How Coachable Are Your Leaders?



In the past, organizations have invested heavily in executive coaching as part of leadership development.  A recent study indicated that nearly $3 billion dollars is spent per year on organizational coaching initiatives. The cost of an individual six-month executive coaching engagement can range from $25,000 to $50,000 (and, in some cases, more). While it can be hard to measure the return on investment (ROI), the benefits are many — ranging from improved productivity and decision-making to improved retention and engagement of the leader and his or her team members. 

Organizations are looking for ways to maximize the impact of coaching and leadership development; some organizations are starting to invest in assessing the coachability of leaders. For example, highly coachable leaders have been found to foster greater levels of employee engagement and retention. Highly coachable leaders achieve significantly higher levels of performance, agility, and promotability. Organizations are finding the impact of coaching without identifying leadership coachability may prove to be costly. However, investing in leadership coachability can impact organizational effectiveness.

What is Coachability?  In a 2009 study by McKenna & Davis, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Active Ingredients of Executive Coaching”, found that 40% of the impact of coaching is dependent on the learner’s readiness for coaching. 

Coachability is having the combination of mindset and behavior coupled with the willingness to receive and consistently accept feedback openly, with the mental and emotional openness needed to consistently observe its impact and adapt. Coachability in a broader sense is learnability. Coachable leaders are willing to experiment with new attitudes and behaviors. Keeping a strong level of coachability, leaders’ experience can help them to become a better leader overall while avoiding potential blind spots that can lead to career derailment.

What are some of the traits to look for in a coachable leader?

  1. Learning agility – ability to quickly learn how to be effective in new and different situations
  2. Having a clear purpose – a passion for growth, or a set of values that are more important to you than all the internal resistance to change that comes up in the coaching process.
  3. Identifying strengths and derailers – and how you impact others.
  4. Ability to prioritize and take action – effectively when faced with challenges and crises.
  5. Accountability -willingness to own your own part in the outcome and take responsibility and not blame others.

Conduct a Coachability Assessment:

Before making investments in coaching your leaders, conduct a coachability assessment to identify which leaders will have the greatest possibility for success.  You may want to create an assessment instrument using a Likert scale from 1-5 with “1’ being the lowest and ”5” the highest. Identify the raters by asking the leader’s boss, sponsor and coachee (client) to complete the assessment.

Sample Coachability Assessment:

  1. Openness to enter into a coaching engagement. Seeks to engage in his own development and is motivated to learn and grow.  Eager to improve in selected areas and approaches the process with openness and curiosity.  Views coaching as a positive signal that the organization values his contribution and wants to invest in his development.
  2. Willingness to reflect or look inward. Has self-awareness and the ability and willingness to be vulnerable. Ability to pause and reflect on thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and goes beyond surface issues to examine weaknesses.
  3. Willingness to challenge his own thinking. Willingness and ability to look at current thinking styles and test previously unexamined old assumptions and beliefs. Recognizes opportunities for challenging old beliefs. Realizes unexamined assumptions are typically long-held, may no longer accurately reflect his current reality.
  4. Open to feedback. Is open to feedback and understands that others may see him differently than he sees himself. Seeks ongoing feedback from others and manages self-defensiveness. Accepts feedback positively and is open to new suggestions.
  5. Emotionally healthy. Doesn’t display emotional outbursts or uncontrolled anger when asked about personal challenges or issues.  Experiencing personal or work-related challenges that indicate there may be deeper issues for which coaching is not the right type of intervention.
  6. Demonstrates the ability to learn. Demonstrates an ability to change or act on feedback received to improve behavior. Transfers new learning into practice. Ability to retain learning and change behavior ongoing.

For more information about becoming an Executive Coaching, IOD offers a comprehensive online Executive Coaching Certification Program.  Participants receive one on one coaching and valuable coaching tools and resources to help you become a successful executive coach.  IOD is an ICF Training Provider offering 40 training credits towards ICF’s Coaching Certification.  Contact us at for more information.


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