Sunday, December 10, 2023

MACKAY: Are you coachable?

| January 23, 2022 1:00 AM

Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat and a longtime highly successful NBA coach, used to ask his players "Are you F.A.T.?" F.A.T. was an acronym he created, short for "faithful, available and teachable."

Riley was always on the lookout for players who would make sacrifices to make his teams better. He wanted people who were reliable and would do whatever it took to win games. But he was most interested in making sure his players were coachable.

Are YOU coachable? We'd all like to think we are, but it often means swallowing our pride and changing the way we think or act. Yet it's hard to be successful if we are not coachable.

People who are coachable want more. They want to learn as much as they can. They realize they are in school for a lifetime and that their education is an investment, never an expense. They know that they don't know everything and are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, values and habits. They have high self-esteem.

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan said, "My best skill was that I was coachable. I was a sponge and aggressive to learn."

Another trait of coachable people is curiosity. They ask lots of questions and try to learn something new every day. Instead of watching TV after work, they might read a book on a topic they've never studied, watch a webinar or listen to a TED Talk. They might do something that they've never done before, just for the experience. They realize that the future belongs to the curious.

Coachable people embrace change and look for better ways to do things. They seek out best practices. Change, for most people, is an unnerving experience. But change is inevitable. It's one of the only constants in life.

People who are coachable are willing to try new things and are not afraid to make mistakes. And they don't make excuses. They are action-oriented and get things done. The person who wants to do something finds a way; the person who doesn't finds an excuse.

Coachable people are good listeners. They hear what people are saying because they spend twice as much time listening as talking, which is why we were born with two ears but only one mouth. They value lessons from others with greater experience.

They seek insights and perspectives from others and pursue mentors. They realize a mentor can help even experienced people boost their job performance and advance their careers. None of us is as smart as all of us. I figure two perspectives are better than one and five are better than four.

Listening to advice or criticism is not always easy. However, coachable people are open and receptive to receiving feedback, which provides them an opportunity to improve. They aren't afraid to adjust their thinking to improve their results.

Accountability for their actions is a common attribute among the coachable. They own their decisions because they try to do the right thing even when it is not the easy thing. They accept the blame for their actions when necessary, as well as the credit when it is deserved.

Coachable people are willing to put ego aside. Coachable people are humble. They know what humorist Will Rogers meant when he said, "Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far."

Coachable people are positive. Thinking positive has no negative. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and success. Whatever the mind expects, it finds.

And here's one you might not expect: Coachable people are willing to learn at every age. Coaching is not just for the new kid on the block or the most recent hire. I've had very useful coaching from some of my younger colleagues who share their insights on current culture and developing technologies. I welcome their advice.

One of my favorite aphorisms goes like this: "Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."

This gives you a choice between a positive or negative path. Clearly, the positive path will lead to a more rewarding, more contented life.

Mackay's Moral: The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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