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Business coaching is a process used to take a business, such as a law firm, from where it is now to where the business owner wants it to be. A foundational belief to coaching is that the individual being coached has the answers and solutions to their own difficulties and keys to their success. With that understanding, the coach serves as a medium for that individual’s insights and discoveries as well as provides a continued source of accountability.

Therefore, one of the primary goals of business coaching is to create a shift in perspective that spurs you to take action in areas where you may be stopped or resigned about or are unsure of your options. Ultimately, this process serves as a catalyst to accelerate goal achievement with more velocity than was previously considered possible.

Business coaching is one of the core services offered to Members in our department, here at the Academy. We work with Members who have a variety of backgrounds and experience.

After working with attorneys for over 2 decades, it doesn’t take long to determine which attorneys are capable of creating and achieving the level of success they want for their business and those who will get there the long hard route or not at all.

We give everyone the same tools, resources and education, however, the functional application and success rate is incredibly different Member to Member. That difference is each person’s mindset and how coachable they are.

Being coachable means being open to asking for and receiving feedback, looking inward at how you can move forward, and being interested in growth. You don’t take things personally or as a criticism, instead you see it as an opportunity. You listen, “try it on,” and use feedback to examine your own performance in order to achieve what you’re committed to. It doesn’t mean you have to take everything others share with you as “truth,” it means that you’re willing to look and examine if it fits. You are still entitled to have your own opinion, in fact, that is encouraged, particularly when it comes from a place where you’re generating insight!

Carol Dweck, author of, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” studies human motivation and the reasons why people succeed (or don’t) and the elements within our control to achieving success. She has a theory of two mindsets and the influence they have in determining our outcomes. She says, “…the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

  • Growth Mindset: “In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and exercise… This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
  • Fixed Mindset: “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you only have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look deficient in these most basic characteristics.”

First and foremost, mindset will determine whether someone is coachable. A growth mindset = coachable. If you’re struggling or resistant to your coach, then you are likely in a fixed mindset. Sometimes people with a fixed mindset see coaching as a form of weakness or make it mean that they are flawed in some way. Contrast this to someone who is in the growth mindset and is coachable who is using the same feedback for strength and self-empowerment.

However, coachability occurs on a continuum. It’s not an all or nothing proposition here. In fact, there are situations in life when we can all find ourselves in a position where we are uncoachable and at the effect of those circumstances. Or there are topics we refuse to be coachable on, while others we’re completely open about. And sometimes, we are willing to be coachable with some people and not others.

What Makes Someone Coachable?

If you’re coachable, you’re willing to take ownership, accountability and responsibility for your words, decisions and actions. You’re continuously increasing your levels of self-awareness and seeking mentors and coaches who will challenge you.

Let’s take a look at the qualities.

  1. Open to learning something new: They don’t know what they don’t know and they know it. They have a healthy curiosity and a desire to discover their blind spots. Their learning is not just textbook learning, but learning more about themselves to spur their growth and transform the areas they’d like.
  2. Self-Awareness: This is the capacity for introspection to build our conscious awareness about our own unique selves. It is the key to being able to understand ourselves, how we relate to others, our key motivations, habits, challenges, and weaknesses. Success in every situation will depend upon our understanding of ourselves.
  3. Action-oriented: The type of person who gets things done. Whether doing them yourself or leveraging your time and delegating to others on your team. You stay focused on the steps that need to be taken rather than obsessing over the results that have not yet materialized. You remain motivated by your commitments and do not allow yourself to be sidetracked or distracted. When you do, you are quick to notice, and get yourself back on track easily.
  4. Accountable: Accountability is not something that can be assigned but rather it is generated from within. It is a choice that a person makes. In essence, it means these are people who take responsibility, don’t make excuses, they manage expectations, they own their mistakes, and don’t let their inner thoughts and emotions derail them off course.
  5. Willing to try new things: As seekers of growth, they are always willing to hear new ideas, test new theories, and hear from others so they can learn and achieve their goals more efficiently and expeditiously. They try things on rather than closing the door. They explore whether it fits before discarding it. They also know to seek coaching when they are trying on too many new things at once as they know that can also work against them.
  6. Thinks long-term: Someone who is coachable has goals. Period. Otherwise, there is nothing to coach. Thinking long-term and working towards a result or accomplishment that inspires you is critical to making any form of coaching successful.

