It wasn’t until I was three years into my fourth or fifth career that I realized I was woefully unprepared to be coached. When given feedback, I thought my job was to explain why I was doing things the way I was doing them. I felt defensive and parried with my verbal sword. I couldn’t understand why my coach was frustrated with me…
The Value of Listening
At some point, something clicked, and I realized that I was approaching being coached all wrong. I thought I had been listening, but I realized that, instead, I had been formulating replies. Replies encompassed what I already knew, and the mental gymnastics I was doing to come up with a “good” answer was taking up brainspace that could have been used to assimilate new ideas. What I needed was to LISTEN to the words coming out of my coach’s mouth to find out what HE knew. Duh!
Having the Right Coach
By this time, I had a different coach, which made a huge difference, too. The previous coach was always ready to rise to my combative challenge, whereas my new coach’s “it’s up to you if you want to make this change” approach had me striving not to disappoint. The combination of having a mentor who knew how to motivate me and my learning how to say “Ok, thank you” instead of giving excuses helped me progress rapidly.
A Little Context
Being able to be coached was extremely critical in this particular job as I was a flying trapeze artist. By saying, “Ok, thank you,” rather than offering a defense, I freed myself to focus on what my coach had said as I climbed the ladder up to the pedestal for my next turn. I recognized he was giving me the advice to make me better, not to make me feel bad, and I was able to attempt the proposed change with a sense of gratitude rather than resentment.
Your job may not be as extreme, but I bet being good at being coached applies nonetheless. Whether the coaching is formal or informal, being able to gracefully and thoughtfully receive feedback from others can both enhance your skill and increase your prestige among your peers. Remember, being open to change is not a sign of weakness. Quite the contrary: it shows strength! I encourage you to consider how you last responded to feedback. Did you do battle or give thanks? Did you implement the advice? What will you do the next time you are coached? Will you give, “Yes, thank you” a try?