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?

> What else is going well in your career?

> What could be improved?

> Are there specific people you could learn from?

Being open-minded and thoughtful about your own performance will encourage others to do the same for you.

6. Offer solutions, don’t ask for them.

Offer someone the opportunity to coach you, by suggesting a solution to a problem you’re not sure about.

Ask them whether that is the right way forward, or if you have missed something.

> If you just go to them and say “I don’t know”, they will just tell you the answer.

> If, instead, you ask them what’s missing from a possible solution, and they then help you understand how your solution can be improved - they are helping you learn.

The conversation becomes more of a coaching one.

7. Ask for feedback again!

Unfortunately, the process of being coachable is never finished!

Once you’ve have reflected on the last lot feedback, and acted on it as appropriate, it’s time for some more.

If they haven’t yet commented, ask the same person whether your efforts are noticeable.

Ask other people for different feedback.

And once again, listen without defensiveness, reflect, and act.

Demonstrate that you are coachable, and you will gain the benefits of coaching.


Fundamentally coaching is different to training, in that it is not something you do to someone.

Instead, a coaching conversation enables someone to find their own answers.

We do this all the time with children:

> "Why do fish swim?”

> “Why do YOU think fish swim?”

But we seem to forget it as adults, and rely more on telling people stuff.

So next time someone asks you how to do something, ask them what they think instead.

You are then coaching them.

Good luck!

Kirsten xx

p.s. if you would like to experience transformational career coaching, my 8 week Accelerator Programme is launching in one week! And I have ONE SPACE LEFT!

The Programme will help you:

- define your ideal career path and how to get there

- build your capacity to succeed through focussing on your skills, reputation and networks

- find your balance, so you can succeed without struggling with stress or negative internal chatter.

It includes 4 one-to-one coaching calls with me, as well as (optional) weekly group coaching calls, plus 9 modules of online videos and worksheets to go through at your own pace.

For more information and to reserve that final space, visit here: