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The 1 Skill Your Management Team Wants and How You Can Master it

Hard skills like technical or deep domain expertise is needed to get the job done, but to have movement throughout your career, you’ll need this one soft skill.

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Kristi Allen

Have you ever wondered how so-and-so got a new job so quickly after an interview or how a peer consistently receives praise from management?

Super common scenario 1: Your manager mentions that leadership has a top priority project that will be added to the department roadmap. 

You feel that you could definitely provide value on the project as you have expertise and you’re passionate about the topic. You think “surely my manager will know that I’m the right one to lead this.” But then you hear in the next staff meeting that your peer on the team received the project. 

Your peer took the opportunity to reach out to their manager to remind them of their development plan as the new project would be a good fit. After a discussion, they both agreed that your peer could lead the project even though they will likely need coaching along the way. Note that your manager not only looks to get things done, they seek to develop people.

Super common scenario 2: Two candidates are in an interview and are asked, “How have you responded to feedback from a peer or manager?” 

The first candidate goes into detail about the problem without noting the feedback, and the second candidate responds by giving an example of the feedback and goes further by saying what was learned from the feedback. 

While there’s more than one question or response that goes into giving someone a job offer, the second candidate probably scored higher on this response which could impact their overall interview rating.

The one skill you need to stand out.

In both of those scenarios there’s a common thread — feedback and self-improvement. 

The easy part of feedback is receiving it and the hard part is when it comes to applying the feedback to improve.

It sounds simple, but many stop at the easy part. 

Your management team knows this and the preference for an employee to have coachability above other soft skills is high. 

Coachability means that you’re able to receive feedback openly and you look for ways to apply it. The best way to think about this is through a sports analogy as players consistently receive real-time feedback and those that improve stay on the field and those that don’t, well they find a seat on the bench. This one skill allows you to be a go-to employee on any team.

Attitude and mindset affect your coachability.

While I consider coachability a skill, I would equally say it’s an attitude and mindset.

The concept of growth mindset and fixed mindset was first introduced by psychologist Carol Dweck. A growth mindset means that you believe you can improve consistently by putting in the time and effort and challenges are welcomed as they are opportunities to get smarter. A fixed mindset is the belief that you have a limitation on improvement or a disregard for changing the way you do things.

A memorable fixed mindset idiom: “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.”

What makes that statement true? The mindset of the person who is unwilling to try something new, learn in a new way, and someone who is not open to feedback. (A synonym would be stagnation, just like accumulating green goo on the top of pond water.)

Best way to start is to understand where you are in your mindset today.

Determine your coachability factor.

Before you go forward, know this will require being honest with yourself. 

Read through each of the 10 statements below. Consider whether you agree with the statement by selecting Y for Yes or N for No.


Y_N  

The last time I received feedback that I didn’t agree with, I didn’t get defensive, I was open to hearing another point of view.

Y_N

If someone were to describe me, they would say that I bounce back from small setbacks by taking accountability with grace.

Y_N

Even when I have a way of doing things, I’m open to learning how things are done by someone else.

Y_N

It’s easy to notice when someone is trying to give me feedback and I acknowledge it by addressing it directly.

Y_N

When I hear criticism in the form of feedback, I don’t take it as a personal attack, instead I separate intent from the message and use only what’s useful to help me improve.

Y_N

Before going into another performance review, I think through the past feedback I’ve received and how I’ve incorporated it into my work.

Y_N

When I receive feedback, if I don’t understand it, I engage in the conversation positively to learn more so I can improve.

Y_N

I regularly make it a point with my manager or peers to ask for feedback about my projects or my performance.

Y_N

I seek out ways to solve problems that challenge me instead of looking for problems I already know how to solve.

Y_N

I’m interested in learning more about my blind spots so I can grow.

The last time I received feedback that I didn’t agree with, I didn’t get defensive, I was open to hearing another point of view.

How did it go? Did it feel easy to breeze from one statement to the next? If so, try it again and think of a specific example for each one and pay special attention to how you handled it. Don’t skip this step, it’s an important one as self-awareness is the key to unlocking your coachability potential. 

If you had 6 or more Y, then you’re 60% on your way to being 100% coachable. You will not be perfect in each situation, but the more you’re aware of your response when receiving feedback and you lean into situations where you seek feedback proactively, your coachability factor will be seen and known by others.

Coachability has lasting impact.

When decisions are made by your management team on who is ready for a promotion, who should take on a highly visible project, and who is the right person to receive mentoring from the leadership team, you want to be on that shortlist for consideration.

The first step to mastering coachability is having a growth mindset.

It’s about welcoming change, being flexible enough to try a new approach, acknowledging that there are different ways of doing things, and bouncing back from small setbacks.

This mindset of feedback is a chance to demonstrate coachability by mindfully adapting as it’s directly connected to your own personal happiness, productivity, and career movement. 

Lasting Thoughts

You can stand out, have more impact, and be seen as a leader in your space simply by acknowledging feedback that is being presented to you, applying it, and going forward with proactively seeking input when none is offered. 

Coachability is the one skill your management team is looking for and it’s time to demonstrate that you have it to those around you.

Questions? Any advice or experiences to add? Share below in the comments — I look forward to reading them and responding! 

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