09 Mar 2021

The Importance of Being Coachable

Some of our primary activities at the Sasin SEC involve acceleration, incubation, and other forms of startup mentorship.  A prerequisite to effective mentorship is coachability.  Being coachable, however, does not mean that a founder simply follows the advice of their mentor.  First and foremost, it is about receptiveness to feedback:
  • Do you listen closely to feedback?
  • Do you make sure you understand a question before responding?
  • Do you actually answer the question being asked?
  • Can you remain calm, respectful, and non-defensive when challenged?
  • Can you temporarily let go of your established beliefs to consider new ones?
These characteristics reflect a growth mindset.  At the same time, a coachable founder should simultaneously have the confidence to disagree and challenge others.  Mentors, advisers, and investors are far from perfect, so we want you to have the courage to disagree.  The key is how you disagree:
  • Do you thoughtfully consider feedback before disagreeing?
  • Have you tested your assumptions and talked to stakeholders?
  • Can you articulate the thought process behind your position?
  • Can you remain respectful and positive when you disagree?
Being coachable, by itself, is not necessarily a determinant of success.  It can, however, unlock opportunities that can further enable an aspiring founder or entrepreneur.  In fact, most investors consider coachability to be a prerequisite to receiving their investment.  As Executive Director of the Bangkok Venture Club – Thailand’s largest collection of angel investors, venture capitalists, corporate venture capitalists, corporate senior executives, and other startup ecosystem stakeholders – I have personally witnessed the rejection of many gifted founders specifically because of their un-coachable attitude (in spite of impressive traction and business results).  As a director or mentor in dozens of startup acceleration and corporate intrapreneurship programs, I have also observed a very high correlation between coachability and traction in the acceleration process.
Although I have been talking about coachability here in a very specific context, this principle is not at all exclusive to entrepreneurs.  It actually applies to almost all occupations and lines of work.  Regardless of your organization and role, coachability impacts your ability to grow and your access to new opportunities.  So ask yourself, “How coachable am I?”
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