by Tony Vidler
Here is a question we should ask when contemplating taking on new clients:
It’s a tough question perhaps. It is certainly a confronting question at the very least. But is an absolutely necessary question…even if we don’t ask the client directly, it is a necessary question for us to ask ourselves about a prospective client.
It is also a necessary one for any professional who finds themselves managing and trying to grow staff to ask of their people too.
Nothing usually changes significantly from year to year in a professional’s working life unless they change something themselves. In order to make a change that leads to performance improvement or the acquisition of new knowledge or skills there has to be an acceptance of the need for change in the first place. People often make the mistake of thinking that because they have accepted the need for change they are ready for what that may involve.
Acceptance of the need, or a willingness to pursue change, is simply the first step though.
It follows that one has to have a commitment to personal learning or professional development as well as being able to absorb new information and skills fairly rapidly in order to actually gain anything from coaching. Importantly though, there must be understanding and acceptance that change always comes at a cost. There is always a price to pay in order to obtain positive change. That price might be money, or time or inconvenience and discomfort. But there will be a price of some sort. Even that is not the biggest barrier to determining whether someone is coachable though.
The biggest stumbling block for many though is a willingness to be challenged.
This is especially true in professional services where we largely tend to be dealing with intelligent and confident people…they are usually already sure of themselves and have firm ideas about many things – including what needs to change. Determining whether someone is ready and able to be challenged, and them then being receptive to new possibilities or methods is perhaps the litmus test on whether someone is coachable. If they do not accept being challenged and are not willing to consider alternatives rapidly then any coaching efforts will result in frustration for both parties.
The final quality which really determines whether someone is coachable is “commitment to accountability“. There are 2 parts to that of course: committing, and being prepared to be held accountable.
Accountability consists of assuming responsibility for particular actions or outcomes. Therein lies the commitment: the acceptance of personal responsibility for achieving agreed actions or outcomes.
Nobody else is responsible for getting the result. Nobody else is responsible for doing what has to be done to get the result. The coach isn’t. You are. Others may play a part in achieving a particular result, but nobody else is responsible for it. Nobody else owns it. You do.
That is accountability.
If you aren’t prepared for that, then coaching will not help. This is why we should be asking this same question of clients: are they coachable? If they are not, then why are we trying to work with them?
Don’t waste your money or time on attempting to coach folk if you don’t get green lights all the way on these questions first. If you do get green lights all the way though it is well worthwhile investing in developing the relationship, whether that be a staff member or a new client.