August 5, 2021
Recently, I had an earnest client ask me, “Am I just not coachable?”
In an age where having an executive coach is increasingly as important and popular in terms of upward acceleration as having a college degree, this is a very smart and self-aware question to ask. The truth was this client was coachable. However, in the weeks after starting coaching, she fell into a trap. Coaching became more of place for her to vent or have an active listener than to really work towards active goals. So, what does it mean to be coachable? Here are six steps to knowing if you are coachable, and if hiring coach would really help you.
1. Have some clear goals for coaching
Unlike therapy, coaching is a highly active engagement where there is a shared goal and an active intention to meet that goal. This is not to say therapy doesn’t have goals. But in therapy, clients can explore and freely think with the therapist observing and holding space. The best client sessions happen when clients show up ready with a goal, having thought through possible barriers to the achievement of that goal, potential outcomes they like to see and a willingness to share what they’ve tried.
This doesn’t mean you have to show up fully prepared and having done the work in total. Your goals can be “ideas” of what you want to accomplish. But it really does make for a highly effective session if you come prepared. Many clients come prepared for their first few sessions, and then once in a rhythm with their coach, they begin to just show up without having done much preparation for the session. It is in these sessions that time and energy can be spent in ways that are not as helpful as when goals are clear and there is a target.
2. Be ready to go deep
Even the most mundane seeming work issues can often indicate some emotional undercurrent. Clients who share emotionally and are open to the coach usually have the most fruitful and nourishing sessions. As we are coming to realize, our emotional baggage doesn’t just disappear when we walk through the door (or Zoom call) at work. In fact, our emotional contractions and barriers can be at play in often passive aggressive or self-limiting ways at work. It is so important that clients are willing to be open to getting deep with their coach. This can include looking at historical relationships, childhood trauma and workplace pain. We tend to name workplace pain in different ways — stress is a good code name for work pain. But in the end, being in emotional pain is just that. And those clients who come to the session ready to dig deep turn over the most surprising and change-making insights.
3. Know when you are setting the stage and when you are verbally processing
I’m a verbal processor. This means I think out loud and often take others through a long and at times painful journey through my brain. And while most coaches welcome verbal processing, it can also be a way for clients to burn away their time without really nailing a focus point. Setting the stage for your coaching topic is great. Using 40 minutes of a 60-minute session to apprise your coach on everything that happened since you last met is sometimes not helpful.
A coach doesn’t need the detail. They need a clear topic or goal. Much of the work takes place in the present moment or real-time. Spending your session on the details will eat up time where you could be actively working on the problem.
4. Determine if you are willing to make a shift
Great coaches want you to feel like your sessions are worthwhile. But the road to change is not always easy, and having a coach mirror back the harder stuff can be difficult. To know if you are coachable or not, you really must ask yourself: Am I willing to hear someone else’s point of view, or have someone mirror back to me ways in which I need to see things from a new angle? If the answer is no, coaching will likely not be helpful. But, if the answer is yes, you will uncover personal awareness and insights that can not only change your work, but they can also change your life.
5. Come with question versus answers
Client who feel they know best are often not ready to be coached. This makes it hard for a coach to open up curiosity, vulnerability and a portal for deep and meaningful change. The clients who come seeking true reflection and who want to see themselves or situations in a different light often find the fastest growth. Coming to coaching open-minded and really ready to explore new ways of being, thinking and relating will help you find the growth you’re looking for from coaching.
6. Commit fully
Sometimes the deepest work happens outside of the coaching session. Many coaches give homework between sessions. Being committed — not just to keeping your session times and showing up — is essential to long-term growth and change. My clients who do their spend time between sessions digging into, pondering, reflecting, journaling and staying active in the topic at work see an acceleration in their results. That is why most coaches work not on a session-by-session basis, but on retainer. Because it is a time-based commitment, not just a session-based commitment.