You may be good at what you do. Indeed, you may be better than most, but if you’re not teachable or coachable, you’ll never be as good as you could be. It’s impossible.
How true would that be of you? Let’s take a look.
On the one end of the spectrum, I see people who are not teachable or coachable. They think they know everything or at least pretend to know it all. Their egos and pride stop them from moving forward. Their behavior shows up in one bad decision after another, whether it’s continually choosing the wrong people to hang around, continually using their money inappropriately, continually losing jobs or promotions, or whatever. They don’t learn anything from their setbacks.
On the other end of the spectrum, I look at all the leaders I’ve been privileged to know, observe, or coach, and I’ve noticed that the best ones are extremely teachable and coachable. They know they can always get better and then spend the time, money, and energy making sure that happens.
Today I urge you to become more teachable and coachable … because that’s the only way you will ever get better at anything.
► 1. Becoming more teachable
In the 1920’s, Charlie Chaplin was the most famous person in the world. Born into poverty, he worked onstage to support himself and by age seventeen he was a veteran silent-screen movie performer. Then at age twenty-nine he did something unheard of: he signed the entertainment industry’s first million-dollar contract.
But he wasn’t successful simply because he had talent and drive. He was also teachable. He kept learning and perfecting his gift. Even at the height of his career, the highest paid performer in the world didn’t rest on his laurels. He said, “When I watch one of my pictures, I pay attention to what the audience doesn’t laugh at. If several audiences don’t laugh at a stunt, I tear it apart and try to discover what’s wrong. On the other hand, if I hear laughter I hadn’t expected, I ask myself why that particular thing rang the bell with the audience.”
The truth is, if Charlie Chaplin had replaced teachability with complacency and arrogance we probably wouldn’t even remember his name today. But he didn’t. He never forgot the basics and he committed himself to learning. Eventually he cofounded United Artists, a mega-movie company that’s still in business today.
When you compare yourself to a superstar like Charlie Chaplin, how teachable would you say you are?
On a 10-point scale, would you be closer to a 1, where you tend to say things like, “I’m good enough … I’m getting by … Why bother to change? … or … I don’t want to appear weak by asking for help.” You’re not very teachable.
Or would you be closer to a 10, where you say, “I may know a lot, but I also know there’s a lot more I need to learn … and … I know what brought me here won’t take me there.” You have what it takes to get ahead. You are teachable.
Wherever you are on that scale, find some teachers, mentors, or coaches that will move you ahead.
And who would be a good teacher for you? I like educator Marlene LeFever’s quip. She says, “Becoming an effective teacher is simple. You just prepare and prepare until drops of blood appear on your forehead.” In other words, find a teacher who has some skin in the game and cares deeply about your success.
► 2. Becoming more coachable
Without the help of others or a particular coach, you will never be as good as you could be. You will never reach your highest potential without a good adviser. It’s impossible.
And if you’re hoping to learn everything from personal experience, good luck. It takes an awful long time, typically several life times, to learn what a great coach can help you learn in a matter of weeks or months. Besides that, learning from personal experience comes with a very expensive tuition price. You have to fail and fail and fail to hopefully learn, and learn, and learn.
By contrast, you’ve probably noticed that all the superstars in sports, entertainment, and business have coaches. And they are coachable.
Of course, you may wonder why would a world-class tennis player need a coach, especially one who is not as good on the court as he or she is? Andre Agassi answered the question years ago. He said, “Tennis requires subtle adjustments crucial to winning and my coach, Gill, is the best at making them. The older I get the more valuable he becomes.”
Why is that? Because age and experience don’t necessarily make you better; often they just deepen the rut you’re in. In life, as in sports, you never reach the point where you don’t need good input.
Yet many of us operate under the misguided assumption that because we lead, we don’t need to be led. We make the mistake of measuring ourselves against others instead of our own God-given potential, and in the end, we never become what we could have been.
Self-evaluation is important, but the coaching evaluation of others is crucial. A good coach measures your performance against your strengths, not somebody else’s. That’s because he or she knows what you’re capable of and they will push you to your limit. If I can be of help, or you would like to discuss how I coach others, feels free to contact me.
As it says in the book of Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to advice… and… you will be wise.” Prov 19:20