Can you be really successful without being coachable? The short answer is no. I first learned this as little girl by reading a Bible story, and it was reminded to me recently as I made the choice to fire a new client before it turned into a draining disaster.
My parents were not religious when I was growing up, but among the few beat-up books we owned, there was a Bible we read often, over and over, from cover to cover.
2 Kings Chapter 5 tells the story of Naaman, a very important captain in the Syrian army, described as “honorable” and “a mighty man in valor.” Naaman suffered much because he was a leper, so when he heard there was a prophet in Samaria that could cure him, he got so excited that he went and told his boss about it:
“And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.” 2 Kings 5:5
Well, the King of Israel was quite troubled with the request to cure Naaman and thought it was a trap. Elisha, the prophet, having heard about this, invited Naaman over.
“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” 2 Kings 5:9-10
You probably know that Naaman was not happy with this prescription. He had a different idea on how things should go. I was in shock reading this because, even to a little girl, it was logical that if you have come so far to get something and seem so willing to do what it takes to get a result, you would certainly agree to do something easy, simple, and free!
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
2 Kings 5:11-12
Naaman was offended. He forgot the result he wanted and focused on the process he had envisioned. Thankfully, one of his servants talked some sense into this man, reminding him of what his goal actually was.
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2 Kings 5:14
Naaman was more than grateful, and wanted to do anything to compensate Elisha, but he almost missed out on the chance of his life because it didn’t quite go as he had planned it would.
It’s really sad to see the potential outcome someone could experience in their lives if only they were coachable enough to let go of what they think should happen in order to create it.
I’ve experienced this in my workshops and in my coaching practice. There is often someone who misses out, because they resist an exercise or assignment, or feel offended at the way you did or didn’t do something. They forget why they signed up in the first place and get caught in the trap of their own thinking.
As a coach and mentor, I love to help people reach a goal or obtain a result they deeply desire, however, learning to let go and to honor myself, my time, and my labor of love, sometimes requires me to make hard choices.
I feel so much peace and I’m proud of myself for looking at signs early on in the process and for listening to what my gut was telling me. Within seconds of refunding her in full (even when I had spent time and effort in her project), I received a confirmation that I had done the right thing because while monetization is one of the goals of most projects I teach, I don’t resonate with the “let’s get down to business,” “all about the money,” approach to things.
I am relieved I avoided the pain of dragging a contract that wasn’t a fit any longer than necessary, especially not for an entire year!
I am clear that I am called to teach heart-based women who are ready to do the inner work sustainable and lasting success requires, and that are willing to surrender control to have faith in the process.
You may remember unorthodox master, Mr. Miyagi and skeptical and frustrated Daniel, from the movie Karate Kid. Daniel can’t see the connection between washing a car, sanding a wooden floor, refinishing a fence, painting a house, and learning karate. “Wax on, wax off…” seemed like a waste of time, almost a joke, and it all happened to benefit his teacher. In the end, these all proved to be helpful and effective ways to learn, and thankfully, he trusted his master through it all.
I love the Buddhist saying:
“Before Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood.
After Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood.”
I have carried water and chopped wood in both the literal and figurative sense, so I know the value of being coachable. But it wasn’t always like that, and in some areas, it still isn’t. As I’ve examined myself, there are many things I learned the hard way, and others I never learned
because of resistance to “someone else’s rules,”
because “it just didn’t seem like it would work,”
because I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it now. Surely there was a faster, more direct way…
Much of my inability to be coachable was coming from a place of insecurity, fear, and low self-esteem. It’s usual to have a high level of guardedness and to be afraid to be vulnerable, when you have experienced disempowering relationships or have allowed yourself to become a pushover.
One of the biggest benefits of being coachable for me has been to learn to learn how to give up control in order to get the results I want in my life. And that’s what faith is all about: the product of change are often only obvious after the change has occurred.
But I guess as you start seeing the results, you learn to trust more, and to stop debating, rationalizing, or overthinking the feedback you receive. I am getting better at catching myself.
