Here’s The Single Most Important Trait People Who Benefit From Coaching Share

Written by on June 2, 2015

Some proverbs are so timeworn that they have become clichés – and no less true for that matter. One that we hear time and time again: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. When clients enter a coaching engagement, they need to be thirsty – for exploration, for discovery, for growth. While a coach may be equipped with the tools and methodology that will facilitate progress, it’s all for naught unless the individual is willing and able to seize the opportunity. Coachability is critical to a successful outcome.

“Rather be right than good.”

Forbes contributor, entrepreneur, and author August Turak recounts how, barely breaking 110 on the golf course, he sought the help of a coach. Through this process, he began “flirting with 80.” Was it a change in stance? A more confident swing?

Turak attributes the improvement in his game to his coachability: his willingness to learn and to grow. His coach remarked, “No matter what I ask you to do, you give me 150%. You’d be amazed at how many guys pay me just to argue with me. They don’t really want to change it; they’d rather be right than good.

This mindset is one of the most significant obstacles to progress. If individuals can conquer the preference for “being right,” then they can break through the other barriers that may be holding them back as well.

Question everything…

One of our recent engagements involved coaching high-potential senior managers within a provincial government. We encountered several individuals who were not coachable; that is, they seemed uninterested in listening to the questions being asked, much less give meaningful thought to their answers. One coachee, though, not only listened, he dove in. He explored every question with an inquisitive mind – and then began to ask others, of himself and of me. He was thirsty.

The first 80% or so of our time was spent on questions. He responded as deeply as he could, and each question led to another. The power and potential of questions was (and always is) in applying the answers to current challenges, issues, and opportunities. I introduced him to frameworks and models – such as the Situational Leadership model of Ken Blanchard and the Competence-Consciousness Matrix – which he could use to further this goal. His coaching “homework,” then, was to utilize these aids and to transfer his answers to the current situation.

…and apply your learning

In one instance he said, “I don’t know what the Assistant Deputy Minister – two levels up in the organization – thinks of me or the work that I’m doing.” The most powerful tool in a coach’s toolbox is a question. Thus, I simply replied, “That’s interesting. How might you find out?” He answered, “Well, ask him, I guess, …but he’s so busy.” I posed the question, “Given that the ADM’s role includes ensuring having the talent needed in leadership positions, what would hold you back from asking for a meeting with him?” with the response, “Nothing, I guess.” “So, what are you going to do now?”

The coachee arrived at the decision – by himself, with a bit of question-based exploration – to ask for some time on the Assistant Deputy Minister’s calendar. This request was granted willingly and rather enthusiastically.

By the next session, he had met with this superior, who provided a lot of positive feedback and acknowledged his hard work. He said, “It feels good!” This, too, is a signal of coachability. He took a step forward; he used his learning and exploration to handle a current challenge versus simply talking about it.

This brings up another critical aspect of coaching: working to achieve a sufficiently confident frame of mind that enables positive action. As long as a coachee is mired in a negative frame of mind, precious little will be accomplished. Much of coaching is reinforcing and exploring the individual’s strength and determining how to transfer past success into the present situation.

In doing so, this client grew much more confident and stronger in his capabilities. He took ownership of a number of tools, techniques, and frameworks that he could incorporate into his skill set as a manager. The value of coaching isn’t that it provides answers; it is that, through strategic and supportive questioning and exploration without judgment, the coachees arrive at solutions themselves and carry this capability with them to future challenges and opportunities.

Coachability is a willingness to question everything, and to then turn those answers into constructive action. Without it, a coaching engagement never takes off; with it, there are no limits to what individuals can accomplish.

So, how coachable are you?