How to Tell When You’re Not Coachable and When You Are

This is so important for all leaders, whether you actually have a coach or not.
Coachability is really about openness, your willingness to learn new things, and your ability to take feedback and process it for your betterment and improvement of your performance. 

Whether we have an actual coach or not, we are always in an opportunity to be coached. 

Whether it is by ourselves (you can coach yourself through something), maybe your boss, if you’re working in an organization is coaching you or mentoring you through something, maybe you have an actual coach, maybe you are considering hiring a coach.

Whether or not you are coachable is actually an incredibly important characteristic and speaks directly to your learning agility and so that is what we are talking about today. 

When I create programs, they come with applications.
 I’m not trying to be trendy or impossibly difficult or exclusive; this is the first step in my being able to ensure you are ready for the program you are applying for. It’s how I create strong energetic containers and protect those people who pay me. 

Protect sounds like a strange word right there, doesn’t it? 

Except it’s not, because our job as a leader is to widen the circle, to draw people in and offer safety. 

It’s primal to us as leaders. While I’m not a lady in medieval times who is fighting off insurgents from local enemies, I am protecting my space from other things; primarily from people who aren’t ready for coaching or people who lack coachability. 

The number one objective to my sales call is to understand if coaching is what you need right now.

Coaching isn’t always the best solution. 

I’m a firm believer that my client’s results are their results. 

I don’t claim them as my own, which I see a lot of coaches do all the time. It’s not my responsibility to get my clients results, but it is my responsibility to ensure I am working with someone who is coachable enough to get the results they have claimed they want. 

It’s my responsibility to be a highly skilled coach, which means I understand the science behind coaching. I continually seek to improve my skills. I’m diligent in capturing client data, so I can be ahead of trends and create content to help more people. It’s my responsibility to have bold conversations when someone has a blind spot or when someone isn’t being coachable. 

And now, here’s my belief:
I believe that at any given time we can fall somewhere on the spectrum of coachable or not as coachable. 

In the past, I’ve mistakenly coached people who were uncoachable.

I’m fairly certain that every coach has made this mistake. It’s how we learn to identify who’s ready and who’s not ready to be really claiming the change that they want in their life, to be claiming those things that they want to do differently.

There were a few times when I can really think about people who are uncoachable; there was a woman who wanted to start a business, so she could leave her job as an executive assistant. 

She wanted to start a business as a social media manager, but had no prior experience at this, nor did she even have social media accounts or proof that she was credible.

When I pointed this out, she didn’t understand the problem. Furthermore, she wanted me to tell her what to do. Number one, that’s not coaching.

Telling somebody what to do is not coaching and it’s not effective. 

Number two, if you want to run a business, but need someone to tell you what to do all the time, we have a very, very big problem. It’s a deficiency in critical and strategic thinking, as well as decision-making competencies. 

Competencies, I believe, that are required for running a business. 

So we had a conversation about whether or not she could step into a container where she is being coached, and she could not. We released the contract. 

Then there was the CEO who trusted no one and lacked incredible emotional intelligence. 

He wanted to take his business from $15 million a year to $30 million a year, in one year, but had no plan. So I put on my consultant hat and mapped out a plan on the whiteboard and with the staff and procedures he currently had, it was impossible. 

The amount of project quoting alone was going to bury his existing team, not to mention they didn’t have the skill set to take on as much work. Their communication skills, their procedures, their process skills, their operational skills were lacking. 

They needed significant training and some more staff, but he remained convinced that things have always fallen in his lap and that a $15 million deal was right around the corner. And even if that happened, he didn’t have the infrastructure to deliver on it. So his arrogance combined with his unwillingness to change really is what- he got fired. 

So I fired this client, and that’s how I’m gonna language this one. So it was his arrogance combined with his unwillingness to change that got him fired as a client of mine. 

The third person that I can think of is the client who doesn’t know what they don’t know, but thinks they know everything. 

