This is the second article in our two-part series examining developmental relationships in the engineering and construction (E&C) industry. In the first installment, we provided tips on how to find the coaching or mentoring relationship that is right for you. Here, in part two, we will discuss how you can get the most out of your developmental relationships by becoming more coachable. Read part one here.
Coaching is a hot topic for today’s organizations, most of which are dealing with a dearth of available labor and inadequate bench strength. FMI’s 2017 “Talent Development Study” found that 52% of E&C companies are using mentoring as a strategy for retaining high-potential talent, and 44% are using individual coaching as a method for accomplishing this goal. Clearly, organizations recognize the advantages of providing developmental opportunities to employees, but the benefits extend to you as well. Employees who work with coaches or mentors are more satisfied with their jobs and better performers than those who lack these relationships.[2,3]
In part one of this blog series, you learned how to find a coach or mentor. But now that you have one, how can you be sure that you’re making the most of your relationship? In this blog, we discuss two different ways to make yourself more coachable: focus on self-reflection and show learning agility.
Focus on Self-Reflection
Self-awareness is one of the most influential factors in your development as a leader. In fact, coaches find that the most difficult clients can’t reflect on their personal strengths and challenges. You must be aware of your beliefs, motivations and skills before you are able to work with a coach on improving those attributes. Luckily, self-awareness isn’t something you’re born with – it’s something you can develop intentionally. 
In order to make the most of your self-reflection, it helps to have an idea of what others think about you. Performance reviews, 360-feedback or the informal feedback you receive from your coworkers can all provide useful insights. In the absence of formal feedback, ask your supervisor for his or her input, take notes the next time feedback is offered, and/or volunteer to participate in any assessment opportunities that are offered in the future. In the meantime, seek informal feedback from your colleagues. Make a habit of asking others how you can do better in the future. Your coach or mentor can also serve as a source of information about your strengths and developmental needs, so ask him or her for input on how and where to focus your self-reflection.
Your Personal Characteristics
As you gather information about yourself, you can begin to reflect on which of your personal characteristics serve you well at work and which can be modified in order to improve your performance or relationships. A coach’s guidance or a mentor’s advice will be useless unless you share an understanding of what your developmental needs are and where you would like to end up.
As you begin your journey into self-reflection, there are a few things you can do to hold yourself accountable. They are:
- Schedule a regular time and place for reflection and hold yourself to it.
- Write out a list of questions to reflect on in advance. Consider questions like: “What is hindering my progress in this area?” or “How could I have accomplished this task more effectively?”
- When you hit a roadblock or gain an insight, share it with your coach or mentor. This input will help you to continue refining your understanding of yourself.
Show Learning Agility
Another way to maximize your developmental relationships is by leveraging them during your “active learning” times. Do this by displaying learning agility, which is shown when you routinely seek out and learn from new experiences. New and challenging tasks not only require you to stretch your abilities and gain new skills, but they’re also the points at which you will need to rely on mentors the most. There is always some room for improvement, even with familiar tasks, but the more you are challenged, the more you learn from a mentor or coach.
If displaying learning agility doesn’t come naturally for you, there are a few things you can do to push yourself outside your comfort zone, including:
- Share your desire for new and challenging assignments with your manager, mentor or coach. By doing so, you prompt others to think of you when new opportunities come up that could push you to learn more.
- Reflect on the knowledge and skills you want to develop, and identify the tasks and projects that would require those skills. The next time that task needs to be completed, volunteer!
- When you have your sights set on a new skill or ability that lies outside your current area of expertise, start small. Identify someone who has this skill and let that individual know that you’re interested in developing it. Ask if he or she would be willing to share learning resources or allow you to shadow him or her as he or she uses the skills. Small steps can get you started down the path toward personal development. You may even find an additional mentor in the process.
When combined, self-reflection and the display of learning agility can both help you to become a more coachable person. Self-reflection will allow you to come to terms with your developmental needs and help you be more receptive to a coach’s guidance or a mentor’s advice. The display of learning agility will encourage you to maintain a state of continuous improvement and best maximize any coaching or mentoring relationship that you’re involved in.
http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2004-10572-010  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/joop.12119  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/job.675  https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-you-should-make-time-for-self-reflection-even-if-you-hate-doing-it  http://www.harvardbusiness.org/sites/default/files/19600_CL_LearningAgility_White_Paper_FINAL.pdf