Learn from everyone you meet


Girl with her coach

The first week of September is always a week of mixed emotions in our household. We’re all sad summer is coming to an end, but the kids are excited and nervous to go back to school and dive into their courses and learning.

Usually a few weeks in, there’s the normal complaining about one of their teachers. We’ve always urged the kids to be open and understand that you can learn from everyone you meet, even from people you may not connect with or get along with. I think they’re finally starting to understand this.

It’s a great lesson for us all. I remember one time a friend of mine asking me why I make small talk with people on trains and planes. They said, “You’re never going to see them again, why do you bother?” I looked at them as if they had eight heads, and answered that it was because I enjoy talking to people, and I learn something from every interaction.

I’ve also followed this philosophy throughout my career. I once had a boss who was honestly one of a kind, and so different from me. She was very reserved, you never knew what she was thinking, precise to a T and not exactly a change agent or a communicator, but I learned so much from her and respected her for her knowledge.

I’ve also worked for people that taught me about the type of leader I didn’t want to be. Luckily I haven’t had too many of these bosses. The last-minute, disorganized, all over the map types, or worse, the “do it my way or the highway” dictatorial director (I only worked for one of these and they were gone in three months.) They were important reverse role models in my career and in some bizarre way, I may have learned even more from them than my good bosses.

The kids have learned this in sports too. There has been several times when at the beginning of a season, they’ve said they’re not sure they like their coach—he’s a bit loud or yells a lot or is harsh. But often at the end of the season, once they understand the person’s coaching style and get to know the person, they love their coach and say they’ve learned so much from them.  

This week’s #HappyAct is to learn from everyone you meet. I’d like to dedicate this week’s blog post to all the coaches out there who give tirelessly of their time and energy to help kids be all they can be, on the ice, the field, and on the water. You are doing such a wonderful thing. Thank you! This photo is of Clare and her kayakying coach this summer, Rhiannon Murphy. 

Five things you can do to be more coachable

The Fury girls show off their new logo–Clare is lying down in front

It’s Wednesday evening and I’m sitting in the stands at the arena watching another one of Clare’s hockey practices. Her Frontenac Fury team are doing passing and shooting drills on the ice. The kids soak up every direction, instruction and piece of advice of the coaches.

Children are highly coachable. They are desperate to learn, try new things, and improve. As the season goes on, it’s incredible to see the progress they make as they practice and hone their skills and gel as a team.

Why is it as adults we lose some of this willingness to accept counsel and guidance to help us improve?

The other day, I was talking with a co-worker about someone we work with. The person we were talking about is highly intelligent, skilled and knows their job inside and out. But sometimes they can come across as harsh, blunt and unfeeling towards others and it can create friction in meetings.

My co-worker asked, since I knew this person better, whether they would be open to me sharing this feedback? I thought about it, but I concluded that this person wasn’t highly coachable, and instead of helping the situation, it might make matters worse.

As a people leader, I can tell you one of the things I look for and value most in people is whether they are coachable. Whether they are willing to take constructive feedback, advice and counsel, and apply it to learn, grow and ultimately improve their performance. This to me is far more important that the skills and knowledge they bring to the table.

Journalism school and years of playing team sports helped me be open to feedback and criticism. In fact in my role now, I get nervous if someone returns my copy to me with no changes, because I think it means they never read it! But I know just as much as the next person there is much more I could be doing to be more open to constructive feedback to improve my performance. Often it’s emotion that gets in the way of positive coaching.

Here are five things you can do to be more coachable

  1. Be open to trying things a new way. Focus on the benefits of the new approach, instead of what could go wrong, then commit to doing it the new way and see what happens.
  2. Check your emotion at the door and focus on the outcome or goal you are trying to achieve.
  3. Be humble and admit when you are wrong. How can you improve if you are never wrong?”
  4. Take initiative to learn or practice a new skill on your own.
  5. Remind yourself that the person giving the feedback is only trying to help. If you know it comes from a good place, you will be far more likely to be receptive to the feedback.

Every great writer has an editor. Every great athlete has a coach. This week’s #HappyAct is to be aware of how you respond to feedback and try to be more coachable. You’ll feel more positive about how you accepted the feedback and for the positive change and growth you experienced by being open to new approaches.