Being coachable, whether you are a top executive, a middle manager, a front line sales manager, or an individual contributor is critical to your success. To grow and develop, to improve our abilities to achieve our goals and results, we have to be constantly learning and developing.
Having others providing feedback, coaching, helping us think about ways in which we might improve our ability to achieve our goals is something we must actively seek out.
Yet I’m amazed at the number of people that are not only uncoachable, but actually refuse to take coaching and feedback.
One of my clients has adopted a fantastic practice as part of their recruiting and interviewing process. Each candidate is given a role play scenario. They are given the chance to ask questions about the scenario and to prepare for it. The role plays are recorded, the role play is played back with my client coaching them on how the candidate might improve their execution, and the candidate is then ask to try the role play again.
The goal of this role play is to understand their “coachability.” We tell the candidate that we are less concerned about whether they are right or wrong about the facts in the role play—clearly that would take deeper understanding of the products and strategies. Our only goal is to understand how they learn, their openness to feedback, and how they apply that feedback in the second role play.
You can see how powerful this technique is, not only for sales people but also sales managers. After all, if a sales manager isn’t coachable, how effective will that manager be in coaching the team?
My client has applied this in every sales and marketing job, as well is in all key management roles. They have recruited some stunning leaders.
But what’s interesting—and disturbing—is the failure rate in this exercise, particularly among manager candidates.
We recently reviewed a key role sales management role. 66% of the candidates this job were “actively” uncoachable. This doesn’t mean they didn’t apply the feedback in the second role play, this means they actively rejected the coaching that was provided.
Some, after receiving coaching on how they might have improved, said they would not change anything they did, and went on to do the role play exactly as they had done the first time, making the same mistakes again–despite having been coached how to improve.
Some, started to blame others. One stated, the instructions had been unclear. One started pointing out spelling errors and grammatical mistakes in the instructions. They wouldn’t accept that they could have done better.
Each of these focused on proving themselves “right,” rather than listening, challenging, learning, and incorporating the feedback into how they could improve.
What all of these candidates missed was my client wasn’t interested in whether the strategies they executed in the role plays were right of wrong. They were complex issues, so it was reasonable to expect they might not know the answer.
What my client needed to know was whether these candidates were coachable, how they dealt with feedback, how they incorporated the coaching into what they did in the follow up role play, and how they learned. This was important, both from the point of view of their own development, but also from the point of view of their ability to effectively coach and grow their people.
66% failed miserably. The process stopped there, they were out of consideration for a key sales management job with a very hot company—something each of them dreamed of.
And each of them will have learned nothing from this experience. They won’t recognize what went wrong, some will grumble that my client had it all wrong.
Being uncoachable, being unable to give and receive feedback is a formula for failure, possibly not today, but certainly tomorrow. The uncoachable have made the decision to stop learning and growing.
Regardless how well they perform today, they will quickly fall behind and fail.
Afternote: I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Mark Roberge. Mark told me about this approach years ago, I’ve since borrowed and adapted it. He provides an outstanding description in The Sales Acceleration Formula.