I like Ben Franklin’s idea about not giving others advice: “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” I think this highlights a cornerstone of coaching. Unlike consulting, where the consultant is an expert who gathers information and then gives advice, the coach is more of a facilitator. A large part of a coach’s role is to draw out wisdom already inside the client so that the client may discover solutions for themselves.
I often hear people talk about what to consider when shopping for a coach. They may want a coach who has worked in their industry, or in a similar role to theirs, or at their level of management. I don’t think these should be the only—or even the top—criteria. In fact, one of the most important factors in whether a coaching experience is successful centers on a quality that must be present not in the coach but in the client. Some call it coachability: the client’s willingness to discover their own wisdom and, once found, to act on it.
Effective coaches employ strong skills to facilitate client-discovered wisdom. Coaches help clients focus on their most important area of concern, define what they want, and determine what that looks like. Coaches ask questions that aid the client’s own discovery—questions that expand the client’s perspective and inspire them to take risks. To accomplish this, effective coaches create a safe, trusting environment in which their clients can do this important work.
But the client also has a major role in creating this environment. They need to be coachable. Here are just a few ways you can enhance your own coachability:
- Be willing to think and act differently in the future, even if your current ways of doing things have resulted in success. Don’t hesitate to break free from old habits.
- Take the time, and make the effort, to clarify your values and the parts of yourself you would like to develop.
- Trust yourself enough to take action—sometimes bold action—as a result of your newly discovered knowledge.
Since being coachable means being willing to be vulnerable, it must be noted that coaching is not the same as therapy. A coach is not going to ask a client to delve deeply into their past personal life. There is a real possibility that this concern stops some people from hiring a coach or using one fully.
Also noteworthy: in coaching, the client, not the coach, drives the agenda. This means the client doesn’t have to talk about anything they don’t want to talk about. They must, however, be coachable—willing to explore, discover their own wisdom, think differently, and stretch themselves. If they do this, most of the time the reward will far outweigh the effort.
So when interviewing a coach, think less about the coach’s track record and more about whether you want to take this person with you on your journey of growth and discovery.
You might be thinking I’m not planning to hire a coach anytime soon—how does this apply to me? Allow me to challenge your question with a few questions of my own:
- In terms of your own growth, are you actively creating an effective learning environment?
- Are you open to expanding your thinking, clarifying your values, and taking bold action?
- If you answered no, what are you going to do about it?
About the Author
Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.