Four Traits of Highly Coachable People

Steven Weston
September 21, 2015

Coachability is a vital trait in today’s modern business environment.The advancements in technology and rapid change in markets make coachability among the most critical attributes that candidates must possess in order to be successful within the innovation economy.

Being on the founding team of a company that focuses on providing a career development experience for recent college graduates, I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of candidates, and have spoken with several hiring managers that have told me that coachability is one of the most important factors in their hiring decisions. I have also corroborated this sentiment through my own experience interacting with thousands of aspiring young professionals through LaunchSource.

A couple of months ago, I attended the annual alumni ice hockey game at my alma mater, and ended up staying after to have a couple of beers with my old coach and teammates. As most former athletes do, we talked about the glory days. We reminisced about the team during our respective tenures, specifically the biggest wins and disappointments in our careers. I found it interesting to hear my old coach speak from his perspective on all the different personalities of players and the big moments over the years. I asked him how he made quick decisions as to whom he put on the ice in tough situations, and his answer surprised me. Coach looked me directly in the eye, as if we were back in practice on a cold Saturday morning in the middle of January, and said, “Steve, it’s quite simple. The players I trust to put on the ice in clutch situations are the guys that set their egos aside, and have confidence in themselves and their teammates to get the job done. They’re coachable and open to learning as much as possible because they trust in my guidence as a coach, which in turn gives me the faith in them to go out and perform. Simply put, the players that are coachable are the players that I trust to put in tough situations”.

Being part of a company that focuses on professional career development, we train and place recent graduates into high-growth technology companies. I have had the privilege to meet and train 10-15 recent college graduates per week, each eager to start their careers. Candidates that come in with an ego and stubborn mindset stifle their own career progression because they’d rather prove that they’re right, rather than listen and develop skills to become more hireable. The candidates that excel are ones that don’t challenge or defend themselves against feedback, rather they listen and implement it.  They trust their mentors’ experience-based advice to get them to where they want to be professionally and personally.

Specifically in the technology industry, people are responsible for learning a substantial amount of complex material in a short amount of time. This makes a person that is highly coachable much more desirable to a hiring manager.

Coachability is an absolute must for career progression. So much so, that I was compelled to write about traits shared by our most successful and coachable candidates. The four unifying traits that I have found coachable people to possess are:

  1. Humility: Coachable people understand that they don’t always have the right answer but are willing to admit it, ask for help, and continue to learn.
  2. Healthy Self-Esteem: Coachable people take criticism and apply it to development rather than see it as a personal attack. They set their egos aside and adapt for the betterment of themselves and their teammates.
  3. Flexibility (Able to Give up Control): Coachable people understand that to get to where they want to be they need to have faith in their mentors, teachers and coaches to help guide them. This is the only way to make a truly authentic improvement for the better.
  4. Honesty (with yourself): Coachable people understand what they need to get better, and are willing to admit when they are wrong or need help.

I played hockey for 22 years, and it took years to develop the right mentality to be coachable. When the game was on the line, I was one of the players the coach trusted to be on the ice and do the job because I was coachable. Coachability is an incredibly valuable trait, and is one that will help you succeed both in business and in life.