Are You Coachable?

Embracing vulnerability

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Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood in the movie, Million Dollar Baby.

During my more than 15 years as a voice coach, I helped non-classical singers develop a vocal technique that would allow them to express themselves without hurting their vocal instrument. A few years into it, I was able to recognize when a singer wasn’t ready for my approach.

Some singers came to me with an ‘I’ve heard you’re good but I don’t know if you can help me’ attitude. Read, ‘I’m so unique and you’re but a lowly voice teacher.’ These singers never got past the surface: they were too afraid of what they might find inside–that they weren’t the singers they thought they were.

Others opened themselves up to change because they reckoned that a poor technique would hamper their art. They enrolled in my courses with a ‘help me take my singing to the next level’ mindset. These singers knew they first had to identify the shortcomings they needed to overcome and trusted me to help them expose and see them.

Being coachable is a must for leaders. Otherwise, only natural-born leaders would succeed, and that’s not true.

But accepting that a different way of doing things could be better is hard, even hurtful. When you acknowledge that you’ve been working in the wrong direction, where does this leave you?

And, as Seth Godin wrote in this post, it can be scary, because, “What if it works?” Godin asks. You’ll have to change. Ouch!

Getting rid of old habits leaves you vulnerable until you’re confident with new, more efficient ones. Remember the lobster? She is unprotected until she grows a new hard shell. But the prospect of vulnerability doesn’t stop her from growing.

Also recognizing that your nature is flawed can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be, because a) you don’t need to be perfect, and b) it’s the only way to get stronger.


If you’re committed to getting stronger, you need to show your work first.

Do you have the courage to expose your habits for others to help you pinpoint what you could do differently and improve? Can you stand your own analysis and criticism?

Will you show your work?


Are you able to see your ways of doing things, thinking and feeling? Are you aware of how you treat others and how you react to how others treat you?

In a piece about his favorite armchair, Spanish poet Jorge Guillén wrote, “The eyes don’t see; they know.” He meant that we grow insensitive to what’s been there forever: we don’t see it.

But you can’t redecorate your living room unless you see the chair. So, carefully look at your habits and see them.


Which are the reactions that alienate people important to you? Which of your habits hold you back? What do you need to change?


Kill your darlings. You don’t need to keep doing something only because it’s what you’ve done all your life. Be committed to progress, not to your past–and don’t mistake your past for your nature.

It’s called evolution.


Women – more than men – are oftentimes afraid of being inauthentic if they change how they “naturally” behave. They don’t realize that how they “naturally” behave may block their progress and that it’s not a natural behavior but a learned one.

So, here’s the choice you have to make: do you want to keep “being yourself” no matter what? I’m sure you know how Einstein defined insanity: don’t expect different outcomes of the same actions.

Or do you want to “become the best version of yourself,” being aware of other people’s emotions and acknowledging that different circumstances may call for different behaviors?

Are you ready to grow new habits that will help you advance?

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