The word “coachable” may provoke flashbacks of a man shouting at you in gym class: half bent over, whistle in his mouth, spit dripping from his bottom lip–this guy’s over the hill. Why should I care if I can cater to this jerk? The truth is, being coachable plays into areas outside dodgeball that actually matter. The ability to listen to those who definitely (as much as it may hurt your ego) know more than you benefits you more than you may realize. And once you’re coachable, employers line up for your easy-going attitude.
Take a look at any areas of your life that fall flatter than Beyonce on a staircase. I promise we all have weaknesses (even the queen herself). Make a list of things that could use a little friendly feedback from your BFF, your favorite professor, even the guy behind you in the Dunkin’ Donuts line.
“You have to sometimes put your ego aside,” Notre Dame Track and Field coach Sean Carlson said. “You can’t be a better person thinking that you know everything about yourself. Other people see you and your actions in different lights and you can use their views to change or to reinforce the things you do well.”
Picture yourself walking around campus, nose in the air thinking you’re already hot sh*t. You’d probably get hit in the head with a frisbee before even taking five steps. The idea that you’re immuned to failure is how you get hit in the head with metaphorical beach toys. Humble yourself and open your eyes to what you may not want to see.
Coaching from your buds
This part might initially seem strange–letting another clueless college kid give you advice. But our closest friends feel comfortable enough to tell us the truth even when it stings. Show your friend that you won’t tune them out; let them “coach” you. You get an outside perspective from someone on your same level. If they tell you not to take that many shots of Svedka… it’s probably because they were there last time you did.
Carlson agreed coaching can come from surprising outlets. “Surface level things can be coached by anyone you encounter,” Carlson said. “You need to allow yourself to listen and collaborate with whoever it is that is coaching you.” Sometimes, that just might be the one person you’ve known since you were six.
Coaching from the Profs
Now, I’m not saying take tackle football lessons from your 65 year old Chem professor. Students who won’t communicate with their professor or try to understand why they got a D will only get a reciprocated emotion: frustration.
Think of that one guy who is always on his phone, doesn’t bother taking notes and is constantly saying, “I don’t need to know this.” I can assure you he won’t end up bonding with his prof, and his grades may be tanking as we speak. Use office hours to get to know your teacher and open up about your weaknesses they could help improve. “Coachable students learn faster, because they are receptive to feedback and more open to learning from their mistakes,” Notre Dame finance professor Carl Ackerman said. “My most successful students have the drive and intellect to pursue their own passions.”
Coaching at work
Now to use this coachability in the area that will dominate the rest of your life: work. No one likes the colleague that thinks they’re above those cheesy team work workshops. Some of the strongest working men and women today have come from humble beginnings (Michael Scott, anyone?).
If you’re a manager with an employee thats intriguing, a good listener, willing to learn and interested in your insight, wouldn’t you want to hand them a fancy new promotion? Michael Victor, CEO of consulting firm Alliance Management, has hired coachable employees and gushed about the quality.
“[My employee] learned to take a project as far as he could, but then he will seek out direction. He is careful and smart enough to know that he needs help and guidance,” Victor said. “None of us are very good at evaluating ourselves, we don’t know how we are coming off to others.”
As Professor Carl Ackerman said, “When you are coachable, success flows directly from that.” Don’t let the P.E. flashbacks fool you, being coachable can move you up the corporate ranks, not just the athletic ones.