How To Be Coachable: Improve Coachability & Make the Most of Your Leadership Coaching Engagement - Peter Boolkah

In the world of business, there’s a quality often overlooked that sets the great apart from the good: coachability. Yes, you heard it right. Coachability. It’s about being open to learning, yearning for growth, and fostering the humility to accept guidance. These qualities are foundational to transformative leadership.

But what does it mean to be coachable? And how can you enhance your coachability to get the most out of your leadership coaching engagement? Let’s dive into the heart of the matter and understand how you can leverage this important trait to climb the ladder of success.

What Does Being Coachable Mean?

Being coachable means being open and receptive to learning and training for improvement. It’s understood that perfection is a myth and there’s always room for growth. We should show gratitude for a coach’s time and feedback to demonstrate active listening and eagerness to learn.

As basketball legend Michael Jordan said, “My best skill was that I was coachable. I was a sponge and aggressive to learn.” Lack of coachability can hinder your growth, leading to a plateau caused by resistance to criticism and unwillingness to learn.

How to be coachable - Peter Boolkah

Why Being Coachable Is an Important Quality

You might be wondering why is it important to be coachable. To illustrate the concept and importance of coachability, let’s consider coachable and uncoachable athletes.

A coachable athlete possesses humility and a genuine eagerness to learn. They leaver their ego at the door and are receptive to feedback, as well as open to new techniques, which contributes to their sustained success and constant evolution as a player. On the other hand, an uncoachable athlete resists feedback and disregards their coach’s advice. They rely solely on their natural ability, hindering their growth and potential.

So, being coachable is not just about getting better at a skill; it’s about unlocking your limitless potential. When you’re coachable, you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, challenge your beliefs, and open yourself up to new possibilities. It’s all about personal and professional growth. It’s about being open to feedback and understanding that, when an executive coach or leadership coach gives you feedback it’s not to attack but a way to help you gain awareness, refocus goals, and provide an extra insight based on the excitement of seeing a more clear path to what you have defined as success.

Characteristics of a Coachable Person

Being coachable is not just a trait; it’s a collection of qualities that create an environment for growth and progress. Each person’s coachability is a unique blend of these qualities, shaping how they respond to input from others, face challenges, and strive for self-improvement. In the following section, we’ll explore the key characteristics that define someone who is truly coachable.

Growth Mindset

Success isn’t just about natural talent, but about continuous learning. People with a growth mindset see challenges as opportunities to grow, embrace effort as a path to mastery, and value criticism as a way to improve.

They don’t see setbacks as failures, but as valuable lessons to learn from and evolve. A growth mindset forms the foundation for coachability, allowing individuals to absorb and apply the knowledge and skills shared by their coach, leading to personal and professional growth.

Eager to Learn

An eagerness to learn fosters an insatiable intellectual curiosity that fuels the pursuit of knowledge and the desire to improve skills, regardless of current expertise. This trait drives individuals to ask thoughtful questions, seek feedback, and embrace new techniques or strategies introduced by their coach.

The drive to learn and grow is a powerful catalyst for enhancing coachability, ensuring effective leadership coaching, and facilitating the journey toward reaching one’s full potential.

Passionate about development

Having a passion for development is an integral part of being coachable. It’s not just about wanting to get better; it’s about having a deep-seated passion for personal and professional growth. Individuals who are passionate about development see every experience, positive or negative, as an opportunity to learn and grow.

They don’t settle for the status quo; they constantly seek ways to enhance their skills, broaden their knowledge, and help them improve their performance. This passion drives them to wholeheartedly embrace the coaching process and make the most of their leadership coaching. It fuels their motivation to learn, their resilience in the face of challenges, and their commitment to achieving their goals. Being passionate about development is the key to unlocking your potential, finding fulfillment, and paving the way for long-term success.

Highly Accountable

Accountability, in this context, means taking responsibility for our actions, decisions, and their outcomes. It’s about acknowledging when we make mistakes, learning from them, and making a committed effort to improve. Accountable people don’t blame others but face their shortcomings head-on. We set personal performance standards and strive to meet them consistently.

This level of accountability builds trust and respect in the coaching relationship, fostering open and honest communication. It also encourages reflection and learning, laying the groundwork for continuous improvement and personal growth. A high level of accountability shows readiness to fully benefit from leadership coaching, as we’re prepared to take the necessary actions to achieve our goals.

Embraces Change

Embracing change is a fundamental trait of coachable individuals. In a constantly evolving business landscape, adaptability and flexibility are key to long-term success. Those who embrace change are not only open to new ideas and strategies, but they actively seek them out. They understand that the ability to adapt to change is a crucial aspect of growth and development.

They view change not as a threat, but as an opportunity to grow and learn. This mindset allows them to make the most of their coaching experience, as they are open-minded to new methods and strategies that will help them achieve their goals. They are not held back by fear of the unknown, but instead, see change as an exciting chance to learn something new and enhance their skills and knowledge.

Asking for Feedback

Coachability is all about being open and receptive to feedback. It’s not just about accepting feedback but actively seeking it out. Regularly ask your coach, peers, and team for their insights and opinions on your performance and strategies. This shows that you’re willing to see things from different perspectives and are committed to continuous improvement.

This proactive approach helps you identify blind spots and areas for development that you might not be aware of. When you ask for feedback, you show that you’re ready to learn and make the most of the coaching experience. Remember, feedback is a gift that offers valuable insights to guide your growth and help you achieve your goals.

Viewing Setbacks as Learning Opportunities

Seeing setbacks as learning opportunities is a crucial aspect of being coachable. Life and business are filled with ups and downs, and the path to our goals is often lined with obstacles. However, how we perceive and respond to these challenges can greatly impact our personal and professional growth. Coachable individuals don’t view setbacks as roadblocks, but rather as stepping stones to success.

They see challenges as chances to analyze their strategies, learn from their mistakes, and gain valuable insights. This perspective transforms setbacks into powerful learning experiences, fostering resilience and promoting continuous improvement. In the context of leadership coaching, embracing this mindset allows you to effectively use feedback and advice, adapt your strategies when necessary, and keep moving forward in your pursuit of goals.

Sharing the Vision

An essential part of being coachable is the ability to share your vision. It’s about expressing your goals, values, and dreams to your coach, giving them a clear roadmap to guide your coaching journey. Sharing your vision goes beyond outlining business objectives; it means painting a vivid picture of your desired future, encompassing both professional success and personal growth.

This shared vision helps align the coaching process with your unique needs and aspirations, making the journey more focused and effective. Plus, it fosters transparency and understanding, enabling effective communication and building a strong, collaborative coaching relationship.

Open to Different Perspectives

The openness to different perspectives shows a willingness to step outside your comfort zone and consider different approaches to problems and decisions. It encourages collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation, creating an environment where unique ideas and strategies can flourish. In the realm of leadership coaching, being open to different perspectives can greatly enhance the learning experience.

It allows you to gain fresh insights, challenge your existing beliefs, and broaden your understanding of various issues. This can lead to more informed decision-making, improved problem-solving skills, and a more nuanced approach to leadership.

Listen to What the Coach Says

How to Become More Coachable

Being coachable means being open to feedback, resilient in the face of setbacks, and transparent in sharing your vision. Let’s explore the best ways to become more coachable.

Listen to What the Coach Says

If you want to become coachable, you need to practice active listening. Active listening is about fully focusing on what your coach is saying in a thoughtful and meaningful way. It involves giving your complete attention, trying to understand the message, and responding appropriately. It’s not about being passive; it’s about actively engaging in the conversation, asking relevant questions, and seeking clarification when needed.

The power of active listening in coaching should not be underestimated. It helps with understanding, learning, and effective communication. By actively listening to your coach, you gain a deeper understanding of the guidance given, equipping you with the insights and knowledge to successfully navigate your business journey.

Have a Positive Attitude

Maintaining a positive attitude will certainly help you be more coachable. It’s all about nurturing an optimistic mindset, staying enthusiastic in the face of challenges, and being open to new experiences and learning. A positive attitude gives you the resilience to navigate setbacks, seeing them as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles.

In the coaching context, this positive outlook allows you to effectively absorb feedback, make changes, and work towards your goals with determination. It encourages a proactive approach to learning and problem-solving, fostering personal and professional development.

Be Gracious and Humble

Being gracious and humble is also one of the best tips to help you become and remain coachable. It’s about showing kindness, respect, and gratitude for the coach’s time and effort in your development, while also recognizing their expertise and knowledge. Humility means understanding that, no matter how accomplished you are as a leader, there’s always room to learn and grow.

It’s about being open to feedback and guidance, acknowledging areas for improvement, and appreciating the value of the coach’s input. By embracing both grace and humility, you create an environment that fosters learning, mutual respect, and effective coaching.

