Talent: is coachability a critical success factor?

Talent: is coachability a critical success factor? 1024 675 Bruno Sireyjol

In this first part of our series on coachability, we explore what it means and why it should be redefined or reconsidered in recruitment and assessment processes.


Michael Jordan once said: “My first skill was that I was coachable. I was a sponge and eager to learn. Perhaps he failed to mention his substantial ego and insatiable desire to win, as well as exceptional physical, mental and technical skills. Phil Jackson had to use coachability to assess his players’ egos and make sure they were healthy enough not to jeopardize his team’s cohesion. Great coaches have little tolerance for bad apples.

However, whether think Phil Jackson ever put coachability as the number one critical success factor for recruiting is debatable. Would he have drafted a coachable point guard who excels at assists but struggles with three-point shooting? Whether misused or misunderstood, coachability is neither a superpower nor a commitment to a better life.


Let’s start by defining coachability in simple terms: it refers to an individual’s willingness and ability to learn from others, in particular from a coach, mentor or supervisor. It starts with being open to feedback, which means being receptive to constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.

However, a genuine desire to improve by investing in personal and professional growth is not enough. It must translate into the implementation of feedback and suggestions received. Without proper follow through, coachability remains mere curiosity. It reveals interest in learning and exploring ideas, but it lacks the practical engagement that brings about change and improvement. Coachability alone is useless. It needsexecution.

However, execution is a necessary but not sufficient step. Let’s remember the main characteristics that distinguish the Hard Worker and the Problem Solver in the Challenger Sales methodology: going the extra mile, not giving up, problems solving, following up … And actively looking for feedback! These execution-focused profiles falls well behind high achievers in terms of average performance. Let’s acknowledge that no one wants a team member who listens but does not execute. Nobody wants an employee who performs so poorly that they have to be constantly reminded of how to behave, what to do and how to do it.

In sales, performance improvement can be driven by curiosity and execution in simple, low-value-added transactional business models, where the number of activities has a direct impact on results. However, the more complex the challenges created by sophisticated offers or complex business environment, the more performance entails adjusting strategies in response to new information and changing circumstances. This is what we call situational intelligence or adaptability.

For this to happen, the ability to absorb coaching is undoubtedly a prerequisite. What counts, however, is the conscious effort made to change or improve behavior, skills and methods based on the feedback received. This unique blend of self-reflection and the execution of well-thought-out strategies is what we call ownership, which should naturally lead to autonomy.

The primary goal of candidates’ interviews or employees’ appraisals is to provide an objective assessment by making it easy for each stakeholder to speak the same language and ask the right questions, including behavioral ones. To avoid getting lost in a blend of attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors, you may find the approach we have recently implemented for one of our clients beneficial.

Break down coachability into three clusters:

  1. Willingness to improve. Evaluate humility and curiosity.
  2. Execution. Include ownership and prioritization.
  3. Impact. Evaluate measurable performance improvement.

Coachability is too vague a term to generate consensus and predict future success. If you still want to preserve the concept of ” changing for better“, we recommend you adopt Carol Dweck‘s “growth mindset”. It emphasizes that capabilities are cultivated through conscious, deliberate effort, encompassing a willingness to learn, the implementation of guidance and improved performance as the ultimate goal.

Would you like to find out more about how we help our customers recruit the top performers who match their culture and mission-critical goals? Want to find out how we measure the real performance of sales teams?

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Think. Good hiring.