“Is he coachable”? This is a frequently asked question when a Board is investing in coaching for a CEO (or a CEO is considering coaching for an executive). There are two factors to be considered when answering this question: Ability to change and willingness to change.
Ability to Change
Ability to change requires that the “coachee” have an awareness of her current behavior, how it influences other’s opinions of her, and how it impacts her ability to achieve what she wants. Becoming aware most often is a result of feedback from important people, for example family members, board chair, boss, peers and direct reports. The other requirement for ability to change is dissatisfaction with the current state. Only when someone is dissatisfied with their current situation are they able to make the decision to change.
Willingness to Change
What does it mean to be willing to change? In his book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Irvin D. Yalom defines will as “the intrapsychic agency…that transforms intention and decision into action…”. Exercising will, according to Yalom, requires the acceptance of one or more of the following premises:
- Only I can change myself
- There is no danger in change (or the benefits outweigh the risks)
- To attain what I want I must change
- I can change; I have the power to effect change
Here is an example of how these premises impact willingness to change:
Francois feels overwhelmed by the demands of his schedule. His administrative support person complains that his calendar is fully booked months in advance. He is often exhausted, and his family is complaining about his lack of availability to them. The need for change seems obvious, and Francois is both aware of the situation and dissatisfied with the current state of his calendar.
What is not clear is Francois’ willingness to change. There is no magic answer or wisdom from others that can affect the necessary change. Different choices are required. But making new choices is difficult. Clients, team meetings and other demands seem unlikely to change. And Francois is fearful of disappointing others if he chooses to opt out of some commitments. If change is to occur, Francois must decide that his health and quality of life are more important than pleasing others and exert the will to make different choices (e.g. saying “no” more often and delegating more responsibility and authority to others).
Yalom’s research and approach bring clarity to the question of coachability. Assessments such as the Hogan Personality Inventory, Hogan Development Survey and Hogan Motives, Values and Preferences Inventory also provide useful insight.
Is coachability a concern in your decision making about engaging a coach for an executive? If so, send me an email. I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation.