What Are the Benefits of Coachability?

May 7, 2024

Benefits of Coachability

A coachable person is different from non-coachable colleagues in two ways. First, they have a mindset that is open and receptive to feedback. Second, they actively solicit feedback and suggestions from others. Once feedback is given, coachable people reflect on it and usually take action to change and improve. This practice is why coachability has so many benefits.

Kevin Wilde’s excellent book indicates, “A coachable leader values self-improvement and operates consistently in a learning zone by applying the practices of seek, respond, reflect and act.”

Research on the Benefits of Coachability

In our research on coachable leaders, we have found that it dramatically impacts a leader’s overall perceived effectiveness. During the last three years, we collected data from 4,009 leaders and effectiveness ratings from their direct reports. We measured the leader’s level of coachability and overall leadership effectiveness, as evaluated by their direct reports through a 360-degree feedback process. As can be seen by the graph below, there is a direct correlation between a leader’s effectiveness on coachability and their overall effectiveness ratings.

The more we study coachability, the more impressed we are at this small behavior’s dramatic positive catalytic effect on many other attributes. A catalytic effect is the outcome of introducing a new substance, which causes more incredible things to happen or increases the speed at which things happen.

Analyzing the feedback on 4,009 leaders with evaluations from 18,359 direct reports, we identified the top 10 catalytic effects of great (e.g., top 10%) versus poor (e.g., bottom 10%) coachability. Listed below are the top 10 behaviors that coachability appears to influence.

The Benefits of Coachability

Strong Advocate for Change

  1. Being a champion for new projects or programs (Top 10% 91, Bottom 10% 11). Coachable leaders were seen as more willing and effective at being champions for new projects or programs. Their courage to ask for feedback helped them to be seen as champions.
  2. Creating an atmosphere of continual improvement (Top 10% 85, Bottom 10% 13). Asking for feedback demonstrates a willingness to change and stretch for growth.
  3. Quickly adapt their approach in response to people’s needs or the situation (Top 10% 84, Bottom 10% 16). Leaders who are more flexible and adaptable are constantly looking for ways to improve and do their jobs better; hence, they ask for and act on feedback.
  4. Find ways to improve new ideas rather than discourage them (Top 10% 84, Bottom 10% 17). Some leaders are seen as the abominable “NO” man or woman. They resist new ideas and innovations. Leaders who are personally open to feedback about themselves are also open to new ideas and innovative approaches from others.

Emphasis on Positive Results

  1. Inspires others to high levels of effort and performance (Top 10% 84, Bottom 10% 16). Being coachable is an inspiring attribute. Looking for ways to improve is an inspirational quality. Being forced to strengthen is not inspirational.
  2. Energizes people to achieve exceptional results (Top 10% 84, Bottom 10% 17). Today’s workforce is looking for leaders with energy and enthusiasm. They want to work for a leader who is energized to come to work and can energize others.

Development Focus—Self and Others

  1. Genuinely concerned about developing others. (Top 10% 82, Bottom 10% 17). Those leaders who are interested in improving themselves are also more interested in improving others. When direct reports see their manager working on self-improvement, they are more convinced the manager will work for their development.
  2. Is a role model and sets an excellent example for their work group (Top 10% 81, Bottom 10% 16). More coachable leaders are role models in the organization. Their actions are consistent with their words.

Inclusiveness and Cooperation

  1. Capitalizes on diverse perspectives and talents of others (Top 10% 84, Bottom 10% 17). Leaders willing to ask for and act on feedback are more likely to value the diverse perspectives and talents of others. They are also more likely to ask diverse people for feedback, which helps them improve even more.
  2. Promotes a high level of cooperation between all work group members (Top 10% 84, Bottom 10% 17). Leaders who are more open to feedback tend to be more cooperative, and those who resist feedback tend to be more competitive.

Conclusion: Take Advantage of the Benefits of Coachability

As you read the list of the top 10 catalytic effects of being coachable, it is easy to see why this behavior is so powerful. Asking for feedback helps a person be perceived as more of a champion, more interested in personal improvement, more inspiring and energizing, willing to develop others, values differences, adaptable, open to new ideas, cooperative, and a role model.

Some people worry that asking others for feedback might signal a person is incompetent or unsure of themselves. Still, these catalytic effects prove that nothing could be further from the truth. Developing the habit of asking others for feedback can help every person be a more effective individual contributor and leader.

-Jack Zenger

Coachability: The Leadership Superpower by Kevin Wilde