Any leader assessing the capability of their team members is ultimately assessing their performance and ability to grow. To grow, one must be able to identify and close gaps. To do that, one must be coach-able.
As you are evaluating your people, your leaders are doing the same about you! As you read this article, consider wearing two hats: one about your people, and the other about you and your own coach-ability.
What Does it Mean to be Coach-able?
When we coach leaders to become high-performing and build strong teams, we are essentially exploring their ability to demonstrate a growth mindset (believing skills and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence).
It’s not enough to have a growth mindset OR show effort and persistence. To be coach-able, you must be open AND able to make progress, described as taking a “Core Step”:
- CORE. You are Curious, Open, Receptive, and Engaged in how you can grow. It requires being open and proactively engaging in understanding your starting point (and blind spots). People who excel at this seek feedback and consider it a gift, because it helps them get a realistic picture from others’ points of view. Like a GPS, you need an accurate picture of your current location to know how to navigate to the desired destination.
- STEP. You Step out, Test assumptions, Experiment with new behaviors, Practice and make Progress. If you’re good at Step 1, it is not enough. No one expects anyone to be perfect by tomorrow. Being coach-able signals that you are making progress. Baby steps count. If you don’t normally speak in leadership meetings, one step would be to speak up first, or speak 10% more than you have been. If you are ordinarily impatient and dominating, you might practice letting others speak first, amplifying key points from others or asking others for their opinions. People will see you starting and/or stopping visible behaviors that make it obvious you are taking action.
If you want the extra credit version of coach-ability, consider setting the table with several key stakeholders and letting them know your intention. This will encourage your accountability and will prime them to notice ways you are achieving your intention. It is very common for people around you NOT to notice behavior changes, or to chalk up what they do notice as an exception.
A personal example: I practiced this with my team regarding writing clear, succinct emails. I told them my intention and, for 30 days, asked them to rate my email quality on a scale of 1-5. This vastly improved my focus on email construction, literally overnight (though none of them actually rated me).
Three Steps to Increase Coach-ability:
1. Pay attention to your mindset. You can view input as poison (they’re attacking me, I did something wrong, they don’t understand, it was the other function’s fault) OR as a present (they have my back, I’m grateful to hear the truth, they’re helping me, their perception is their reality which is good for me to understand). Who chooses? You do. If you can’t change your story about the input, reach out to a coach or trusted person to help you shift how you are viewing it in the first place.
2. Choose practices to support you, simple practices that you can do to be curious and open and put you in the right headspace to focus on your CORE. My two favorites:
- Breathing consciously, in and out (three breaths can return your brain to rational thinking within 60 seconds).
- Depersonalizing. This is one of the most important skills to practice which will greatly increase your ability to be receptive. Not taking things personally (it’s about you and it’s not about you) can change how you listen, engage in conflict, and adopt an enterprise mindset. Make sure you are in the right place or that it’s the right time to receive input. Consider writing a post-it note reminder of what you need to do this well.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Start with CORE Behaviors. Of all skills, these are usually the hardest to practice and the biggest ones that prevent leadership success.
- Be open and curious. Start with Listening. Ask questions (tell me more, how does this impact you?, what was the impact?, what am I specifically doing that’s unhelpful?) Repeat what you are hearing (what I’m hearing is…., the biggest thing that is not working sounds like…, your struggle with my team is…, the two key takeaways I’m getting are…, did I get it right?, is there more?). (YES! This is easier said than done. That’s why we say practice even 10% better makes a difference every time).
- Focus on 2-3 key practices and make them doable. Test assumptions that you can’t or won’t be successful. The biggest thing that prevents leaders from taking the STEP is their fear of stepping out of their comfort zone.
- When others have input for me, do I react or respond, and what does it look like? (Hint – Be honest. If you want the real truth, ask your friends or family members.)
- How coach-able am I? (Hint – If you are unsure, ask a trusted colleague at work, one who will give you real talk.)
- What can I practice or what support can I request that would help me be 10% more open and receptive? (Hint – Breathe.)
- What help do I need to make progress in this area? (Hint – You don’t have to do this alone.)
Please reach out and my team if you’d like to connect about how to apply these ideas, to help members on your team navigate these conversations, or to discuss the biggest current challenges you are facing today.
Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health.
Remember to find resources to inspire you here.
Yours in practice,