Executive Coaching is Not ‘Training.’ You Must be Coachable!

Innovative companies invest in the development of their employees by offering coaching to their high-value executives. These companies recognize that executive coaching is an opportunity for advanced leadership development. It’s a benefit offered to the best and most promising, not a remedial action taken to “fix” poor performers.

Alex and Taylor were department heads at a technology company that offered executive coaching to those it viewed as up-and-coming leaders with the potential to become senior executives. Both (smartly) leapt at the opportunity. Alex thrived, improving critical communication and leadership skills. Taylor flatlined, with no real progress or evolution.

What happened? The same opportunity was offered to both and the same executive coaching experience was provided. In this instance, Alex was coachable. Taylor was not.

What does that mean? How in the world can someone be un-coachable?

Coaching is very different than training. Training is a one-way street — trainers deliver specific information to the trainee (for example, how to use a new project management application). The trainee then demonstrates understanding and application. Very few people are un-trainable. Coaching is a two-way street. The person being coached must truly want to be coached, be open to change, and be willing to do the work necessary to break old habits and engage in new behaviors.

For all their talent, accomplishments, and potential, Taylor was missing key ingredients essential for a successful coaching experience.

You have to want it!

The executive coaching process shifts thinking patterns and behavior. That requires work. You must have the desire to fully participate in the coaching experience and view the effort as worth it. Alex was sincerely excited about the opportunity to advance leadership and communication skills and was ready to take ownership and do the work needed. Taylor was proud of the recognition, but accepted only because it seemed that saying “no” would be viewed as ungrateful — or worse.

Can you see yourself in the mirror? Do you have the courage to look?

Seeing ourselves as others see us is not something that comes naturally. Successful coaching requires that you be as self-aware as possible. Can you see yourself from a neutral position? Are you able to dispassionately assess your own behaviors — and see how your behaviors are perceived by others? This all requires courage! The courage to look at yourself impartially, the courage to accept what others tell you they see, and the courage to risk new ways of thinking and behaving. 

You must be open and honest with yourself and your coach.

At Arden Coaching, we begin with a confidential 360-Degree Assessment to evaluate your current situation and develop a plan. Are you open to feedback from colleagues, and coaching conversations about your style, effectiveness, and impact on others? This is deeply personal — Alex was curious and open to the experience, processing information and speaking honestly and without judgment. Taylor lacked the openness and candor needed, reacting defensively to feedback and the coach’s lines of inquiry.

Are you naturally curious?

If you value learning, are intellectually curious, and are always looking to grow and evolve, you’ll love executive coaching. A growth mindset of life-long learning means that you’re open to considering new information and new points of view. Curiosity about why we humans act the way we act, and do the things we do, means that you’re willing to adapt and make changes to become a better leader, communicator, decision-maker, and team member.

Much like a personal trainer, an executive coach works hand-in-glove with their client to facilitate their development. But they are only as effective as the level of desire, openness, and effort applied by the client. For an additional perspective on being coachable, read the Arden Coaching article, “Who is Coachable?”

So, are you coachable?

To learn more about executive coaching and 360-Degree Assessments, contact us at [email protected] or 646.844.2233.