What is Coachability?

Jake Weiss
May 6, 2024
5-minute read

When I played soccer at the University of Central Florida, I experienced one of the “a-ha moments” that changed the direction of my life. We were down by two goals against our rival when an assistant coach pulled our star forward off the field. I expected the coach to yell at him in anger, but instead, the coach whispered something in his ear. Even from my distant position on the pitch, I could see the coach calmly explaining something to our best player. 

The coach sent the player back into the game. He dazzled us. He had the game of his life. He played a significant role in the three goals we later scored, and we claimed victory against our opponent. 

That day, I marveled at our coach. How did he so deftly inspire my teammate? What went on in his brain that helped something click in his player’s brain? I knew then that I wanted to study the psychology of coaching. 

When I began my PhD in organizational psychology, it was clear that people had the same ideas as me. We all recognized the undeniable value of good coaching – according to the International Coaching Federation, even now global organizations spend $4.6 billion annually just on coaching initiatives, and the Harvard Business Review reports that global organizations spend more than $60 billion on leadership development programs each year. 

But, my research revealed something startling: it is not managers’ coaching abilities, but rather employees’ coachability that is truly the most critical accelerant for both individual and organizational growth. Essentially, our openness to coaching and our willingness to act on that feedback matter even more than the quality of the person providing the feedback. 

Looking back on my “a-ha moment,” my research suggested I had it wrong. I had been awed by the coach when I should have been amazed by the player; he was the one who had taken his coach’s feedback and then delivered an incredible performance. 

This finding has some profound implications for each of us, no matter our role on the team. If we make some small changes to move from “coachable” to “highly coachable,” that high level of coachability can propel us to elite levels of success, whether we are the newest player on the bench or the head coach.

Defining “coachability”

So what does it mean exactly to be “highly coachable”? Evidence tells us that coachability is both a trait and a skill. 

We all have some existing characteristics that are helpful for coachability. Our cutting-edge Coachability@Work Assessment reveals your personal coachability profile; this tool shows which of your current tendencies contribute positively to your coachability, and it also reveals areas you can further develop and improve. 

The following are some key traits highly coachable people possess:

  • Growth mindset
  • Accountability
  • Humility
  • Curiosity

Our level of coachability isn’t fixed. It’s not just an attitude, but a behavior we can train. 

The following are some key behaviors highly coachable people demonstrate:

  • Proactively seeking feedback, advice, and coaching from a wide range of sources
  • Listening actively, internalizing, and expressing appreciation for feedback, even if their initial instinct is to disagree with the message
  • Applying coaching and feedback to accelerate growth and elevate results 

At Coachability Consultants, we believe that everyone can elevate to the level of highly coachable, and we are on a mission to help as many people as possible achieve that milestone. 

To learn more about why coachability matters, read more on our blog or sign up for our newsletter. To learn more about how to increase coachability within yourself or your organization, explore the services we offer, or reach out to us via Calendly.

We look forward to getting in touch and getting you started on your coachability journey. 

Jake Weiss
CEO & President

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