They hire coaches and advisers and listen to none of them, choosing to do it all their way anyway, and is so deeply entrenched in being right that it leaves no room for growth. 

These are three people that I have specifically worked with in my business that were uncoachable, and that I have had to release from contracts because I’m 100% committed to my clients getting the results that they want, and when you show up in this way, you are not going to get the results that you want. 

Does this mean they are bad people?
No way.

It simply means they were not coachable at this time, and coachability is something that we come in and out of.

If we look at it as a spectrum, any of us can fall somewhere on this spectrum depending on other factors that might make us uncoachable in a moment.

Even I have moments where I lack coachability, except I’m aware of it. 

I know when I’m lacking coachability. If I don’t feel like I can trust the person, if I discern their coaching skills are limited, if I’m tired or really angry, if I’m in resistance, I have to watch myself that I don’t become uncoachable.

If someone starts to coach me without permission, I’m 100% uncoachable.

 If I decide the area I’m being coached in isn’t the right area that I want to prioritize growth for, I’m uncoachable. 

These are some of the reasons why I, as a coach, can be uncoachable. So after coaching hundreds, probably thousands of people, I want to talk about what makes someone coachable. 

Here are the things that I’ve just quickly jotted down that I see in people that make them coachable:

  • Open to learning something new. 
  • They know what they don’t know. 
  • They have a willingness to be brave. 
  • They’re curious about blind spots. 
  • They may not know what they are, because after all they’re blind spots, but they know they have them in. 
  • They’re interested in finding them and learning more about them and having greater self awareness around them. 
  • They seek mentors who will challenge and change them. So many times I see people in resistance to change, incredibly change resistant, and they are buying programs that allow them to hide, or they’re working with coaches that will not raise the bar for their level of where they are and where they want to go. 
  • People who are coachable have a desire for more. They’re ready to lean into their edge, find those edges and really lean into them. 
  • They have a level of self awareness. They desire to be intentional in how they live, work and lead. 
  • They are action oriented. 
  • They’re willing to see the wins, progress and what’s working. This is so hard for people at times. They really get entrenched in not celebrating their wins, not wanting to brag about their successes, not wanting to acknowledge their progress. So they really are getting a lot more results and making a lot greater progress than they’re thinking. But it’s a failure to acknowledge it that’s keeping them stuck. 
  • To be coachable, you can’t believe everything that everyone tells you. 
  • You have to question things. You have to be a questioner. This is that curiosity piece. So if you are someone who doesn’t believe everything everyone tells you, kudos. Yeah, it makes you a little rebellious, but it makes you coachable too.
  • You’re accountable when given a system or framework. So you are accountable for doing the things and you show up for coaching calls prepared and intentional about what you’re taking away. So that, when someone like me especially, I provide assistance and how you can prepare best for the call because I want you to get the most out of it, you know if someone gives you what you need to prep for the call and then you don’t prep for the call and you don’t know what you want to talk about when you show up for the call, you don’t know what’s most important to address, you’re not intentional about this time, you’re not really coachable. So make sure you’re showing up for coaching calls prepared and intentional about what your taking away. 

Now, if these are the things that make you coachable, let’s talk about what makes you uncoachable:
It’s never a great sign when someone shows up on a sales call needing coaching or at the point of desperation. So that is a big hell no for me when I’m on a sales call. And it really, to me, it really detracts from whether or not somebody is coachable- that that desire or that desperation that need for coaching. 

Two, expecting that the coach is going to fix all the problems and tell them what to do. Trust me, I don’t have all the answers. 

Only you know what’s best for you. Walking into a coaching relationship like that will make you uncoachable and it’s certainly disempowering for you to enter into a coaching relationship in that way. 

Believing we’ve always done it this way; inn corporate this used to send me screaming into the bathroom. It’s true. I would hide in the bathroom and whisper scream. It’s all very Ally Mcbeal circuit in 1995, but “we’ve always done it this way. 

