Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Are You Coachable?

Coachability – The “It” Competency We all have blind spots – behaviors we exhibit that are undermining our best intentions, harming our credibility, or damaging our relationships with others. Often times, we learn about our blind spots through a harsh comment from another or in feedback that may not be tenderly given. It can hurt to hear, or come from an unexpected source, and be so far from our intent that it can sting like a literal slap in the face. Instead of the tempting response to reject the information outright, we must have the maturity and foresight to see these growth opportunities when they present themselves. Often, the best advice does not come from a certified coach or superior, but from more unexpected and informal sources like an employee, an exit interview, an overheard complaint, or collective body language in a meeting. Benefiting from this insight requires a readiness that must be present in any successful, self-directed learning experience. We call this readiness being coachable. Someone who is coachable is open to seeing other perspectives without being threatened: they “get it”. On the flip side, someone who is uncoachable is righteous in their convictions and rigid when exposed to input from others. Paradoxically we often hear the uncoachable describe themselves as being open-minded. Translated, this means that their mind will remain open long enough to receive the feedback, run it by their internal threat meter (the EGO), and then ascertain how much damage it could do to their internal belief systems and external image. Being open to hearing what someone has to say is not the same as being willing to allow it to challenge and change you. Ego driven activities such as self-preservation, rationalizing, and image control waste so much time, little attention is paid to the merit or value of the feedback itself. The message gets lost beneath the thundering, chest pounding of the Ego. In contrast, someone who is truly coachable has set aside their Ego in order to raise their EQ. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the must-have ingredient of coachability. Competencies such as transparency, active listening, self-awareness, intuition, optimism and self-control are the bedrock of transformational learning and all stem from EQ. Are you coachable? Do you operate from Ego or EQ? Answer the following questions to gauge your coachability (and then check your self-awareness by asking someone you trust to be objective to answer these about you): • Do you determine the worth of feedback on who is giving it or do you spend time considering the rationale behind the message? • Have you asked for feedback on yourself in the last month? • Do you take yourself so seriously that it is difficult to laugh at mistakes for fear of looking dumb or incompetent? • When is the last time you publicly admitted you were wrong? • When is the last time you apologized to someone at work for your behavior? • When faced with personal feedback, do you focus on staying superficial and ending the encounter as quickly as possible or do you open up about how you feel about the feedback and ask clarifying questions to gain understanding? • When is the last time you asked someone to hold you accountable for certain behavioral goals? • Do people feel safe coming to you with feedback you may not like or agree with? How do you know? • When it comes to your own performance, do you care more about appearances or real results? How would your staff answer that about you? • When is the last time you listened to a contrasting viewpoint about something you felt strongly about and ultimately changed your opinion? • What are three areas that coaching could help you develop? Ask your team to answer the same question about you and see how well you understand their perception of you. • Final and most important question: How often do you receive rich feedback from others? The amount of feedback you are given will be in direct proportion to the degree of coachability others see in you. Leaders who acknowledge their own blind spots can be powerful role models for the reality that we are all a lifelong work-in-process. Leaders who are defensive and unable to admit mistakes will be rewarded with the same superficiality they embody. Denial or accountability? Artificial harmony or authentic relationships? Growth or status quo? You decide. What if you are not coachable? What are you missing out on? What you don’t know can hurt you. To learn more about Penumbra’s performance coaching services, please visit our website at