The Surprising Character Trait Essential for Success

Personal Development

John is a retired Executive Vice President of Kruger, has exquisite (and expensive) taste in wine, speaks almost entirely in corporate jargon and has been an invaluable advisor of mine for almost six years. We’ve nicknamed him “John-John” at the office.

Every two weeks, I connect with John over the phone to discuss business strategy, priorities and my development as a leader. Each quarter, he flies out to facilitate and guide our leadership offsites. John is incredibly brilliant and equally as tough. He routinely rips on us for not following through on certain priorities or for allowing ourselves to be distracted by the urgent and not focusing on the important. (On a personal level, our coaching sessions are usually an hour of quasi-emotional abuse that he ends off by providing some light encouragement. Sounds invigorating, doesn’t it?)

We’d just finished our January leadership offsite. John and I went for dinner to re-cap the meetings and discuss next steps. In the middle of our conversation, I suddenly stopped, looked at him and asked, “Why are you spending your time with us? I know it’s not the money.”

He leaned back, pressing his designer shirt against the seat, thought for a moment then gave me a wry smile. “My friend asked me that exact same question the other day. There are four reasons and one of them is the main one. First, I see tremendous potential in the business model. Second, I share a personal connection with one of the leaders on your team. Third, I share a common faith with you and want to see you guys succeed. But, most importantly, you’re coachable.”

“What exactly do you mean by coachable?” I asked. (Sure, I wanted to know more but I was just as interested to see if I might actually be able to squeeze out a compliment.)

“It’s not only that you listen to me, but you’re actively engaged to learn,” he replied. “You then apply and implement what I say without pushback, and then are open to feedback to improve. It’s really satisfying and fun for me to see the progress.” John then clasped his hands and rested them against the edge of the table. It was his version of a mic drop.

I reflected on this idea of coachability and used John’s definition to evaluate my team and the entrepreneurs and clients we work with. He’s right – as always. Our top performers at CREW are coachable. The clients that are on the fastest growth trajectory are coachable.

So how do you know if you have what it takes? Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do you have a formal arrangement with an individual that you respect who gives guidance, input and accountability in your career or life?
  2. Do you diligently apply their input and advice or do you push back and consider it merely a good suggestion that you might implement if you could find the time?
  3. Are you open to corrective feedback and have a desire to learn and grow or are you comfortable with where you’re at and get defensive if people try to correct you?

My hope is that we all stay coachable and reach the goals we set. It’s the only path to greater success.

Have a great week!