Coachability: A Question of Attitude and Personality

Coachability: A Question of Attitude and Personality


In a perfect world, good coaching would produce good results. Any great executive coach would produce world-class leaders. In the real world, however, no matter how talented a coach may be, the outcome of any coaching effort also depends on the coachee and his or her coachability.

What is coachability?

Coachability refers to the ability of a person to receive feedback and constructive criticism and to use this feedback and constructive criticism to improve his or her performance. Non-coachable employees tend to deflect, make excuses, blame others, or generally have a questionable attitude when held accountable for their performance.

At its core, coachability is about employees who are willing to learn and have the ability to change for the better. Employees who are coachable are important because they are more productive and efficient. They are adaptable and do not get in the way of their own growth or that of the company. These types of people are able to recognize flaws in their own performance and fix them for the benefit of themselves, those around them, and the company.

People who go through life positive, passionate and motivated have a much easier time accepting feedback from managers, coaches or colleagues and engaging with their team. Coachable, then, refers to a person’s attitude, not his:her skills. Someone who is coachable is open and humble, listens to honest feedback, and willingly applies that feedback to improve his:her performance and development. These people understand that they are not perfect, that there is always room for improvement, and show their appreciation for other people’s time and feedback by actively listening and learning from them.

What is the difference between coachable and non-coachable?

It is fairly easy to identify employees who are not coachable. They tend to pout, roll their eyes, or complain when they disagree with instructions or criticism from supervisors. These character traits not only make them difficult to coach, but also hinder their development.
Employees who are coachable, on the other hand, have a different mentality. They are open-minded and willing to make changes to improve. They understand that constructive criticism supports them and they don’t have to take it personally. Most importantly, they are motivated to move forward based on the feedback.

Why are some people better to coach than others?

The success of coaching interventions depends both on the coach and his:her methods and on the clients‘ ability to improve – and their coachability is usually explained by personality traits. On average, evidence-based coaching interventions change a person’s behavior by up to 30%. These interventions result in improvements that can be considered above average in 70% of cases.

Why does coaching work?

There are three keys that make coaching effective:

  1. Strategic self-awareness, which helps uncover blind spots between how someone sees him- or herself and how they are seen by others. Hogan Assessments greatly help to further increase strategic self-awareness.
  2. Concrete behavioral changes are defined, which are outlined in a targeted action or development plan. Again, Hogan Assessments contribute to this process by helping to define developmental goals in a more tailored and focused manner.
  3. This can lead to a change in an individual’s reputation. Hogan Assessments help to understand how one comes across to others, they help to align behaviors in such a way that they have a more successful and effective impact on others.

What are the main variables on which the effectiveness of a coaching intervention depends?

The four critical components are the validity and accuracy of the diagnostic tools, the coaching methodology used, the competence of the coach, and the coachability of the coachee. Here, coachability becomes a critical variable that, like other characteristics, is normally distributed in the population. Motivation or willingness of a coachee to change can be influenced by the coach.

How can the coach take a client’s personality into account?

The more the impact of a personality profile is integrated into the coaching process, the more effective the coaching will be. Let’s look at the impact of Hogan’s three core inventories on coachability:

Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) – Day-to-Day Strengths (reputation)

  • Sociability: this HPI dimension is least relevant to coachability, it doesn’t matter at all how introverted or extraverted someone is to predict whether someone will accept feedback and take action from it.
  • Adjustment: this HPI dimension is most strongly related to coachability. Specifically, moderate or trending lower scores suggest that someone is very interested in what others think about them, are more likely to question themselves, and their uncertainty may be channeled into coaching interventions.

Hogan Development Survey (HDS) – Behavior in Stressful Situations (Reputation)

  • Diligent or Dutiful: The higher the score on one of these HDS dimensions, the better the person will be at being coached and accepting feedback.
  • For the other nine HDS dimensions, the lower the scores, the higher the coachability.
  • Excitable, Skeptical, Leisurely, or Bold: High scores on these dimensions are particularly inhibiting to coaching interventions and make people less receptive to feedback.

Motives, Values & Preferences Inventory (MVPI) – Intentions, Drivers, Motivators (Identity)

  • A person’s values and needs also influence their coachability.
  • High scores on the Recognition, Altruism, and Science scales have a positive effect on Coachability.
  • Low values on the Tradition and Security scales do likewise. They are more willing and open to change.

Dealing with someone who is not coachable is not the end of the world. Coaching interventions almost inevitably seek to modulate or adjust a person’s current pattern of behavior. At the same time, people may not be very capable of change, but they can still be a tremendous asset to the organization. The large amounts spent on training, development and coaching are an indicator that more emphasis should be placed on selecting the right people. Then you would have the right people in the right places more often and you would have to spend less money fixing mistakes that were made during the hiring process.

At RELEVANT, we work with Hogan Assessments every day. Hogan is the leading global provider of research-based assessment solutions. RELEVANT helps companies use their personality diagnostics to reduce turnover and increase productivity by hiring the right people, developing key talent and identifying leadership potential.

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