Insider Intelligence: Coachability - Helping Employees Succeed

Feb. 12, 2020
As an employer, what are you bringing to the table to improve yourself and your organization, and how are you coaching the next generation?
This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag!

One of my favorite quotes is from Patrick Murphy, a softball coach for Alabama University: “Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults,” he says. “Let your kids get used to someone being tough on them. It’s life, get over it.”

His quote can be curt on the surface, but it is deeply applicable to employees, parents and leaders in organizations.

What is Coachability?

When I think of coachability, I often think in sports terms and my life as a player, coach and fan. From my experience, coachability translates to mental toughness (or tolerance of criticism), openness to feedback, making changes by applying lessons learned, and seeking advice through self advocation to perform at a higher level and achieve greater results.

A good organizational leader or sports coach expects greatness from their employees and players and have high demands that may seem unachievable. Over time, the incremental improvements from applying these high demands will translate to growth. Putting coach Murphy’s quote into perspective, what are you as an employer bringing to the table to improve yourself and your organization – and further, how are you coaching the next generation?

I have witnessed individuals who are uncoachable, and it showed through their subpar performance, disruptive behavior and lack of effort. Ultimately, those individuals did not stick around the company very long.

An uncoachable individual usually has more than one of traits that include being deflective, making excuses, blaming others and having a bad attitude, especially when their performance is evaluated or constructive feedback is provided.

Fundamentally, coachability in the professional sense means that an employee seeks to learn and is capable and interested in changing their behaviors to grow and develop. Likewise, a coachable employee is open to changing their outlook based on what they have learned from others.

Accepting this feedback and having a willingness to adapt spawns creativity, increases productivity and creates an ecosystem of efficiency. Coachable employees hold themselves accountable and can positively grow personally and professionally.

We all have self doubt and can often be our own worst critics, but accepting suggestions on areas for improvement can help us all overcome insecurities and ultimately help us become better at our jobs. Through self-reflection, employees are able to adapt and change for the betterment of themselves, those around them and the organization.

Someone who is coachable responds positively to feedback and seeks understanding; demonstrates situational awareness and recognizes the gaps between the desired state and the current state; and implements necessary changes.

How to Make your Team More Coachable

Here are eight ways to encourage coachability among your team and employees:

  1. Encourage them to be open-minded.
  2. Ask for feedback on corporate projects, ideas, etc., and illustrate to them that everyone’s opinions are valuable, and having an open dialogue about a difference of opinion is healthy.
  3. When you receive feedback, convey appreciation by thanking the giver of feedback and confirm your desire for more.
  4. Recommend employees use peers as sounding boards for feedback as well, requesting suggestions and different approaches.
  5. Set personal goals with your employee during performance review sessions for an area of personal growth they can strive to improve.
  6. Follow up on previously discussed “areas of improvement” to check in on their progress and provide guidance.
  7. Praise them when they have successfully implemented positive changes.
  8. Model the behavior you would like from your team – if you are a constant student seeking self improvement and growth, it shows them there is no shame in doing the same thing.

Chris Salazar-Mangrum is the vice president of USAV, a division of PSA Security Network. Request more info about PSA at