More organizations and leaders worldwide are recognizing the power and value of executive coaching. In the United States alone, the personal development space is said to be a $10 billion industry. That’s no surprise, given how effective this particular approach to leadership development can be. A trusted relationship between coach and client creates a unique opportunity for leaders to transform mindsets, habits, beliefs, behaviors and ultimately, performance. When done well, coaching can be an excellent leadership development investment.
There’s a proverb that says, “You reap what you sow.” That’s exactly the case with coaching. When the leader is truly willing to invest hard work into their coaching engagement, the rewards for both themselves and their organization are tremendous. Coaching will be a worthwhile use of both time and money when the client is coachable. I have seen many companies reap considerable rewards from their investment in coaching leaders who really want it. When looking into coaching investments, the most essential consideration is the coachability of the leader. I have noticed four behaviors that the most coachable leaders have in common.
1. They own their part.
Is this leader quick to take responsibility when things go wrong? Rather than blaming others, defending themselves or letting their team take the hit, the most coachable leaders are those who are clear about their part in work that misses the mark. When leaders accept that they need to continually learn and grow, and they demonstrate self-awareness, they demonstrate the fundamentals to coachability. Coaching is most effective when leaders are willing to see the impact they have on others — positive and negative.
2. They are highly engaged in the selection process, looking for the ‘right ‘ coach.
A good fit between a leader and coach is essential. It takes time and effort for a leader to research and interview possible coaches. The most coachable executives will be more than willing to diligently and proactively search for the right coach. They understand why coaching is needed and the key role the coach will play. It’s a sign of confidence in a leader’s coachability when he or she is willing to do the work of selecting their trusted thought partner.
Being coached can be daunting. Only some are ready to take it on. Since the leader views coaching as something positive to help achieve their goals, he or she will find a way to find their coach.
3. They are willing to sacrifice their time.
Leaders who are actually ready for coaching will make time for it. They will prune and adjust their schedules to make room for this important work. Busy yet willing leaders are committed. They may take some time to adjust their full calendars, but they will do exactly that. Professional development can’t be shoehorned into the calendar of those who don’t really want it anyway. Coachable leaders know that they need to prioritize. In fact, being open to actually giving up the time for this work suggests they are highly coachable.
“Showing up” in coaching, like preparing for sessions, being engaged during sessions, and completing assignments after sessions are essential for leaders to get the best return on this investment. With this kind of approach, these are the executives who will truly develop those new mindsets and skillsets that will lead to new results.
4. They are ready to be vulnerable.
Coachable leaders are willing to dig into uncomfortable topics. They are open to reflect on questions that push them into real change. They view coaching as an important part of their professional (and personal) development. They understand it could impact their job, career and life. They don’t think things will change fast. They expect their coach to guide them through the work of opening up to real and significant change. They know that good questions are often more effective than “good advice.” And everything is on the table — results, behaviors and beliefs.
Beliefs and assumptions lurk below the surface of behavior. When coaches are doing their best work, they will help leaders see these hidden drivers as they really are. Leaders who show this vulnerability will get the most out of this process.
I believe every leader could benefit from coaching. The behaviors outlined above indicate that certain leaders are truly ready to be coached now. For those not quite as ready for coaching, consider other experiences, such as an effective 360° assessment or an executive development course. Coaching is surely the best investment for those leaders showing the levels of coachability outlined above. Like any investment, when it comes to coaching executives, timing is everything.