Is Your employee coachable?

uncoachable guy

Executive coaching can be a transformational experience, but – as the saying goes – it takes two to tango.

An executive coach is a thought partner who helps their clients uncover hidden beliefs and habits that are holding them back. This process requires a spirit of exploration and adventure. If the client isn’t ready to go on the journey, the process doesn’t work.

If you are wondering if your employee is ready for coaching, look for these key indicators of coachability in someone’s day-to-day work – as these will manifest in the coaching relationship.


How does your employee respond when you offer difficult feedback?

❌Do they shut down or have difficulty responding?

✔️Or are they willing to discuss your input and explore its potential to inspire growth?

Look for positive behaviors like receptivity to ideas, asking questions to understand, and hypothesizing about alternatives. These are indicators of a person who is ready for a coaching experience.


It’s normal. Most people get a bit defensive when they hear a negative assessment of their work, especially if they aren’t expecting it.

❌Some employees place blame elsewhere or make excuses. This behavior – otherwise known as “external attribution” – negatively correlates to coachability.

✔️Your employee’s ability to accept ownership for a mistake provides valuable insights into their coachability.

Rational versus emotional responses

What is the quality of your employee’s emotional response to bad news? Can this person have a rational discussion, particularly when challenged or confronted?

❌High degrees of emotionality have a negative correlation with coachability.

✔️Unemotional interaction is a positive sign that your employee is comfortable exploring difficult topics.

Action-oriented self-reflection

How quickly does the person move from hearing bad news to addressing the issue?

❌Does the employee circle back repeatedly to the specifics of the situation or are they otherwise unwilling to move on?

✔️Or does the employee move fairly quickly into problem-solving mode?

Unprompted idea generation and action planning are strong indicators of a coachable person.


If your employee embodies most of these positive traits, congratulations! You have someone who has a high potential to benefit from coaching.

or not…

If your employee isn’t ready for coaching, you might be tempted to get them a coach anyway and hope it works out. A better option is for you to help prepare them to have a successful outcome.

Reactions to feedback are not fixed traits – they can evolve over time. In most cases, close-mindedness, external attribution, and other negative responses stem from a fear of being wrong, making a mistake, or on-the-job reprisal. Your job is to unpack what’s causing these reactions and – to the extent you can – change the person’s narrative.

You should also ask yourself, “Does our management and company culture make it safe for employees to own their mistakes, acknowledge growth-areas, and brainstorm solutions?”

If yes, find ways to convey this – in words and actions – as you meet with this person. If not, you might consider this an opportunity for growth – both for you and your organization.

As you work with your employee, if you see improvement in their “coachability” on the job, that increases the likelihood of them having the same productive reactions to coaching.

Delve can help you prepare your direct to get the best from a coaching experience. Contact Delve today.

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