7 ways to progress by being coachable

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

If we are lucky, at some point in our careers we will have access to a proper coach - someone who is formally trained in coaching, who does it as a day job.

(And as a coach, I thoroughly recommend it!)

But there are also many opportunities during our careers to experience informal coaching, if we are open to it - if we are “coachable”.

In this post I explain seven ways to help you be more coachable.


Studies indicate a direct relationship between someone’s “coachability” and their competence, and potential for promotion.

So being coachable is definitely a desirable skill.

So what can this workplace informal coaching look like, and how can one best be coachable?

To understand that, you have to understand what exactly is coaching.

Coaching is simply a process of helping someone learn; of unlocking their potential.

It is something you can do at all levels of your career - and between all levels of seniority.

I had a very successful working relationship with my boss in the National Crime Agency, because we were both willing to learn from each other.

He was a former Commander in the Metropolitan Police, hugely experienced at leading teams of thousands in operational work. I had come from doing strategy work in Whitehall, and understood how to operate effectively in that world.

He helped me apply my strategic approach in a law enforcement context; and I helped him gain influence in Whitehall.

We made much more of an impact together, because we both recognised we could learn something from the other.

There are opportunities for coaching all around us, if only we take the time to look.

Here are seven ways to help you be more coachable.

1. Be willing to learn.

Recognise that you don’t know everything! Recognise that nearly everyone you meet will have something to teach you.

Be open-minded - ask yourself, what can I learn from them?

2. Ask for feedback.

There is no better indicator of being coachable than specifically asking someone how you can improve.

It doesn’t have to be your boss - it could be a team-mate, someone you work with on a particular project, or (best of all), someone you manage.

Asking for feedback not only projects a wish for personal development (ie being open to coaching), but also offers an opportunity for you to learn something concrete that you could do to improve.

3. Be willing to listen to criticism without defensiveness.

This is the hard bit. Not all feedback will be 100% positive - and it would be fairly useless if it was.

So make sure you really understand what they are saying (“so what I’m hearing is that you think I am…).

Then take a deep breath, and whatever they say, say thank you for the feedback, go away and think about it.

If, after some reflection, you feel it’s unfair, you could ask for a conversation to discuss it further.


4. Act on feedback received.

There is no point asking for feedback if you don’t do anything about it.

And it will discourage others from making the effort in the future - why bother thinking of constructive feedback for you, if you don’t do anything about it?


> put it in your development plan

> add it to your to do list

> set time aside in your calendar.

Whatever works for you - but make sure you act on it.

5. Undertake self-reflection.

Self-awareness is crucial to being coachable.

This is something that needs continual effort.

Take time during your working life to step back and reflect on your performance.

> How well have you responded to that feedback?