I coached one CEO, for example, who was a classic definition of the pop psychology term passive aggressive. He would nod and agree with every piece of feedback his staff and I gave him and then proceed to change nothing. Unfortunately, it took me months to understand what his personality was like and to let the client know that the project was doomed.
"We coach people every day who go on
to be even more effective leaders,
yet some people simply are not open to feedback."
Another client was so overwhelmed by the idea that her organization thought she needed a coach that she spent all of her time with me complaining about the assignment. I couldn't turn her attention back to herself and what she could change, and the project ultimately failed.
Luckily, these two were exceptions and I've coached many successful executives who went on to be even more successful with coaching. Here's what they had in common:
1. Curiosity. They listened and asked questions about how they could improve and how they were perceived by others. They welcomed feedback with curious questions, not defensiveness.
2. Open to change. They didn't assume that who they were was a fixed state. They welcomed change based on coaching as opposed to assuming that they couldn't change.
3. Vision. They had a vision for coaching and for what they wanted to achieve - even if the assignment was initially foisted upon them by someone else. They welcomed our help in achieving that vision.
4. Honesty. They were willing to admit mistakes and tell the truth fast. They owned their part of any mishap, apologized and moved on.
5. Proactive. They called us when they needed advice, as opposed to waiting for our scheduled appointments. They anticipated problems.
6. Brave. They understood that they might be uncomfortable with feedback and honesty but they were willing to walk though the discomfort in order to make positive changes.