So, let’s get nerdy and define coachable…
Coachable: adj. : capable of being easily taught and trained to do something better
And this is what being coachable means to me:
- You’re coachable when you keep in mind that the coach is on her side and that her purpose is to help you succeed
- You’re coachable when you realize you can’t know or do everything on your own
- You’re coachable when you are committed to the end result and focused on the vision, avoiding distractions or excuses
- You’re coachable when you are willing to accept responsibility and look at your own performance, rather than blaming everyone for your shortcomings
- You’re coachable when you demonstrate a commitment to actively improving your development: you put in the effort and complete your assignments, even if they may seem ‘pointless,’ challenging, or intimidating at the time.
- You’re coachable when you are able to receive direct feedback in a gracious manner, and with gratitude, rather than acting defensively, taking it personally, or as a personal attack
- You’re coachable when you realize there is always room for learning and improvement, and you welcome learning opportunities
As I read the list I just wrote, I chuckle thinking, I just described a “dream child” to mother, and a “dream student” to teach, and certainly describes an “ideal athlete.” Anyone could benefit from being coachable. Being coachable is not only the secret to an enjoyable and profitable mentoring relationship; it is the key to growing in any area of life, because it allows you to advantage of someone else’s wisdom, experience, and expertise.
“Foolish men learn only from experience. Wise men learn from other people’s experience.” ~ Proverb
If you think about it, the attitude of being coachable is a determinant factor of being successful in any area of life, and one of life’s most important skills one can possess. Ever since we take our first breath on Earth, we are being assisted to learn by someone else.
Our ability to be vulnerable, set our own ego aside, and trust the process will determine how quickly, and how easily we obtain the outcome we desire… and sometimes, whether we achieve it at all.
You can determine whether someone is coachable or not, even when you don’t coach them, and even if they don’t have a coach.
A person who decides to read a book, listen to a podcast, read a blog post, attend a conference, or contract with a trainer of some sort, had to come to these terms:
I really want it (that thing you want really badly)
I really need help to go further than I’ve gotten on my own
This [book, podcast interview, conference talk, blog post, trainer…] did it and knows something I don’t
But listening and understanding is only part of the equation. It is what you do AFTER you read the book, listen to the interview, show up at the conference and even take notes, and after you’re done reading the post, or listening to the trainer’s advice. You must be willing to act, even when you’re not that excited about taking dips into the Jordan, and you when you just don’t see the point in “wax on, wax off…”
The uncoachable student is she who is defensive, rolls their eyes when given feedback, takes things personally, puts people down, is disrespectful of others or their opinions/methods, is always questioning, not grateful, very negative or pessimistic, thinks she is always right, blames others, she’s not open to change and is unwilling to learn or do what it takes to improve, but often complain about not achieving the results she wants in her life…. I’m sure you can think of someone.
And as you think of her, you know she is not happy, not fulfilled, and she is missing out on accelerated learning, and ability to steadily improve and grow. She is stuck. Sigh. Being open and receptive are some of the most crucial attitudes to learning, growing, and achieving any goal.
“Coachability is the willingness to be corrected and to act on that correction. When we are coachable, we are prepared to be wrong. We can withstand a high degree of candor. We are willing to let others evaluate — and perhaps even plumb the depths of our performance because we understand that the journey of personal development cannot be traveled alone. We understand that our first fiduciary obligation is to ourselves, and that obligation is to gain accurate self-knowledge and then take the next step of progress. For the highly coachable, feedback, as the chalkboard aphorism goes, really is the breakfast of champions.” ~ Timothy R. Clark
It would be weird to ask someone “are you ready to be wrong about what it will take to be successful?” but answering “yes” to that question would be like saying “yes” to succeeding in life. I don’t know many things for certain, but one guarantee I have in life is that I am wrong more than I would like to be, and that learning when I’m wrong helps me be right.
Adopting a coachable mentality is a personal journey – only you can help you get better at it, but the good news is that you can get better at it. Coachability is a skill. If I could learn it, anyone can… you can.
It doesn’t matter how effective your coach or how amazing the coaching plan is, if you aren’t coachable, you will miss out: even with hypnosis, to succeed, you’ve gotta have a willing subject.
Do you think a person must be coachable to be successful? I’d love to read your thoughts on what coachability means to you!