I’ve always done it this way. It’s always been this way. I’ve tried that and it didn’t work.” Any kind of stuff like that. “This is the only way it can work.” 

Any stuff like that will make you uncoachable. 

Not being open to other perspectives will make you uncoachable. 

So your way is the only way and anything anybody else says there’s a “yeah, but” to it, you are uncoachable. 

If you’re guarded or secretive or lacking the ability to step into vulnerability in that moment, you are going to be uncoachable. Now, there may be a reason for this. You might need therapy first. 

You might be working through trauma that needs to be addressed. 

You might have some deep trust issues that you need to look at. 

So being guarded, secretive, or lacking the ability to step into vulnerability will definitely limit the results you’re going to get from a coaching container. 

I mentioned this one, “yeah, but I know that already.” That’s one that shows up for me a lot. “Yeah. But I already know that.” as soon as I hear “yeah, but I know that already,” I know my ego is ruling the roost and I’ve got stuff that I need to look at. That is like an alarm bell in my head. 

Seeking mentors or environments that will let you hide. So you know, you think you’re growth oriented and moving forward, but really you’re just wasting time and money in environments that aren’t challenging you to grow. 

Sarcasm or saying things for attention or to get a rise. That 100% makes you uncoachable and that’s a discussion that would need to be had with you and the coach, that you are using sarcasm or saying things for attention or to get a rise as a defense mechanism and putting up what Brene Brown would say is is armor and not really, you know, allowing yourself or the coach in to take you to the depth that you need to go to make the change. 

You are uncoachable if you are skeptical about change. That’s not gonna work.

If you see coaching as a should or everyone else is doing it, that’s not gonna work. 

If you have a negative world view, that is going to make you uncoachable. I mean, that’s also the perfect thing to receive coaching around, but you somehow have to get yourself aware that you have a negative world view and ready to do the work to overcome the negative world view that you have. 

If you want to abdicate personal responsibility and critical thinking, that too isn’t going to work in a coaching setting. 

Another way to look at coachability is to dive into the work of Carol Dweck on growth mindset. 

So, do you have a growth mindset or do you have a fixed mindset? 

If you are coachable, you have a growth mindset. If you are struggling to be coached, you have a fixed mindset.

But here’s the thing: you can change a fixed mindset and this is one of those spectrum things. At any point, you could have a fixed mindset around a particular topic or subject or something like that. 

I mean, I’ve spent times in my life where I’ve been unhappy, depressed, stuck, adrift, and 100% in a fixed mindset and not coachable. I’ve spent long periods of time in spaces that I was not coachable and that I was stuck in, that I was adrift, and I was just being shitty, to be honest, and I wanted to be shitty, and I wanted to be entrenched in my unhappiness and my depression and in being stuck in a drift and I wanted to be in victim mindset where these things were happening to me, and I wanted to abdicate control of fixing them and that made me not coachable. 

I recently read a quote from Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” around how we can learn to fulfill our potential.

She says, “if parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning. That way their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” And that to me is a really great definition of what it means to be coachable. 

Now, not only do I recommend reading or checking out Carol Dweck’s book on mindset, which is a bit heavy, I’m not gonna lie. I mean the book, this isn’t the easiest of reads. You can certainly find some summary versions of her book or maybe find some articles on it that are worth checking out and reading if you don’t want to read the whole book. 

If you have children and want to encourage a growth mindset and coachability from an early age, which I highly recommend, check out the work of the people over at The Big Life Journal, and they have options for little kids, as well as products for teens. I’m not an affiliate for them. I just deeply believe in their work and my kids have their books and I go back to their work as well to help me with my children. 

What I’d like for you to do is to write down all of your characteristics that make you coachable. 

When are you coachable? When aren’t you coachable? What are the behaviors that you exhibit when you’re not being coachable? 

And be honest, because the most important thing here isn’t whether or not you’re coachable. It’s whether or not you are aware of when you are coachable and when you are not coachable.

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