Change Your Behavior

The ability to change your behavior is about taking the feedback and insights you gain from your coaching sessions and applying them to adjust your actions, reactions, and overall leadership style. Change can be challenging and uncomfortable, but it’s an essential part of growth and development. It’s about being flexible and adaptable, willing to try different approaches, and always striving for improvement.

Remember that behavioral changes may not always bring immediate results, but they create momentum over time, leading to profound transformation. In a coaching context, your willingness to modify your behavior based on new insights and learning is a clear demonstration of coachability.

Be Aware of Your Nonverbal Communication

Being aware of your nonverbal communication is a crucial part of being coachable. Nonverbal cues like body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions can convey more about your thoughts and feelings than words alone. They play a big role in how your coach understands your openness to their advice and your commitment to personal growth.

As a leader, being in tune with your own nonverbal cues can improve your understanding of your emotional state and reactions, giving you valuable insights for self-improvement. In a coaching context, maintaining an open and engaged posture, making eye contact, and showing attentiveness through your expressions can foster a more effective dialogue with your coach.

Be Appreciative

Being appreciative goes beyond just saying thanks; it’s about genuinely acknowledging the value of the guidance, time, and expertise your coach brings to your development journey. It means recognizing the transformative power of coaching and how it helps you grow as a leader.

Showing appreciation can be in the form of verbal acknowledgments, positive feedback, and also through your actions – by applying what you learn from your coaching sessions, you show that you find the advice valuable and worthwhile. Additionally, being appreciative promotes a positive coaching relationship, encourages open dialogue, and creates an environment conducive to learning and growth.

Seek Constructive Criticism

Inviting constructive criticism is an essential element of being coachable. It’s about valuing feedback not as a form of judgment but as a valuable resource for growth and development. Constructive criticism provides a unique perspective and insights into areas you can improve. Moreover, it’s not just about accepting criticism; it’s also about actively seeking it.

Encourage your coach to provide honest and open feedback on your performance, approach, and leadership style. Taking this proactive stance towards helpful criticism often leads to more targeted and effective coaching sessions, enhancing your growth trajectory.

Don’t Make Excuses

It’s often tempting to justify mistakes or underperformance by blaming external circumstances or other factors. However, becoming defensive hinders learning and personal growth. By eliminating excuses, you show your coach that you’re ready to acknowledge your weaknesses and committed to addressing them.

This not only creates an environment of honesty and transparency but also enables more effective coaching sessions. When your coach understands your challenges without any excuses, they can provide more targeted advice and guidance.

Ask Questions

Asking questions is a vital part of being coachable. It’s not just about passively receiving information and instructions, but actively seeking clarity, deeper insights, and understanding. This means asking thoughtful and probing questions that show your curiosity, interest, and commitment to learning. The types of questions you ask can vary from seeking clarification on specific advice or feedback to broader inquiries about leadership principles or strategies.

By asking questions, you demonstrate your full engagement in your coaching journey. You’re not just interested in surface-level knowledge but eager to explore deeper. This willingness to probe and inquire not only enriches your learning experience but also allows your coach to provide more nuanced and contextualized feedback.

Take Time to Self-reflect

Taking time for self-reflection is crucial for personal growth. It’s about pausing to consider what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do differently. Reflecting on your experiences, actions, and feelings facilitates deeper learning.

In a coaching context, self-reflection after each session enhances the effectiveness of the learning process. You can journal your thoughts, insights, and realizations, discussing them with your coach in subsequent sessions. This habit not only shows your commitment to personal development but also helps your coach tailor strategies to your unique learning journey.

coaching relationship

What Makes a Person Uncoachable?

While it’s important to understand the characteristics that enhance coachability, it’s equally significant to recognize the traits that make a person uncoachable. Some certain attitudes and behaviors can hinder the effectiveness of a coaching relationship and impede growth. Let’s dive into some of these factors that can make a person uncoachable, and explore how to address them for a successful coaching experience.

Not Being Aware They Have a Problem

Lack of self-awareness is often the biggest obstacle to being coachable. When individuals aren’t aware they have a problem or a gap in their leadership skills, they don’t see the need for coaching. This mindset can lead to resistance, dismissing feedback from others, and not fully engaging in the coaching process.

Overcoming this hurdle starts with encouraging self-awareness. It can be facilitated through assessments, 360-degree feedback, or simply through open conversations. Once someone recognizes their areas for improvement, they are more likely to be open to coaching, receptive to feedback, and proactive in their development journey.

