Executive CoachMost CEOs and other leaders I work with fundamentally believe that they could change unwanted behaviors—if they wanted to. The “WANT TO,” however, is thwarted by ingrained habit, lack of self-awareness of the negative impact of their behaviors, and insufficient energy to be able to pay attention and focus on what is happening inside in the moment. And then choose an appropriate response to the situation. Those are just parts of the equation—but there is more.

Our friends at Hogan Assessments explain that the answers to the four questions below can predict if you (or someone else) is coachable. In other words, are you ready and able to change behavior that is rooted in your personality yet perhaps no longer contributing to your success as a leader/CEO?

If you’ve considered working with an executive coach in the New Year, now is the time to determine if you are ready. Answer yes or no to these questions and think about the reason for your answer:

  1. Do you keep your cool when confronted with bad news?
  2. Do you accept responsibility for your mistakes?
  3. Are you responsive to feedback?
  4. Are you willing to change?

Alright, have you really thought about your answers? Stop reading and take a couple minutes to reflect. It’s easy to say yes to them all, but don’t stop there. Go deeper.

Welcome back. Here is what the experts at Hogan say:

Can you keep your cool? When you hear “bad news,” do you get upset? Maybe you don’t scream or throw things, but do you find yourself irritated, judgmental or frustrated? Do you feel others are really trying to screw up or really unconcerned about it? Do mistakes others find rather minor upset you? Do you often worry about things going wrong in the future? If these behaviors describe you, this is one contributor to being less coachable.

Do you accept responsibility? This is one where most people do say yes. However, is that really true? When is the last time you accepted the responsibility and contribution for something that went wrong? Or something that had negative consequences for others? When is the last time you said “I’m sorry” and really meant it? This is tricky because, again, most people say “I admit my mistakes,” but when asked what those mistakes are, I hear things like “I trusted someone I shouldn’t have” or “I work too hard.” Sorry, that is pseudo-accountability-taking. Why? The first one is really about a mistake someone else made that you somehow should have prevented. And the second one is sometimes almost a brag. Other “mistakes” some folks own up to are also not very significant—at least to them; e.g., “I forgot to do an errand that I promised my partner I would do—I will do it tomorrow, it really isn’t a crisis.” If you aren’t able to see your mistakes about things that matter and understand why they matter to others, that is another sign you may not be very coachable.

Are you responsive to feedback? I know few people who emotionally like negative feedback. That’s okay. But when you hear it, can you endure the sting and try to understand what the giver of that feedback finds objectionable? Do you listen to what others are saying and try to understand how your behavior was perceived and why? Or do you find yourself explaining away what you did or seeing the other’s “oversensitivity” as the real issue? Do you find yourself resentful about having someone bring it up in the first place? Again, most leaders I know will say they listen to negative feedback, but listening to it is not the same as HEARING it and incorporating it into future interactions. If you do not sometimes do this, this is a sign you are not particularly coachable.

Are you willing to change? Change is not easy. If you don’t accept responsibility for your behavior, recognize its impact on others AND yourself, and commit in your heart and mind, it is unlikely you are coachable. All the power in the world (or the greatest coach!) WON’T make another change his or her ways. This has to come from the inside. If you are not willing to put in the work, again, it’s a sign you may not be coachable.

Should you feel bad if you answered NO to some or all of these questions? Not at all. If you’re not ready to change, you aren’t ready. I have no issues with leaders who don’t have the mind space and energy to work on their leadership. That said, all leaders have opportunities to improve, no matter how wonderful they are, so when you are ready, feel free to contact me.

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