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FAQ: How Can You Determine if Someone is Coachable or Not? - HRDQ

FAQ: How Can You Determine if Someone is Coachable or Not?

Whether you're dealing with a difficult employee or you're trying to assess the potential of a new candidate, managers and owners can benefit from understanding how to identify whether someone is coachable or not.

A coachable person has a growth-oriented mindset and is eager to learn. On top of that, they're willing to take accountability and ownership rather than constantly blaming others or grasping for excuses.

If you build a team full of coachable people, your business will likely thrive and grow. An office filled with people that aren't willing to learn or develop, though, will probably cause a lot of frustration.

One question we're frequently asked is: how can you determine if someone is coachable or not?

Let's take a look at what you should keep an eye out for when looking for the signs of a coachable employee.

Table of Contents

What Does It Mean to Be Coachable?

When a person is coachable, they are interested in improving themselves and open to receiving feedback.

This quality is extremely valuable for employees, regardless of your industry. Even when a person has the knowledge, experience, and skill to fulfill a particular role, they will likely hit a plateau in their career if they aren't coachable.

Coaching a Team

Coachability should be a concern for managers and business owners as this is an essential skill to deal with an ever-changing market. For example, suppose you find that your industry is undergoing rapid change that calls for transforming the technology you use or workflow. In that case, uncoachable employees will struggle to deal with the shift. On the other hand, a coachable employee that doesn't initially have all the necessary skills to deal with changes in the industry will be more likely to adapt, grow, and learn in the face of new challenges.

Strengthen your coaching abilities with this course: What's My Coaching Style

What Are Signs That Someone Is Coachable?

Hiring coachable employees is essential if you want your new hires to be good candidates for advancement within the organization. If you're in an industry that's constantly keeping you on your toes, coachable applicants will be much more likely to thrive even if they have less experience and knowledge than other candidates that aren't open to change and growth.

Coaching a New Employee

Let's take a look at some of the signs you can look for to determine if someone is coachable or not.

They're Growth-Oriented

When a person is growth-oriented, it means that they know that there are many things they don't know.

They have personal and professional goals that they are working towards and are willing to approach issues with a learner's mindset when it's outside their comfort zone.

Growth Oriented Employees

Growth-oriented people aren't as interested in approval as they are in development. They are willing to look at mistakes and failures as an opportunity to learn rather than taking them as a defeat. With this mindset, a person thrives on difficulties and challenges because they know it is the path to growth.

They're Willing to Be Vulnerable

To be coachable, a person has to be willing to be vulnerable.

Employee Willing to be Vulnerable

They have to admit that there are things they don't know and that someone else might be able to help them gain the information and skills they need.

Not everyone feels comfortable admitting that they have weak points or blind spots in their knowledge, and someone too stuck in a "fake it 'til you make it" mentality might be unable to express the vulnerability necessary to be coached.

They Are Willing to Try New Things

A coachable person will take in information and experiment with trying new things.

Employees Trying New Things

They aren't afraid of making mistakes, or at least willing to take chances that could leave them with undesirable results as they understand this is a necessary part of development.

By stretching beyond their comfort zone, they can reflect on what works and what doesn't as they continue on a path of growth.

They're Open to Change

You've likely found that some of your employees are more routinized than others. While someone who doesn't like change isn't particularly bad in some roles, it can hold the employee and the organization back in others.

Employees Open to Change

When someone is coachable, they aren't so set in their ways that the mere suggestion of change makes them defensive.

They are willing to entertain the idea of doing something differently, even if they ultimately determine that the change isn't beneficial to themselves or their company.

When you work with a coachable employee, there is much more room for dialogue about what is working and what isn't.

They're Eager to Learn

Being coachable doesn't just mean that someone can learn. It also means that they want to learn.

Employee Eager to Learn

As a growth-oriented individual, they are motivated to learn new things that can help them develop and improve.

When you want to show them how to use new software or help them develop a new skill they haven't mastered, they are engaged and interested rather than just phoning it in.

They're Open-Minded in the Face of Feedback

A coachable person has a strong enough sense of self that they can handle constructive feedback, even if it hurts a little. They have an open mind, allowing them to take in the feedback and consider whether it's true and, if so, how they can change to fix the problem.

Employee Receiving Feedback

Beyond that, genuinely coachable people don't just wait to get feedback. They ask for feedback. Since they are interested in developing both personally and professionally, they seek out information that will help them on their path of growth.

They Are Action-Oriented

Coachable people tend to be action-oriented. These people get things done, stay focused on the task at hand, and are motivated by their commitments.

Action-Oriented Employee

If they get sidetracked or distracted from what they're working on, they're quick to get back on track.

They're Self Aware

Coachable people work to build a solid understanding of who they are, warts and all. They are constantly tuned in to what motivates them, their habits, how they relate to others, and what weaknesses they might have.

Self-awareness is essential for coachability. This is because a person who doesn't have much of a sense of themselves will struggle to take in the feedback they receive and see how it relates to them.