Pursuing the Wrong Strategy for the Organization

One factor that can make someone ‘uncoachable’ is their unwavering commitment to a strategy that doesn’t benefit the organization. This can be due to various reasons, like resistance to change, overconfidence, or a lack of understanding of the organization’s needs and context. This determination can be harmful to coaching, as it may result in dismissing criticism and being unwilling to explore new perspectives or consider alternative strategies.

Moreover, it can hinder the organization’s growth and development. Overcoming this challenge requires a mindset shift, from being fixed and rigid to being open and adaptable. The key is to acknowledge that strategies should be dynamic and flexible, evolving in response to the changing business environment.

Taking Criticism Personally

Taking criticism personally is another trait that makes the difference between a coachable and an uncoachable person. It’s like feeling attacked or misunderstood when receiving feedback or criticism. This attitude not only creates a barrier to open communication but also hinders the learning process.

Being able to accept criticism objectively and constructively is a crucial aspect of leadership development. If you’re open to feedback, you demonstrate a willingness to learn new things and grow, fostering a more positive and productive coaching relationship.

Being Defensive When Receiving Feedback

Being defensive when receiving feedback is a key trait of an ‘uncoachable’ individual. It’s like having an instant reflex to rebuff criticism and a tendency to justify actions rather than acknowledging shortcomings. This approach not only hinders personal development but also strains the coaching relationship. Feedback, however constructive, is rendered ineffective if the recipient is not open to hearing it.

An essential step to overcoming defensiveness is understanding that feedback is not an attack on one’s persona, but a tool to identify strengths and areas for improvement. It’s an opportunity for learning and growth. In a coaching relationship, it’s crucial to focus on the issue at hand and not perceive feedback as a personal insult.

Not Taking Directions Well

Some people struggle with taking directions well, which can significantly hinder their coachability. This can stem from a strong sense of independence, a dislike of authority, or even an inflated ego. These individuals often prefer to pave their path, which can be a strength in certain situations. However, in a coaching context, this can be detrimental as it can lead to becoming resistant to coaching, failure to implement suggested improvements, and ultimately, a lack of personal growth.

The key to overcoming this challenge lies in recognizing the value of external input and appreciating the role of a coach as a catalyst for personal and professional development. The best leaders can balance their self-reliance with the wisdom gained from others. These business leaders tend to make the most of their coaching experiences. It’s important to remember that accepting direction doesn’t compromise your autonomy; instead, it enriches your perspective and equips you with new strategies for success.

No Interest in Moving Upwards

One of the biggest hurdles to being coachable is when someone lacks ambition or interest in moving up. This can be seen in people who are satisfied with their current position and don’t see the value in striving for more. When there’s no drive to improve, it can be difficult for a coach to inspire and motivate. The coaching process can become stagnant and ineffective. While it’s okay to be content with where you are, it’s also important to recognize that there’s always room for growth and development, even if it doesn’t mean climbing the corporate ladder.

By having a growth mindset and being open to learning, anyone can become more coachable, regardless of their current position or aspirations. In a coaching relationship, it’s crucial to understand that growth isn’t just about promotions or higher positions, but about enhancing skills, improving performance, and becoming a more effective leader. Embracing this understanding can make the coaching journey more rewarding and fruitful.

leadership coaching

Tips on How to Coach an “Uncoachable” Employee

In the realm of leadership coaching, encountering an “uncoachable” employee can indeed pose an intriguing challenge. However, the key to success lies in adapting your coaching approach and fostering an environment conducive to personal growth and learning. Here, we provide some insightful tips on how you can effectively coach an “uncoachable” employee, transforming obstacles into opportunities for growth and development.

Understand What Motivates Them

People are motivated by different things; some find motivation in recognition, others thrive on the challenge of achieving a goal, and some are fueled by personal development. By identifying and acknowledging these motivations, you can tailor your coaching approach to resonate more effectively with each employee. For example, if an employee is motivated by recognition, you might incorporate more opportunities for positive reinforcement in your coaching sessions.

If they are driven by personal development, you can focus on highlighting the growth opportunities that arise from helpful constructive feedback. By aligning your coaching approach with your employee’s motivations, you can foster a more engaging and productive coaching relationship. Remember, understanding motivations is not about manipulation; instead, it’s about creating a coaching experience that is meaningful and beneficial for the employee.

Build a Relationship of Trust with Them

Building a relationship of trust with your employees is fundamental to a productive coaching engagement. Trust breeds openness and receptivity, both of which are key to enhancing coachability. As a coach, you can foster trust by consistently showing empathy, understanding, and respect.

