It’s rather clear to most people that in order to be an effective coach one needs an appropriate mindset for investing in the growth of others and a set of listening and verbal skills for coaching conferencing. Less often considered are the mindsets and skills needed to gain from coaching input. We might label it as one’s coachability.
In a blog, How Coachable are You?, Steve Keating, raises these points for consideration.
- If you’re going to be coachable, you’re going to have to accept that pretty much everything your coach or mentor tells you is possible. It’s possible you’re not as good as you think you are in some areas. It’s possible that other people see some things in you that you don’t see in yourself. It’s even possible that you’re better in some areas than you think you are.
- Coachable people are great listeners. They are willing to learn from anyone. They consider all advice; even the advice they eventually discard was considered for its possibilities.
- The more defensive you are when someone is giving you advice the harder it will be for you to succeed. Keating offers this great way to test your defensiveness. “If after you’re offered advice, you respond with a quick “yes, but?” (or even think it without saying it out loud) it is a good indicator that you’re not listening with coachability.
Dr. Bob Acton describes coachability as behaviors that demonstrate three aspects of an approach to work and to life:
- the interest and willingness to learn
- the ability to seek out, accept and integrate feedback without being defensive
- the demonstration of attempts to try new actions to get improved results
“It is as hard to see oneself as to look backwards without turning around.”
(Henry David Thoreau)
Early in my presenting/consulting career, I learned the joy and sometimes pain of reading evaluations of my work several times a week. When I’d read through a stack of 100 participants’ comments where maybe 75% were excellent, 20% good, and 5% terrible, I tended to wonder what problem the 5% had that prevented them from finding value in the work I had done. As my confidence grew in my own abilities, I learned that the negative evaluations frequently contained some seed of an opportunity for my improvement. That negative comment might explain what caused some participants to have a good experience instead of an excellent one. The good comments often didn’t flag any area for possible improvement the way the poor ones did. My coachability had increased.
How do we assist educators in building their coachability?
In an earlier blog, I explored the building of growth mindsets and intellectual risk-taking for students and teachers. Researchers Shelby Clark and Madora Soutter found that teachers explicitly taught intellectual risk-taking skills.
“In our research, we identified pedagogical moves that fostered intellectual risk-taking behaviors associated with a growth mindset. One teacher explained: I give them (students) very explicit training in how to frame a question. I have them write discussion questions and then I give them written feedback and we talk about them.”
As I read those comments, I realize that when a school extends coaching training to teachers to support peer coaching, the teachers advance in their own engagement in being coached by an instructional coach. I think it is connected to understanding the questioning process connected to reflection. (Find more on questioning and reflection here.)
“Teachers also described how they set students up for success by allowing them to observe a discussion and to discuss what they notice so that they can have a foundation to build on when joining discussions themselves.”
I often recommend providing models of “how to work with a coach” for teachers who are new to this experience. A mentor for a new teacher might invite the instructional coach to coach a lesson she is providing and invite the mentee to observe the process. A department chair might ask the instructional coach to do his post conference at a department meeting. Skills in being coached need to be learned. Find more on teacher leaders modeling vulnerability here.
As school leaders, we should continually be examining our continued growth in our coachability and planning to purposefully provide opportunities for staff to learn and develop coachability. As educators, we want to model coachability for students.