During the interview process when you inevitably say, “I’m always learning,” is that a statement about your head or your heart? Would you describe your learning strategy as skills-based or leadership-based?
Employers can easily find people who can apply a skill, and are increasingly using contractors to fill “skills gaps.” We need to learn and improve upon our professional skills, but as you climb up the ladder it’s more about your ability to lead than about your skill set.
The best employers invest in people who are leaders or have the capacity for leadership in the future. A proficient interviewer will look beyond the skills – past your brain and into your heart – because it takes “heart” to lead.
At the center of your heart for leadership is your ability to be coached, your “coachability.”
Three Characteristics of Coachability
Your coachability is at work 24/7 and is constantly on display, like a window into your leadership soul. It is easy to probe through situational and behavioral questions, and you cannot fake the answers because you either are or you’re not. There is not much grey area, and coachable people can sense coachability in others.
Here are three important traits of a coachable leader:
1. Humility. The outward sign of coachability is change, not the openness to learn or the ambition to excel. The “heart issue” is the willingness to change; conscious acts of human will to stop doing some things and start doing others. When pride decreases, humility increases.
A coach I admire crystallized the importance of humility and its role in success when he said, “You cannot be coached beyond your level of obedience.” Employers need to know you have the deep-down capacity to adapt, learn, and apply.
2. Faith. Change without belief that the change is going to produce a desired result most often results in failure. Faith to release control and submit to your coaching is the most powerful force in leadership. It is faith that loosens your grip on the comfortable, and provides motivation to step into the uncomfortable unknown with courage.
3. Vision. Belief in your own vision, your company’s vision, and your team or department’s vision are critical to your change. If you don’t believe in who you are and what you’re doing, you won’t be able to fake it for long.
If you struggle in one or more of these areas, your ability to be coached is stifled. Work on these areas vigilantly to refocus your leadership capacity.
Out With The Bad, In With The Good
Most people have more “bad” coaches than “good” coaches in their life.
Who are the people whose input you take to heart? Those are your coaches, like it or not. You receive input constantly from your superiors, peers, and subordinates. Most of it will be forgotten within days. You need to create and use an input filter to direct detrimental input away from your heart and positive, enriching input to remain in your heart.
Allow into your leadership heart only input that encourages and inspires you to greater capacities of integrity, stewardship, patience, responsibility, caring, peace, generosity, and self-control. Look for years of consistent application of these virtues in the life of a potential coach or mentor. If you do not see such evidence, then they cannot possibly teach them to you. A mentor can only teach you what (s)he knows.
Filter out knowledge that will harm your leadership ability. Filter out the negative and negligent, especially dishonesty, slander, anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy. You have to protect your heart from these things. If you have a coach in your life who is pouring these kinds of negative messages into you, you need to shut off that input right away and relieve that person from coach status. If that person is a superior, peer, family or friend, you may need to make that heart change without any outward display.
Your actions reflect your character and your character reflects your heart. Your heart shows in your work, and will be transparent to a good interviewer. The better the employer, the better they are at interviewing (or selecting an agency that interviews well on their behalf). If you want to work for the best, you have to be the best not just on the outside, but deep down inside too!