When talent scouts look at young athletes they look for a host of factors: speed, strength, agility, reflexes, among others. These qualities determine their ability and potential performance on the playing field.
However, there is one trait that scouts look for above all others. What they look for is coachability.
The professional world is no different. When you're looking for raw talent and future leaders, what you're really looking for is people who can be coached.
Without the ability to be coached, all the talent and skill in the work will be for naught. Being able to take in feedback, be instructed, and to strive are attributes that lead to continuous improvement over time.
The world's best leaders were simultaneously exceptionally talented, skilled, determined, and aware that they could be better. And they understood the value of a great coach to help them improve themselves. Great CEOs like Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, and Bill Gates all sought out great coaches to help them up their game.
A great coach provides three key roles in developing highly successful executives. Knowing these can help you decide if and when coaching might be a good move in your career.
1. Great coaches see things you can't see
Coaches have a different perspective. Practically speaking, this allows them to literally see things you can't see.
It could be body language, reactions, or the impact you have on other people. With a slightly removed position for observing, coaches can catch important and insightful glimpses into a variety of situations.
Coaches also have a different emotional perspective. They are less likely to be attached to a particular approach or behavior, and are willing to question more boldly the assumptions and ways of doing things that you take for granted.
For instance, I once had a client who tended to communicate via email because he was most comfortable with writing. He didn't want to consider other modes of communication because he feared being uncomfortable.
As a coach, I didn't have that fear bias--so I was more willing to explore different options. Once this client was able to see that his email dependency was hindering his effectiveness, he moved out of his comfort zone and began holding more face-to-face meetings.
At first he was still uncomfortable. After some time, he saw positive results which pushed him forward.
2. Great coaches say things you can't say
I'm often brought onto teams who are struggling--usually, after several months of poor performance. Sometimes, executives are ready to give up and scrap the team and start over.
It's not uncommon, however, to see that there are conflicts or core issues that haven't been resolved on the team--causing the team members to grind away unproductively. Sometimes, it's because of personal relationships. Other times, it's power dynamics. Regardless, unresolved issues hold teams back.
As a coach, I can bring up these issues in a safe and neutral way. This objective approach allows for engaged and open discussion. Often, it only takes just a few minutes of conversation. Shortly afterwards, we're able to begin the resolution process and start affecting results.
3. Great coaches know things you don't know
Experienced coaches have worked with many types of people and have seen many different situations. They've seen what typically works and what usually doesn't.
Coaches certainly don't guarantee that all problems are avoidable and success is automatic, but they can help make sure you're not making the same mistakes other people have already paid the price for.
Many people expect coaches to be great sources of advice. However, the best coaches I know rarely give advice.
Instead, they share their experiences and the experiences of previous clients. This method allows clients to drive the decisions, making better use of the provided knowledge.
Knowing what makes a great coach will also allow you to choose your coach wisely. Beyond rapport and cultural fit, look for a coach who is focused on providing these three key points of value to the coaching relationship.