There are many professional coaching services out there for software developers. Many of them categorize themselves as mentorship programs. You go to a site, describe yourself and your interests, and they’ll pair you up with a matching mentor. Most of this is based on technology or skillsets. But it’s important to ask: Are you coachable?
It’s a complicated question to ask ourselves because it can mean so many things. Coachable could mean that you learn quickly, and that any new skill or technology you encounter comes quickly and naturally to you. It could also mean that you seek out and receive feedback really well, with grace, and take action when necessary to change how you act or how you perform your job. But in-between those is a world of different experiences, and sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to that.
This is a potentially sensitive word. When invoked some people hear it as a judgment. Other people hear it and don’t understand how it’s related at all to the way they perform their job. However it’s one of the most critical characteristics to answering the question of whether you’re coachable or not. Does your attitude hurt or help your ability to be coached? Are you even aware of it?
Attitude is the first thing to check and with coaching you can improve yourself by simply understanding your own. It’s important to know your own attitude in order to make adjustments to everything else. If you don’t realize you’re limiting yourself, you won’t be open to coaching. This is why coaching is valuable: Most people need someone who is unbiased to help them see themselves. And it should be a process that is safe and healthy, free from judgement, and constructive.
When it comes to our own attitudes and behaviors, we are very often not motivated to change. Sometimes this is due to past trauma. We build up defense mechanisms that actually limit our ability to take action. Many of us don’t even recognize trauma in the workplace, because it’s not really described in those terms. Usually trauma is described as conflict, or toxicity. But when events occur that dramatically and negatively change the way we behave in the future, that is trauma. Have you ever had an argument over a design that got so heated people started raising their voices? Did you escape the situation by simply not talking and quietly accepting what others say? That could be trauma. Or what if you experienced someone on your team being aggressive, and bullying others? Is that not trauma?
We are each unique in our life experiences, and when people talk about work/life balance, they often neglect to talk about things like trauma. This is a mistake that coaching can help correct. Our work is not separated from our life and things that happen at work directly impact our life. Sure, you should balance the hours that you work to allow for more time in your life, but also you should address how you experience trauma too.
Many of us aspire for more, and sometimes that means management and leadership. So what does that mean for you being coachable? Everything. One very important quality that coaching can provide us is the awareness that the best leadership is coachable. Just because you’re in management doesn’t mean that you stop being coachable. It doesn’t mean you now just coach others. Good leadership is constantly improving and in order for that to happen you have to continuously be coachable.
Professional coaching can help you maintain continuous growth for yourself, but also help you grow new skills to coach others. It helps you understand that what worked for you, might now work for others, and how to tell the difference. Coaching isn’t just for people who are early in their careers and growing, it’s also really important for those of us later in our journeys.
What can we do?
Attainable can help you become aware of yourself, understanding your own attitude, and find ways to improve while maintaining authenticity. We can be sure to not mistake trauma for something else, and find ways to work through it in a healthy and constructive way. Even for those of us who have longer careers, this type of coaching is valuable to assure we continue to improve ourselves, but also be capable of helping others along the way.