And, finally, someone coachable shows up to coaching calls on time and prepared. They’ve spent time in advance to ensure they are taking action on their commitments and are intentional about their time with their coach to ensure they are getting the most learning and growth available. They’re ready to report their progress and come prepared with what’s most important to address that is going on in their business.

Who are the Uncoachable?

In my experience coaching people, not just lawyers at the Academy, but community programs I’ve been involved in here in San Diego, here are some of the traits of those who are uncoachable. In general, these folks tend to have a more negative and cynical view of the world. If you review this list of traits and compare it to a fixed mindset, you can see why the two are correlated.

However, I must emphasize that every single one of us can find ourselves in a time or place where we are uncoachable, no matter how coachable we are. The list below is part of the human experience and is shared without judgement. Instead, please see this as an invitation to self-reflect and ask yourself if any of this may be happening when everything just gets to be “too hard.”

  1. Powerless: Expecting a coach (or anyone else for that matter) is going to solve all your issues or provide a magic bullet is just plain unrealistic. These can often be the same people who just want to be told exactly what to do. A person running a business cannot abdicate personal responsibility and expect someone else to make the decisions for them. An inability to act independently can leave someone in a leadership position feeling powerless.
  2. Resistant: Not being open to change can present itself in a couple ways. Your way is the only way OR unwillingness to adopt something new because “we’ve always done it this way,” or “I already tried and it didn’t work.” Not being open to new viewpoints, angles and perspectives makes someone inherently uncoachable. Mind your “buts…” and “try it” on before rejecting.
  3. Always believing they are right: We all know the “know it all,” and have plenty of experiences with this personality characteristic. When this person seeks out coaching but does not relinquish this position, it can be painful, as often they are looking for evidence in support of their opinions without the necessary openness to make the coaching relationship a success. They will often end up doing everything their way anyway and resisting along the way. They are often disrespectful of others’ opinions and perspectives.
  4. Lacking self-awareness and not willing to be vulnerable: Seeing vulnerability as weakness rather than strength and courage, prohibit us from being really authentic. We can’t grow or lead a team or business if we can’t be authentic with ourselves and others. Vulnerability is the key to self-awareness. Read more about this here in my blog, “Decoding Leadership, Vulnerability and Creating a Winning Culture.”
  5. Lacks Emotional intelligence: Someone who lacks the capacity to be aware of and express their emotions will inherently lack the ability to handle relationships with others thoughtfully and empathetically. This includes the coaching relationship.
  6. Unrealistic expectations and goals: The individual who wants to double, triple their business without the right infrastructure in place to support that growth and is unwilling to listen to logic is setting themselves and their team up for a stressful, unfulfilling year. If they cannot trust their coach from this early on, then they will have to learn their lessons the hard way.
  7. Unwilling to get outside their comfort zone: Fear is a natural and essential part of learning and growth. However, many people are waiting to take action until they are no longer afraid rather than embracing courageous action. This requires giving up control and acknowledging we don’t know… or at least yet and generate a healthy dose of adventure and discovering along the way.

Coachability exists on a continuum and some of us may find that we are mostly coachable, except when… while others, may find more of the items on the list above ringing true for them. However, none of that really matters. The most important characteristic is awareness… the awareness of when we’re being coachable and when we’re not. The ability to reflect and realize that we are being resistant, for example, can then allow us to take some steps to actually “try on” the feedback someone else provided.

Assuming we’re all both coachable and not coachable at different times in our lives and with different people, I invite you to take on this writing exercise and use the insights you discover to propel you into 2020!

  1. What makes you coachable?
  2. When are you coachable?
  3. Who are you coachable with?
  4. When aren’t you coachable?
  5. Who are the people that you resistant to when they provide feedback?
  6. What does it look like when you’re not being coachable? What are your behaviors, actions, words you use?

Here’s to a new year full of possibilities and continued insights and growth.


January 2, 2020 by  0 Comments