Are You Coachable?

In a recent article I wrote, No I Don’t Want to Mentor You. Let Me Tell You Why, I chronicled a list of reasons why the mentor-mentee relationship can be difficult. The response to the piece was overwhelmingly positive. However, there were a few folks that were uncomfortable with the tone of the article. They said it was too harsh and that there was a nicer way to communicate the frustrations held by mentors across the country.

These comments got me thinking about our ability to receive key information irrespective of the package it comes in. Could our requirement of the niceties be causing us to miss out on opportunities to learn and grow? Have we gotten so fragile that we are unable to hear key messages if they are obscured by the tiniest of interpersonal noise? Are we coachable?

I have had the bittersweet opportunity to be trained by many people throughout my career. Some were sexist, some racist, but all essential to my growth and development as a professional. When you are entering fields that are White male dominated, you have little choice. I didn’t have the luxury of not receiving their tutelage. If I wanted to learn, it had to be from them. I’ll admit that, at the time, this was not the most pleasant experience, but now I am grateful for those awkward exchanges. I learned to pick my battles. I learned how to filter out the noise to get to the key messages I needed to grow professionally. I learned how supervisors and managers think and adapted my performance to do what gets graded. I learned how to find the nugget of truth in any feedback. I learned to ask good questions and actually listen to the answers, even when I didn’t like them.

I am in no way suggesting that you tolerate abuse and overt disrespect. I merely suggest that we examine ourselves to see if we are truly open to learn from others. I have seen far too many people stall out in their careers because of their unwillingness to receive criticism. It can sometimes be painful, but it’s always necessary.

How do you know you’re coachable?

  1. When you’re given feedback, you take a moment to process what’s being said before responding.
  2. You don’t rush to defend yourself, but practice active listening.
  3. You seek out feedback from others in an effort to grow.
  4. You are willing to change your position when good reasoning is presented.
  5. You can learn from anyone.

Being coachable is a skill you can learn. By developing a thick skin and maintaining an openness and profound desire to grow, you can learn best practices of what to do and what not to do to become the best at what you do. That is what we all want.

By the way, in the spirit of openness, I too processed the feedback I received about my article. Maybe I’ll be a little nicer next time…..

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