of this makes any (I so want to use a strong word here, but I resist) snaps worth of difference if you’re (me included) unwilling to be coachable (this has got to be a worlds record for parenthetical statements for two sentences).

Coachability is listening, understanding, accepting, hearing the feedback, acknowledging reality, not glazing over stuff, confronting the truth and receiving it–both “it” being the fun stuff and the not so fun stuff–so that you can make genuine and authentic improvements in your life.

The best people in leadership and management, that I’ve read and followed or seen and experienced, are the ones that have this underlying characteristic: they’re coachable.

Being uncoachable is like needing to buy a car that will be the catalyst for you to get to all sorts of places really important.

And amidst this, you’re going to be driving other passengers so you want to be in something comfortable, plus you also have a need to get there fast. And safely. Reliably too. So you’ve found your wheels, the car is decked out, it’s fast and comfortable. You’ve spent all this time and money and effort picking out the perfect car. And your first day you’re in the drivers seat, ready to roll. You pull out of the driveway and passively cruising, something is wrong but you can’t tell what it is, noises are coming out of the vehicle, it feels sluggish, there’s an acrid smell like something is burning. And it’s because you left the emergency brake on.

Being UNcoachable is like having the perfect set of wheels, but your e-brake is always on. It slows you down. It burns things up. And in the process you look silly.

This is how, unfortunately, a lot of us go through life. With our e-brake on, being uncoachable. Slowing things down, other people and ourselves.

So here it is, my number one success tip for leadership development: be coachable.

Because downstream none of the other stuff matters much, even if you read and can recite at rote all the common best practices, if you and I aren’t coachable.

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