What Coachability is & Why it Matters

Coachability: Critical for individual, team, and organizational success

By The Coachability Consultants Team

Throughout our lives – whether on the field or court, or in an organizational context – many of us hear about the importance of being “coachable.”  However, coming from disparate backgrounds, we oftentimes hold different conceptualizations or understandings of what coachability truly is.

So, what is coachability?  How do we define this critical concept?  What does it look like in practice?  Rather than provide you with an anecdotal or “best guess” understanding, let’s turn to the research to review a validated, evidence-based definition of coachability.

What is Coachability?

Athletic and organizational scholars define coachability as an individual’s willingness and ability to seek, be receptive to, and act on constructive feedback to drive individual development and improve performance.

If we unpack this definition, we find that highly coachable individuals proactively seek information when it’s not readily available, rather than waiting for it to be provided.  So, rather than waiting around saying “I’m not developing or improving because I don’t have the information I need” or “I’m not getting better because my manager or coach isn’t helping me,” highly coachable individuals take initiative and actively seek out this information – from a variety of sources.  These individuals take ownership over their development.

When faced with feedback, whether proactively sought out or provided in an unsolicited manner, highly coachable individuals are extremely receptive to this information.  As opposed to discounting or devaluing the feedback solely based on who’s providing the information, and instead of getting defensive based on the content of the feedback, highly coachable individuals intently listen to and internalize this information.  They understand if they don’t listen to and glean insights from the feedback provided, they eliminate any possibility of leveraging this critical information for developmental and performance improvement purposes.  

How can you implement information you didn’t actually listen to and process?

Now, after receiving and internalizing the feedback, highly coachable individuals quickly put this information into action to grow and improve.  Without action, no behaviors change.  Development does not occur.  Performance cannot improve. Embodying and demonstrating coachability requires that individuals engage in all three of these behaviors on a frequent and consistent basis. Just seeking and listening to feedback is not enough.  Rather, one must (1) proactively seek; (2) demonstrate acute receptivity to; and (3) act on the feedback.  This will ultimately lay the foundation for continuous growth and improvement, and enable individuals’ to achieve critical organizational outcomes, which we will discuss in the next section of this article.

Before moving on to the next section, let’s draw your attention back to the coachability definition. Specifically, the word “constructive.”  Research indicates highly coachable employees don’t only seek out feedback that makes them feel or look good (e.g., positive feedback); rather, they truly want the specific, nit-picky, “hard-to-hear” (i.e., constructive) feedback because they understand this information holds the key for effectively unlocking and boosting performance.

Why Does Coachability Matter?

Research and practice clearly demonstrate coachability proves crucial for facilitating individuals’ development and elevating performance. Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at the quantitative impact of coachability on critical outcomes, such as agility / adaptability, performance, and promotability.

Recent empirical data indicates highly coachable individuals, relative to their less coachable counterparts, achieve significantly greater outcomes – even when receiving the same exact coaching or feedback! Specifically, highly coachable individuals – when receiving the same coaching and feedback as individuals lower in coachabilIty  perform at a 9% higher level, are 28% more adaptable, and are 30% more promotable.

These findings showcase the importance of coachability at the individual level. But, if our team or company develops a strong culture around coachability and coaching, what is the impact at this broader team and organizational level?

Similar to the value of coachability at the individual level, building strong coachability and coaching cultures significantly boosts teams’ and organizations’ bottom-line results.  Leading research (see here and hereindicates teams and corporations that create strong coachability and coaching cultures are more than twice as likely to be high-performing organizations, relative to those that do not. More specifically, recent empirical research uncovers the following impact and benefits:

Thus, research palpably highlights the critical value and importance of coachability across teams and organizations – both at the individual and across broader team and organizational levels. 

By identifying coachable talent in the hiring or recruiting process, elevating that coachability to a highly coachable level through skills training, and implementing processes and systems to build and sustain a strong coachability and feedback culture, your team or organization can achieve these outcomes and establish a competitive advantage relative to your rivals.

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