This can be achieved by actively listening to your employee’s ideas and concerns, acknowledging their efforts and achievements, and providing support during challenging times. It’s also crucial to maintain transparency, honesty, and consistency in your interactions, as these qualities are the backbone of a trust-based relationship. Over time, this trust will empower the employee to be more receptive to feedback, more open to learning, and thus more coachable.

Use Feedback to Test if They Are Coachable

Giving and receiving feedback is crucial for personal and professional growth. When someone receives feedback, their response reveals a lot about their openness to change. Do they get defensive or dismissive, or do they embrace the opportunity to grow?

An employee who welcomes feedback sees it as a chance to improve, and takes proactive steps to make changes is likely coachable. Conversely, if an employee consistently reacts defensively, dismisses feedback, or ignores it altogether, it may indicate a lack of coachability.

However, it’s important to remember that receiving feedback can be challenging for many people. A negative initial reaction doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not coachable; they may just need support in learning how to effectively engage with feedback. As a coach, you can nurture this skill by providing clear feedback and helping them create an action plan based on the feedback.

Motivate Team Bonding

Strong bonds within a team foster a sense of belonging, mutual respect, and collaboration, all of which can facilitate openness to learning and change. Team bonding activities, such as team-building exercises or social events, offer opportunities for employees to interact in a relaxed, non-work context, allowing them to understand and appreciate each other’s strengths, work styles, and perspectives better.

This understanding can foster an environment of mutual support, where feedback and learning become a shared experience, rather than an individual challenge. Over time, this can boost an individual’s receptivity to coaching, as they feel supported and valued within their team. A word of caution, though – team bonding activities must be inclusive and respectful of individual preferences and boundaries, to ensure that all team members feel comfortable and valued. After all, a truly bonded team is one where diversity is celebrated, and everyone feels they belong.

The Difference Between “Uncoachable” and “Ineffective Coaching”

It is crucial to differentiate between an ‘uncoachable’ employee and the consequences of ineffective coaching. An ‘uncoachable’ individual is often perceived as someone resistant to change or unwilling to engage in the coaching process. However, this resistance can sometimes be a reaction to a coaching style or approach that doesn’t resonate with them. In such cases, the issue isn’t with the individual’s coachability, but rather with the effectiveness of the coaching being provided.

Ineffective coaching can stem from a lack of understanding of the individual’s motivators, an absence of trust, or an approach that doesn’t fit the individual’s learning style. It could also result from a failure to provide clear, helpful feedback or a lack of support in translating feedback into action. In these circumstances, it’s important to reassess and adapt the coaching approach to accommodate the individual’s needs and preferences, rather than labeling them as ‘uncoachable’.

Hence, before concluding that an employee is ‘uncoachable’, it is worthwhile to critically examine the coaching strategies being deployed. Effective coaching is a dynamic, two-way process – it requires adaptability and a deep understanding of the individual being coached. Remember, the ultimate goal is to create an environment that promotes growth, learning, and development for all, not just for those who immediately seem receptive to coaching.


Is there a difference between teachable and coachable?

Yes, there is indeed a difference between being teachable and coachable, and both qualities are important for personal and professional growth. Being teachable is primarily about having a willingness to learn new knowledge and skills, being open to new concepts, and mastering new abilities. It’s about acquiring new information and embracing growth.

On the other hand, being coachable goes beyond just being willing to learn; it involves being receptive to guidance, having the humility to accept feedback, and being committed to implementing changes. It’s about personal development and transformation, often requiring the adjustment of existing behaviors and habits. While a teachable person may excel in a classroom setting, a coachable person thrives in a coaching engagement that involves ongoing feedback, goal-setting, and personal growth.

How do you show Coachability in an interview?

To demonstrate coachability in an interview, you can express a willingness to learn and a positive attitude toward feedback. Talk about your experiences of receiving helpful feedback and how you’ve implemented lasting changes based on that feedback. Highlight instances where you’ve shown flexibility and adaptability, especially in relation to learning and development.

Share about your proactive steps towards continuous learning, such as participating in professional development programs or seeking mentorship. Also, emphasize your understanding of the value of coaching for personal and professional growth.

What is sales Coachability?

Sales coachability is all about the willingness and ability of sales reps to accept and implement feedback from their coaches or managers. It’s about being open to learning and continuously honing sales skills for better performance.

A coachable sales rep is receptive to criticism, adapts their sales tactics based on feedback, and is committed to personal growth and sales excellence. Cultivating coachability within a sales team can greatly enhance sales performance and productivity, fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

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