Everyone has their own philosophy on hiring and what they determine to be the key skills in an employee.  The one that is most important to me is coachability.

Coachability is how flexible someone is.  It’s how well they respond to criticism, critique, new ways of doing things, and fresh ideas.   Coachability is a persons ability to grow through others leadership, direction, and insight.

Only 50% of sales people met their quota in 2009.  (source: Bridge Group’s 2010 inside sales metrics survey) I have to believe that many non sales people also missed their objectives and goals in 09.  I’m sure some of this can be attributed to the economy, but I also believe much of it is a leadership and people issue.

The only way to turn around an underperforming company, team or organization is through the people.  We only have two options when it comes to people; get new ones, or bring up the existing.   I prefer the second and that’s why I put so much emphasis on finding and hiring coachable people.

Coachable people embrace new ideas.  They are open and actively seek out criticism and critique.  They are often focused on personal development and growth.   Coachable people tend to be more secure.  They are less attached to the status-quo and see change as necessary and good.

Relationships with coachable employees are different too.  They are rooted in discussion, assessment and evaluation.  Relationships with coachable people are less hierarchical in nature.  I’ve found them to look and feel more like partners rather than supervisor, subordinate.   I’ve found when managing less coachable empolyees the conversations tend to be more combative, data driven, and defensive, as less coachable employees are very sensitive to criticism, and change.  They are often insecure and look to defend their position rather than explore new opportunities for growth.  Less coachable relationships are more hierarchical.  They are more top down.   I find it hard to work with less coachable people.

Coachabilty is a softskill.  It’s hard to measure.   But I know it when I see it.  Coachability is at the core of change.  It is at the core of growth.  It is at the core of personal interaction.  It is critical to development.   Coachable people bring a flexibility and openness to situations that enhances success.  I like to look at it like being a coach for a tennis or golf pro.  Imagine how difficult it would be to get Andre Agassi or Tiger Woods to win if they weren’t coachable.  Imagine every time you suggested a change in Tiger’s swing he argued or pushed back.  Imagine letting Andre know his performance in the first round of Wimbledon was awful and that he wasn’t playing well, and he’d complain to “HR”.

The coachable get that being pushed, challenged, and coached is the key to their success.  They actively seek it out and surround themselves with coaches that don’t let them get complacent.  I believe the same thing holds true in the business world.

There are a lot of brilliant, talented, experienced, people out there.  People with amazing skills who can get things done.  But for me, more important than experience, talent, and brilliance is their ability to adapt and grow and the coachable are far more capable of growing and adapting.

Business changes faster than it ever did.  Companies are no longer entitled to a 100 year span on top.  Microsoft, less than 30 years old is now loosing to Apple.  Google, only 10 years old is being challenged by Facebook.   Adaptability is the new success trait.   To be adaptable you have to be flexible and a team of coachable engineers, sales people, product people, marketers and more is at the core of that flexibility.

For me, hiring coachable people has been the difference between success and failure.   What do you think?

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