How to Be a Good Boss by Becoming Coachable

You could be a decent boss or an adequate boss – but if you want to know how to be a good boss, you’ve got to start listening to your team. Letting those under you provide you with feedback is the best way to go from an adequate boss to a good one. And the best way to do that is by becoming coachable.

Keren Tsuk, PhD., a speaker, consultant, and founder of Wisdom To Lead, has some tips about fostering coachability. Using mindfulness, Tsuk aids in developing senior management teams and corporate leadership using tools from her book, Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders.

What does it mean to be “coachable”?

“To be coachable means to be open-minded, humble, and reflective about oneself,” Tsuk says. “It requires the ability to look in the mirror and fully accept what’s there— to maintain the positive things and change for the better our weaknesses. It means being open to learning, adapting, and evolving.”

Becoming coachable is a central tenant for someone who’s looking for tips and tricks for how to be a good boss. This type of feedback isn’t reproachful, and it isn’t meant to make managers feel insecure or inferior. It’s just a way of teaching you to communicate your thoughts or feelings better, task-shift more effectively, and reflect on your relationships with more mindfulness.

“It’s important to be coachable because you need to listen deeply to your employees to be a good boss,” Tsuk says. “This way, you can truly understand what they need from you, their challenges, what works, and what needs to change.”

Resistance to becoming coachable

It can be hard to accept criticism or feedback from anyone in the workplace. This is especially the case when you’re a manager or a supervisor. Certain pieces of feedback may make you feel like you’re inadequate, a poor communicator, or it may open up past wounds about criticisms you’ve received before. It’s vital to acknowledge that resistance, Tsuk says, and recognize when you’re becoming defensive.

“[People] are attached to their belief system and aren’t open to new viewpoints,” Tsuk says about those resistant to being coachable. “Usually, they will resist any new ideas and be stubborn. They won’t be able to reflect on themselves. Instead, they will blame others for unpleasant situations or behavior and won’t take responsibility for their actions.”

Tsuk continues that this is all to avoid these previously mentioned negative feelings and potential problems that may arise as a result of those feelings. This fixed mindset can eventually drive a wedge between managers and teams.

“Once you are coming from an open attitude that contains listening and curiosity— and you are not occupied with protecting your actions— you can really be present, change, and react to what’s needed here and now and be there for your employees.”

Teaching your team to coach you

You don’t need to sit around wondering how to be a good boss without giving your team the proper tools to teach you how to do so. Tsuk says that there are two main ways that teams can begin to coach their managers: listening without jumping to conclusions and learning to become empathetic.

Teams also need to be mindful about the best time to relay feedback to their managers. Just like constructive criticism is reserved primarily for 1:1s, teams need to make time to coach their managers, so they know that their comments can be received well.

“Giving feedback to your boss depends on various parameters like the connection between the two of you,” Tsuk says, “like the workload of the day, the people who are present in the situation, among others. It’s essential to find the right time for when your boss can be fully open to receiving feedback, and they are not occupied with other things.”

Tsuk adds that getting called out in a meeting might not result in the best outcome either, so it’s essential to keep these coachable moments personal and intimate.

“It’s important to respect their privacy and do not do it in front of other people who are not relevant or involved in the situation.”

Three tips to remember

It’s not hard to learn how to be a good boss – in fact, Tsuk says that there are three main things to keep in mind to stay coachable, receptive, and constantly evolving.

“Dare to be vulnerable,” Tsuk says, “and be ok with not knowing all the answers.”

Being a good boss doesn’t mean that you know (or pretend to know) it all, and in fact, if you’re too determined to be right, you could be unintentionally guarding against helpful feedback. Tap your team for their knowledge and skills, and you may just learn something yourself.

“Be passionate about achieving a goal and doing what it takes to succeed,” Tsuk says as her second piece of advice.

As long as you’re working towards one particular achievement, it will be easier not to take criticism personally. Most of the time, feedback isn’t an attack against your character or personhood, especially if it’s about a project or task that could be done differently. Letting these bits of input register without reactivity or emotionality is important for any good, coachable boss to remember.

Lastly, Tsuk says, it’s important to maintain some level of insight.

“Be open-minded,” Tsuk says, “and willing to reflect on your actions and belief system.”

Without calling into question some of your beliefs or cognitive patterns, you may never be able to change your behavior in a lasting, meaningful way. Becoming coachable means integrating the evaluations you receive into changes that benefit you in all areas of life and being receptive to the notion that you can improve. As long as you’re mindful and willing to be flexible, you’re on the path to becoming a good boss.