How to Assess a Leader’s Coachability Before Engaging an Executive Coach

By Rebecca Zucker
Partner, Next Step Partners

Originally published by Training Industry.

Executive coaching represents a small but growing component of the global $366 billion training industry, with almost $2.4 billion spent on such services in 2015 (a 19% increase from 2011). The cost of an individual six-month executive coaching engagement can range from $25,000 to $50,000 (and, in some cases, more). While it can be hard to measure the return on investment (ROI), the benefits are many — ranging from improved productivity and decision-making to improved retention and engagement of the leader and his or her team members.

Before making this type of investment in one of your leaders, you’ll want to assess his or her coachability to help ensure positive outcomes. To do so, answer the following questions:

Is he open to the coaching? 

The leader wants to engage in his own development and is motivated to learn and grow. He is eager to improve in selected areas and approaches the process with openness and curiosity. He also views coaching as a positive signal that the organization values his contribution and wants to invest in his development.

You’ll want to assess coachability to help ensure positive outcomes. Share on X

Is she willing to reflect or look inward?

The leader has some self-awareness and the ability and willingness to be vulnerable. She is able to pause and reflect on thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and she goes beyond surface issues to examine root causes of her weaknesses.

Is he willing to challenge his own thinking?

The leader is willing and able to look at his thinking and test the previously unexamined assumptions that keep him stuck in old ways of operating. These unexamined assumptions are typically long-held, limiting beliefs that feel true to him but do not accurately reflect his current reality.

Is he open to feedback?

The leader has shown previous receptivity to feedback and understands that others may see him differently than he sees himself. He seeks ongoing feedback from others and is able to manage any defensiveness that may arise, approaching the feedback with curiosity.

The benefits of coaching to the individual leader, his or her team, and the organization can be tremendous. Share on X

Is she psychologically healthy?

The leader’s behavior is not driven by severe psychological wounds. Emotional outbursts or uncontrolled anger are clues that there may be deeper issues for which coaching is not the right type of intervention.

Has she demonstrated the ability to learn? 

The leader has shown an ability to integrate or act on feedback to improve, and she reflects improved awareness as a result of the feedback.

The more questions you answer with a “yes,” the more coachable the individual will be. An answer of “no” to any of these questions can be enough to impede the effectiveness the coaching, if not derail it altogether.

While a leader might be inexperienced with coaching and, therefore, nervous or skeptical about the process, these feelings are normal and often fall by the wayside as he or she starts to experience the benefits of coaching. When the answers to each of these questions is “yes,” the benefits to the individual leader, his or her team, and the organization can be tremendous.



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