Coachable or Lost Cause?


In a perfect world, good coaching would lead to good results. Every great American football coach would lead his team to a national championship, and every great executive coach would turn out world-class leaders. In the real world, however, no matter how talented a coach may be, the result of any coaching effort depends in large part on the coached.

“My favorite example is athletics,” said Dr. Robert Hogan, founder of Hogan Assessments. ‘They say for every ten world-class athletes, defined in terms of their physical abilities, only about one makes it. The difference is that they’re coachable. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you won’t listen to coaching, you’re just done.”

Here are four ways to tell if someone is coachable or a lost cause:

1. Can they keep their cool? When you confront them with bad news, do they keep their cool, or do they act excitable, explosive, defensive or paranoid?

“People who are cool-headed are much more able to take feedback on board,” said Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, vice president of research and innovation.

2. Do they accept responsibility? “Do they distort reality in their favor, or do they accept their mistake?” said Chamorro-Premuzic. “People who distort reality in their favor of course have the advantage that they may think of themself as smart. They don’t assume any responsibility. People who are more accepting, they are more coachable because they would not just listen, but actually assume responsibility for what happens.”

3. Are they responsive to feedback Some people are responsive to feedback, while others either resist, deny wrongdoing, or pretend to comply while remaining privately resentful. Being responsive to feedback makes a person easy to coach. A person who resents negative feedback will most likely continue their bad habits no matter how many times they’re corrected.

4. Are they willing to change? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Change is really hard, so if there’s not a willingness on the part of the coached, there is unlikely to be any real progress.

For more information about judgment and coachability, check out this video: