I’m going to tell you about coachability, not because I think it’s a useful concept (I don’t), but because you may run into it as you read coaching materials, and I don’t want you to be mislead or discouraged by it.
Theoretically, coachability describes a person’s suitability for working with a coach: how interested the person is in working with a coach and how willing he is to participate actively in the coaching process.
To help you figure out if coaching is right for you, some coaches even provide you with a handy-dandy “How coachable are you?” or “Are you coachable?” quiz. Sounds good, right?
You take a quiz, and you’ll know if coaching is right for you. If it’s not, you’ve saved yourself a bunch of time and money.
Thank you, “Are you coachable?” quiz.
What’s not to love about that?
The problem with coachability
Here’s what’s wrong with “Are you coachable?” quizzes: they’re based on the false premise that coaching is a uniform, clearly defined process. As I explore in depth in the What is coaching? section, that’s far from the case. Coaching is more like a giant menu of services, with each coach offering her own subset of them in her own style.
The field of coaching is wildly, wackily diverse. If we pluck two coaches randomly out of the pool of hundreds of thousands (by some estimates) of coaches, odds are, they will likely be quite different from each other in practice, approach, philosophy, and every other way. You may be the perfect client for the one and not be a good fit for the other.
Are you coachable?
It doesn’t make sense to get an absolute “yes” or “no” answer to the question.
The real answer is — it depends.
It depends on whether or not you’re working with a coach who has services you value, who treats you in a way that works for you, and whose expectations for your participation match what you’re interested in doing. If you really want an “Are you coachable?” quiz, you can go to the master list of coaching services and see if any of them interest you.
If so, you’re coachable.
If someone tries to convince you that there’s a list of specifics of what you need to be, feel, and do to be a good potential coaching client, don’t fall for it. Whether or not you’re coachable depends on the coach as much as on you.
Taking action, following directions
Two particular traits that often show up on coachability quizzes are:
- readiness to take action, and
- a willingness to follow a coach’s guidance.
While many coaches focus on action, plenty of coaches don’t. They’ll help you with big-picture plans and analysis, problem-solving strategies, values clarification, and a whole host of other endeavors that don’t require action. If you hate being told what to do, you can still happily work with a life coach — as long as you take care to find one who’ll treat you the way you want.
A willingness to blindly and automatically do what a coach says is, in my view, more cause for concern than a highly desirable trait in a client. Even an ideal coach for you isn’t going to give you advice that’s perfect for you all the time. I believe that it’s wise for clients to take coaches’ advice as suggestions (whether the advice is phrased that way or not!) — and feel free to adjust or ignore advice that doesn’t work for them.
The bottom line: you’re coachable by coaches who treat you the way you want to be treated and provide services you find valuable. You’re not coachable by coaches who don’t. (Of course, we could also say these coaches aren’t “clientable” because they can’t work well with you.)
Just marketing tools
Note of caution: Some “Are you coachable?” quizzes are just thinly disguised marketing tools. They ask a bunch of questions that everyone would say “yes” to as a way to move you along the path of deciding to work with the coaches who’ve written the quizzes.
Some “Are you coachable? quizzes are just ads for coaching. A question like, “Would it be helpful to you to work with someone who has a proven record for increasing sales to help you create strategic plans for your business?” isn’t really a question. It’s just an ad.
Limited use of coachability quizzes
Coachability quizzes do have a limited use: they can help you screen coaches. An “Are you coachable?” quiz tells you a lot about its author, about what she wants from her clients and the way she coaches.
If you fail an “Are you coachable?” quiz, you could still be a happy coaching client, but you probably wouldn’t want to work with the coach who wrote that quiz. If you pass an “Are you coachable?” quiz — that isn’t a marketing tool — then the coach who wrote the quiz may be a contender for your coaching business.