The idea of Coachability Could be a Key to Success in Improving ABCS

Deb Cohen, PhD, Principal Investigator, ESCALATES


deb-4Over the past few months, I have been visiting each EvidenceNOW Cooperative to observe the important work that practice coaches or facilitators do. We’ve not completed all of the visits. However, for the ones we’ve done so far, our team has visited either during, or shortly after, recruitment was  complete. During these visits, why was I still thinking about recruitment? Why was I wondering does a practice’s receptiveness to being recruited – which I think marks the beginning of the practice change journey – have implications for the path to ABCS change? This made me think about our blog post “To Recruit Or To Be Recruited: Lessons Learned From The EvidenceNOW Large Scale Recruiting Experience” in a different way, and I was inspired to write about the transition from recruitment to engagement and change.


I could not get this idea of “coachability” off my mind. I first heard this term as a parent attending an end-of-season basketball pizza party. The coach gave an award to a player for his improvement in coachability. Since then, I’ve talked with other coaches and athletes and this seems to be a concept familiar to some. Why did this come to mind on these site visits, and what does this have to do with recruitment? Enter Google.


Doug Lemov in Practice Perfect defines coachability as “the willingness to be corrected and to act on that correction.” Lemov argues that we are coachable when “we are prepared to be wrong,” when we can “withstand a high degree of candor” and when we are “ready to take action on that information.” A practice’s openness and willingness to be corrected (or assisted) is – I believe – key to practice change and improvement. I am also starting to think that how a practice starts its work with EvidenceNOW Cooperatives may indicate coachability.


Lemov argues that we are coachable when “we are prepared to be wrong,” when we can “withstand a high degree of candor” and when we are “ready to take action on that information.”

There is variation in how practices came to be a part of EvidenceNOW as we see in the Recruitment Story. Some practices have a longstanding relationship with their coach. These practices were recruited because of that relationship. EvidenceNOW was a way to continue working with their coach. Other practices did not have a coach, but someone or something touched them about EvidenceNOW and they agreed to give it a try. It could be a practice owner who agreed to participate; it could be a practice lead who then had to advocate with their health system leaders to get permission to participate; it could be that the practice did not agree at all, but were told by health system leaders that their participation in EvidenceNOW was required. How will coachability manifest from these different circumstances of participation, and will this way of starting shape the coach’s work with the practice?


ESCALATES’ task is to delve deeply into the complexities of practice change and improvement, and understand factors that shape the path to change. To quote Lemov one more time “the journey of personal development cannot be traveled alone.” This idea is well aligned with the coaching literature (see for example the AHRQ report on practice facilitation). Practices participating in EvidenceNOW do not need to travel alone. They have coaches and facilitators that can, if they’re willing, play a prominent role in their work. Our job – my job as an observer – is to appreciate their work, and to try to help the field understand the various twists and turns on the path to change. The connections between recruitment, coachability and improving the ABCS of heart health are just one interaction that we’re watching. Stay tuned.