December 10, 2012 Post Comment Uncategorised

I read an interesting article by a colleague that alluded
to ‘teachability’ – the factor that recruiters, coaches, ‘people developers’,
teachers, look for in individuals and make their judgements accordingly. This ‘teachability’
or ‘coachability’ factor is not so much about raw talent or current ability,
but is about potential – a person’s ability to gain experience and knowledge
and to harness that gain for their own good and/or for the good of the
organisation (be it company, school, club or team, choir, orchestra, etc.)

Now in linguistic terms, ‘coachability’ implies there is a
rating upon some sliding scale – whereas ‘coachable’ or ‘uncoachable’ is much more of a
flat judgement – praise or condemnation. And to my mind when a coach uses comments like “that lad is
uncoachable” it says more about themselves than the person they are describing.
Of course there are contexts and constraints upon coaches such as time, the
rest of the group, the need for results, etc. These may be part of the ‘whys’ of such condemnation, unwise as it might be. However, in an unconstrained
1-to-1 scenario – ‘coachability’ is very much about coach ability.

So given the sliding scale of ‘coachability’, where might be a place to start in order to view someone’s location on that scale.


There’s an interesting way of viewing how we take on the performance
of tasks, and this falls into four main categories:-
Initiation of action
Conclusion of action

When we objectively rate ourselves out of 10 in each of
these areas, we not only get a handle on our relative strengths and weaknesses
in task performance, we also get clues as to how to bring about change for

It is the level of our
open-mindedness to spot, acknowledge and act upon those clues that gives us our
‘coachability’ or ‘teachability’ rating
and here’s why:-
Bringing about change is, in itself, a task. And the planning, starting, continuing and concluding of bringing about that self-change, whatever it may be, is the very kernel of our coachability.

Of course, if we are working with someone else (a coach for instance) then they
can help us spot the clues and they can set up some routines, some practices,
to help us to act upon those clues. However, that is all they can do.

The pivotal area of acknowledgment belongs entirely with
us. If we choose not to acknowledge the clues, then we deny ourselves any
possibility of change. Try as they may, no coach, teacher or therapist can
bring about any change without their clients’ acknowledgement of those clues.


Returning to coach ability for a moment, I like to think
that I never give up on any client – before they give up on themselves. I do know
how easily people give up on themselves so, given MY beliefs about everyone
being capable of far more than they think, then my path of perseverance is a very
straightforward one. Perseverance will always outweigh severance – and not just
by three letters!

So why do people give up on themselves so easily?

It’s all in a word – belief

When we believe we cannot do something then we will look for and interpret our
actions and their outcomes to back up our beliefs, to prove them right – to prove
we are right for, after all, we are our beliefs aren’t we? 

“There – see! I told you I couldn’t do it.
Stupid of you to try and change my mind wasn’t it!?”
And there, out of our thoughts and our very mouths, are the clues to our
“My mind was closed and set; you – the coach
– tried to change it and I proved you wrong.”
The “I”, here, is in denial of their ability to learn or change and hands
all responsibility for their change over to the coach.
When minds are closed, beliefs never change.

So how do I set about coaching someone with a closed mind,
with beliefs that are unassailably behind castle walls within the client’s “keep”.

Well there are a number of ways of breaching those ramparts, of storming their ‘Bastille’.

I can lay siege and look to decay their fortress through drip-fed remarks,
affirmations and comments. I can undermine their foundations by disproving
their undeniable proofs at every opportunity, ‘trumping their aces’ if you like. I can assemble a
load of weaponry and batter them into submission, or assemble a load of troops,
run up some ladders and get in that way.

These are all interventions of some form or other. So are
there any other ways – because the beliefs within the castle are likely to
defend themselves against assault aren’t they? Wouldn’t it be better – for the
fabric of the castle – that the beliefs were changed through persuasion,
through dialogue? The end needs to be that the client (the castle) believes
that they changed their own mind, so that they can own and be responsible for
that change.
I cannot get you to give up smoking – but I can get you to change your mind around
certain things so that you can give up your own smoking.
Minds can only change through being open.

to change

So you want to change; and that could be just learning
more, learning better, changing some habit that is a nuisance that is blighting
some part of your life, getting to feel better about yourself and some of the
things you do, dealing with things that affect you in a better way, and so on.
These are all elements of life’s performance – and you’d like to perform better
so that life could be better.

So how ‘teachable’ or ‘coachable’ are you? Or – given what
I said before – how ‘coachable’ do you think
you are? How easy is it for your castle’s drawbridge to be lowered? How do you
feel when you hear, “I would if I could but I can’t so I won’t.” We are all
comfortable with the familiar, we wear it with ease – so if your language,
especially the self-directed and familiar language, is liberally sprinkled with
can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t, won’t, wouldn’t and the like then it will help you
to recognise that and make some changes to those habits.
How open is your mind, how much are you prepared to embrace
change, how much of your own time and work are you prepared to put in to
cementing these building blocks of change into place? How much can you invest
in acknowledging the clues?


I’ve worked with thousands of people of all ages in a wide
variety of contexts. I am neither successful nor unsuccessful – yet I’ve had clients
who have made changes with amazing outcomes that have transformed their lives.
I’ve had clients who have made changes and now see things differently. I’ve had
clients (albeit for a very short while!) for whom the time spent with me
yielded nothing for them.
Many of those thousands could have changed what they have via their own
resources. However, they may have wanted the process accelerated, or they may have
believed they didn’t have those resources at the time.

I’ve changed many things in my own life too, yet I know that life would have been
different if I knew back then what I know now. But I can’t go back – I can’t unburn
the toast. But I can start with a new slice of bread right here – right now –
and make better toast. There are still things I’d like to change and learn, and
now I’m in a better place than I ever was because of my own ‘teachability’, my ‘coachability’.

Someone said to me very recently that there is still so
much old negative thinking in her life in spite of all the good things she now
enjoys. When I asked her what would her life be like if she could get rid of
all that stuff, her entire physiology lit up and she said “that’d be amazing”. I then asked her how she
might start to put some action towards that and her reply was “I don’t know.” I
said she might need to get more familiar with “I don’t know” and I gave her
some clues and pointers and things to read, watch and listen to – starting with her own body language and thought-driven beliefs. 

At some point she
may or may not want to see me as a client, and then – and only then – her ‘coachability’
and my coach ability will be factors in those interactions.

And so, in a way this article will be waiting for her when that time comes.