Self Aware Employee

A person who lacks self-awareness tends to be defensive and lack empathy. They're quick to blame other people or make excuses whenever they receive the smallest amount of criticism or even marginally negative feedback. You might find that they frequently criticize others even though they are sensitive and defensive when someone tries to constructively and empathetically give them feedback.

They Hold Themselves Accountable

Another sign that someone is coachable is that they hold themselves accountable when appropriate. They take responsibility for the things they are responsible for and will own up to mistakes they have made.

Employee Holding Themselves Accountable

These people don't make excuses or make a habit of blaming others for everything that happens.

They Keep the Big Picture in Mind

A coachable person has goals in mind and is thinking long-term. Without a sense of the big picture, any attempts at coaching someone will fall on deaf ears.

Employee Visualizing the Big Picture

As you know, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. Likewise, you can do everything possible to coach someone, but you can't make them change. Only they can choose to have the willingness to learn, change, and grow.

What Are Signs That Someone Isn't Coachable?

Whether you're dealing with an existing employee or considering hiring a prospective employee, there are certain things you can look out for that point toward an employee not being coachable.

Uncoachable Employee

They Have a Fixed Mindset

The opposite of having a growth mindset is having a fixed mindset. These people believe that who they are is set in stone and cannot be changed. This leads them to be defensive in the face of criticism or feedback. It reads as an attack on who they are rather than an opportunity to grow.

Fixed Mindset Employee

When a person has a fixed mindset, the idea of being coached implies that they are deficient in some way. They essentially see the negative rather than the positive when it comes to learning and coaching.

They Respond Defensively to Feedback

People resistant to feedback will be very difficult, if not impossible, to coach.

Responding Defensively to Feedback

Whether they feel that it is a personal attack or are unwilling to change the way they do things because "we've always done it this way," these individuals aren't willing to let in constructive criticism or consider the potential validity of the feedback.

Assess your communication style and identify areas of improvement with: What's My Communication Style

They Seem Uninterested in Personal and Professional Growth

Some people aren't interested in growing their skills or learning new things. This goes hand in hand with having a fixed mindset– they believe they are who they are, and nothing can change that.

Employee Uninterested in Growth

After all, if you really believed that, why would you want to admit that who you are is deficient by expressing interest in personal and professional growth?

They Lack Emotional Intelligence

A person that lacks emotional intelligence can't accurately perceive their own emotions and the emotions of others. Therefore, they cannot use that information to guide their actions and how they think.

Employee Lacking Emotional Intelligence

It can be difficult for an individual who lacks emotional intelligence to be thoughtful and empathetic in relationships with others, including someone who is trying to teach or coach them.

They Can't Admit When They're Wrong

Some people always believe that they're right about everything.

Employee Unable to Admit to Mistakes

If you have an employee that won't own up to their mistakes, no matter how small, you can probably expect that they won't take well to coaching.

They Constantly Make Excuses

An employee or prospective hire who seems to place blame everywhere except themselves is likely not very coachable.

Employee Making Excuses

To be willing to learn and grow, a person has to be able to hold themselves accountable.

Developing emotional intelligence is crucial for success in any environment: Emotional Intelligence Skills Assessment

They Lack Humility and the Willingness to Be Vulnerable

To truly change, a person has to let themselves be vulnerable. They have to have the humility to admit that there are places where they can improve themselves.

Employee Unable to Ask For Help

If someone is unwilling to ask for help when needed or be honest during difficult conversations, you'll probably find that they are also unwilling to be coached.

Their Goals Are Unrealistic

There's nothing wrong with having lofty goals in one's career or life, but it's essential to have a plan in mind to reach that goal.

Setting Unrealistic Goals

If you have an employee that is constantly dissatisfied with their position in the organization but, at the same time, seems unwilling to take the necessary steps to advance themselves, you can expect that they won't take well to coaching.

They're Unwilling to Experiment With New Behaviors

You might find that an employee appears open to feedback but that they ultimately don't change their behavior. A coachable person is willing to try out new things to see what works and take advice from people who have more experience and knowledge than they do.

Employee Unwilling to Experiment

Uncoachable people won't be able to step outside their comfort zones and display the vulnerability necessary to try out new behaviors.

It Takes Two to Coach

Understanding whether an employee or candidate is coachable is essential to grasp their potential with your organization. Many of the traits that coachable people have overlap with those held by high-quality workers, and the willingness and ability to learn new skills and receive feedback are vital no matter what industry you're in.

Coaching is a two-way street involving a dynamic relationship between the coach and the trainee. Just as self-awareness is vital for someone who is coachable, it is also an essential trait for the coach.

Coaching a Team of Employees

Our What's My Coaching Style assessment and workshop is ideal for managers and owners who want to become more effective coaches. By identifying and understanding your personality traits, you can learn to minimize potential weaknesses while capitalizing on your strengths.

After reading today's article, do you have any questions for us? Or perhaps did we miss a quality that you believe makes someone coachable or not? If so, be sure to leave a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We make it a point to reply to every comment and question we receive, and we'd be more than happy to assist you however possible and update this list as need be!

Related Products of Interest

What's My Coaching Style

What's My Communication Style

Emotional Intelligence Skills Assessment

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.