For Leaders

“Early on in my career, I had the feeling that I had to be the smartest person in the room coming out of business school and that led to some mistakes,” said CEO of Clif Bars, Sally Grimes. Since then, she learned a key lesson:

 “Humility is not the opposite of confidence. It’s the freedom for learning.”

Quoted from WSJ, “How the CEO of Clif Bars Stays Hungry,” January, 2020

The Definition of a Coachable Leader

A coachable leader values self-improvement and operates consistently in a learning zone by applying the coachability practices of seek - respond - reflect - act.
The Challenge

Interest in seeking feedback and being coachable decline as we age and advance in our careers. Blind spots and faulty assumptions emerge, which may lead to career derailment.

Have Faulty Assumptions Started Creeping into Your Thinking?

Underlying the decline in coachability are common faulty assumptions, such as:

False Finish Line

“I’ve arrived as a leader and am less interested in input from others to improve.”

Superhuman Stance

“Asking for feedback would cause others to doubt my confidence and capabilities.”

Boss-Booster Bubble

“All I hear are positive comments from my staff, so there’s no need to improve.”

The Power of Leadership Coachability

Some leaders stay coachable regardless of level or age, so they reap the benefits and avoid the risks. A sample of research findings:

Benefits of a High-Coachable Leader

Risks of a Low-Coachable Leader

Coachability Practice #1

Value Mindset

Highly coachable leaders:

  • Value self-improvement and growth.
  • Confidently regard themselves as a work-in-progress (not finished perfection).
  • Want to know about their blind spots.
Tip: Manage Your Learning Zone

Identify what causes you to be open for input and feedback to improve and what pushes you out of your learning zone. Try to expand your learning zone habit by strengthening the habits that help you lead in your learning zone and reduce or reframe the factors that deter you.

Coachability Practice #2


Highly coachable leaders:

  • Are intentional about regularly seeking input from others on how to improve.
  • Signal that they welcome feedback and ideas for improvement.
Tip: Ask Three Simple Questions

Collect and try out input questions to use when meeting with others, such as:

“What’s one thing I did well and should do again?”
“What’s one thing I could try differently next time?”
“What’s one thing I am doing now that may be holding me back from being more effective?”

Coachability Practice #3


Highly coachable leaders:

  • Respond in an open way.
  • Allow the message to be given uninterrupted.
  • Probe to fully understand.
  • Show appreciation for the willingness of the other person to offer input; whether incoming feedback is a result of asking for it or not.
Tip: Expect Messy

Expect any feedback to be clumsy and imperfect. Know that the feedback sender is probably nervous, untrained on how to deliver concise feedback, and unsure how you will react. Know that your job is to help them deliver input so you can understand the main message.

Coachability Practice #4


Highly coachable leaders:

  • Separate their openness and curiosity while receiving feedback from the reflection and analysis of the message.
  • Take the time to think if the feedback has merit and ways to use it to grow.
  • Know they don’t have to act on everything they hear, but they will always pause and reflect.
Tip: Second Opinion

If you are feeling resistant or confused about the feedback, seek out a truth-telling/trusted advisor. Ask “Here is the input I’ve received that I’m not sure about. Before I dismiss it, is that any part of it that might be in my blind spot or you’ve seen something related that I need to consider?” In general, schedule regular time with a trusted advisor or coach to help enable greater reflection time.

Coachability Practice #5


When deciding to act on feedback, highly coachable leaders:

  • Start with a mindset of experimentation and achievement in small steps.
  • Once momentum builds from early action, they apply sustainability strategies so a new behavior becomes a habit.
Tip: Go For Consistent ‘Mins’

Write down the specific new behavior and routine then identify the minimum (min) action you can take on a consistent, daily basis. Then dedicate yourself to doing the mini-action and on better days, expand to more of the full practice.

How to Improve:

Follow the Coachability Roadmap

Identify your starting point with the Coachability Practices Review Assessment. The Coachability Practices Review (CPR) Assessment is designed to help you assess your current level of coachability and consider opportunities for improvement. 

For more strategies and tools, get the book

Coachability: The Leadership Superpower