How to be coachable

How to be coachable

Whether you’re fortunate enough to have a formal coach, or you’re just looking to absorb the information and skills shown by those around you, coachability is a fantastically productive trait to develop.

So how do you become coachable? And why is coachability so important? Well, first it helps to understand the basics.

What is the definition of ‘coachable’?

Being coachable doesn’t just mean that, from a coach’s perspective, you’re easy to work with. It runs deeper. Coachability is about being open minded, curious and keen to learn.

A coachable person learns from their own experiences and the experiences of others, even when they aren’t wrapped up as ‘lessons’. And sure, this means that they make excellent coaches within formal coaching relationships, too.

If you want to nurture your coachability, here are some of the traits that will help you do that – curiosity and open-mindedness, humility, accountability and self motivation, and (as a bonus) self awareness.

Why is being coachable important?

Coachability, as a trait, encompasses a lot of positive behaviours. Coachable people don’t respond negatively to constructive criticism; they appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow. They tend to be good listeners, able to communicate well and give thoughtful feedback to others. And of course, the desire and ability to improve their performance is a great attribute to have.

But more than just being nice attributes, these skills also mean that coachable people learn quickly, progress well and manage their own productivity. Of course, not everyone who can do these things is coachable, and not everyone who is coachable will have all of these traits.

But you can learn to become more coachable with time and practice. Read on for a list of the skills you need to focus on, and a few exercises to help you do so.

Curiosity and open-mindedness

Being curious is a fantastic quality to have. There are lessons in every experience! And curiosity often leads to great listening skills. Being able to listen to others is a rare quality that makes your conversational partners feel good and in turn attracts a great deal of admiration.

So how to do you nurture curiosity? There are lots of approaches you can take, such as:

Reading books from outside your field of work and/or usual interest. Ask people you admire to recommend their favourite fiction and non-fiction books, then read them with an open mind!

Ask questions:

  • How can we test that?
    • What would our competitor do?
    • Is this the only way?
    • How would we do this with less time/money/resources?
  • Look at your daily, weekly, monthly routine and try to inject something new. Do you have a monthly project review? Try a new retrospective approach. Set your own OKRs, try journalling, do a five-minute sketch between meetings every day…
  • Try to swap ‘why’ for ‘why not?’ – you’ll be surprised how often you say no to things just ‘because’. Well, not any more!

If you let your curiosity get the better of you, however, it can have a detrimental effect on your relationships. Wanting to learn more is admirable, but being nosey and asking too many questions are not. Learn how to state your curiosity with research first, so that you aren’t asking obvious questions and show plenty of initiative. And make sure you don’t cross the boundary from curious exploration to invasive questioning!

Humility

It’s very hard to know if you’re humble or not. In fact, if you think you are then you’re probably… not!

Part of being humble is respecting that other people’s experiences, knowledge and skills are valuable and that you can learn from them, even if they appear to be ‘further down’ the hierarchy than you in some way. It’s about understanding that you’re no more or less important - and the ‘or less’ bit is important, too! That’s what makes humility an important factor in self esteem and assertiveness.

To flex your humility, try some of these:

  • Seek feedback and help from other people that you admire.
  • Actively practice sharing credit and gratitude with others. Look for opportunities to say thank you and well done every day.
  • Identify your own faults, and take time to work on them – perhaps even asking for advice on others on how to do so.
  • Mindfulness can also help with humility as it helps you achieve acceptance; of yourself, of others and of situations in general.

If you’d like to know more about humility, this Forbes article is a great deep dive into the 13 habits of humble people and a really interesting read.

Accountability and self motivation

In order to put lessons into practice and make meaningful changes, you’ll need to have the drive to action, and to hold yourself accountable for your own progress. It’s not enough to be receiving coaching; it’s the steps you take next that count.

It’s also important to set yourself realistic goals. High expectations are great! But they need to be stretch goals, not impossible challenges. You can use a tactic like Sticky Steps to help you identify a series of achievable steps towards reaching your targets.

Bonus trait: self awareness

If you put the work into developing the other characteristics on this list then you’ll likely end up with high self awareness, too!

This can help you unlock even more value from coaching moments. If you know your own strengths and – more importantly – weaknesses, and you have the humility and open mindedness required to learn how to overcome those, then combined with your drive to improve you will be almost unstoppable! Or, at least, extremely coachable.


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