The Power of Being a Coachable Leader

What does it mean to be coachable? I did an interview workshop once with the head of HR for a major hospital system. In this workshop, I spoke to college students on how to show up as their most confident self in an interview with strong communication skills and the ability to connect in their answers. Part of this workshop was the opportunity to interview an amazing panel of leaders about what they are looking for in an interview and what was most important in the hiring process. This gentleman told the room, “I always chose to hire someone who I like as a person, is willing to learn, and seems genuinely interested in growing themselves over the best candidate on paper.” He went on to share how important being able to communicate that in an interview is, which of course I agree with and still love coaching. Every single person on that panel agreed. Companies of all kinds were talking to a wide variety of types of candidates. Your value as a person is not just based on your skills in a one work area. You also have to ask yourself, am I someone others like to have around? When I was coaching at the high school level, the same was true for me and I used to share it in every team parent meeting at the beginning of the year. I would say, “Your kid might be the most talented one on the team, but if he isn’t kind, trustworthy, and coachable he isn’t someone I want to travel with. Our goal is to grow your students not just in their talents but in the value they bring to the team as a person.” So, to hear fortune 500 companies share that they also wanted similar qualities goes to show that being well rounded and not just good at what you do is important.

Being coachable is being able to listen, take in feedback, adapt, and ask yourself curious questions to provoke personal growth or improvement, and how well you communicate. I know I said communicate and the first thought you had was about how well you talk, but the ability to listen is just as important and a key piece of communication. The best leaders are asking hard questions. I don’t mean asking the hard questions of those in their circle of influence, but of and about themselves. In order to be coachable, you have to be willing to ask how you are doing and not only listen to the answers but adapt where you need to make changes.

If you are wondering if you are coachable, you can ask yourself…

  • Am I approachable by those I lead?
  • Do I listen without interrupting as I take in their feedback?
  • Do I struggle to adapt my approach when it is necessary?
  • Do I always think I know best?
  • Am I willing to learn new things from those who report to me?

These are some tough questions. Remember this is just for you. You aren’t getting a grade here so be honest with yourself but remember being able to ask yourself tough questions and truly dig in is a part of being coachable. Are you good at seeking out personal growth opportunities and are you able to be coachable when you need to be? It’s easy to look for these qualities in others when we are hiring or handling, but it is crucial we lead with this idea in mind as well.

Being coachable is a win-win because it helps in both professional and personal settings. In the world we live in today, this is a skill that not only helps set you apart from the rest, but also builds a path to success that a person stuck will never achieve.

A key element to being coachable is the way it can help knock out your fear of failure. Resiliency is a struggle that I often saw as a teacher. I had to work very hard one step at a time to make kids comfortable with constructive feedback in order to be competitive. I had to teach them to be willing to take risks and the easiest way I found to do that was to also take risks in front of them. I was willing to do the thing I was asking them to do in front of the whole room. I was willing to put out an idea that might get rejected and sometimes was (since I trained kids to give their constructive criticism often). What I hoped they learned was that even if my idea was rejected, or I didn’t do it the best way, we could learn from what I was willing to share and make something better out of it as a team. That meant taking off the “I know best because I am your leader” hat and building every person in the space to be a leader. Knocking out the fear of failure is difficult and often an on-going process. I am still working on knocking out my own fear of failure, but I know that I must get out of my comfort zone to keep growing that muscle.

I’ll give you an example of my working that muscle so I can continue to be moldable and coachable. I joined my local Pure Barre. Listen, I am 5’10”, and unfortunately not flexible or athletic at all. Being a part of those classes was incredibly difficult for me in the beginning because I was crazy uncomfortable with sucking, and I did suck! I was bad at every part of it. Real talk, I cried the first few classes. I struggled with always having to be corrected and feeling lost in class while I watched these cute “used to be” ballerinas execute every move beautifully. So why did I take the class? Good question, I asked myself that same thing over and over. Just kidding. I took the class to grow myself in a new way. I did bite off more than I thought I could chew at first, but at some point, I realized I needed to keep growing myself to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Challenge accepted. I took the feedback from sweet instructors who kept helping me…they helped me so much that there were a few classes where the instructors just stood beside me and taught class. Look, I needed a lot of help. I listened and worked very hard to listen without making excuses about needing something different because I was so tall, and the bar hit me in the wrong place. I worked, which meant learning to not care how well others around me were doing and that I needed to adapt some moves. I thanked them for coming back to me for the 14th time in a single class to help me fix what I was missing. You know what taking in feedback, truly listening, continuing to work, and being thankful even when it was a little frustrating created in me? Growth! If I had just shut down, quit, not been coachable, I would not have made growth. I am still not the best in class, but I can tell the class has helped me. It’s helped me not just develop different muscles that I am happy to be working on, but it has also helped my ability to handle being better at taking on a challenge with the lens of being coachable.

Being coachable means you are willing to dig into what you can do differently in order to be more successful. That takes being open minded enough to be able to adapt your strategies, behavior, and sometimes your vision. It means you can work through the frustration and still find a positive way to communicate the next steps. Listen, you might be a problem-solver, but have you cross applied that to your own personal growth? Recognizing that you are stuck or struggling sometimes takes an outside party sharing a reflection with you and possibly helping you navigate how to fix it…even if you are the “leader.” Psst…this is when I would like to remind you that if you struggle here, you can always bring someone in to walk through that growth with you. Your willingness to be that open-minded in front of your people can for sure create that growth mindset in your people also. So, take on the challenge to grow yourself! Ask yourself which direction you might need to push yourself in a place you are a little uncomfortable until you are comfortable. Maybe join a Pure Barre class, which for the record I no longer feel like a fool in.

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