Best Books: Coaching Recommendations

Coaching has become more and more prevalent in working environments. Even in traditional sports, where people traina nd coach others – changing and adapting our approach to a different way of operating can bring about many benefits. Coaching has been known to improve performance, improve and build communication skills, boost confidence and aid the development of coach and coachee. Here are my top recommendations on books to read further on this topic. If you have any suggestions of your own, then please feel free to share.

1.) Coaching for Performance – Sir John Whitmore – Pretty much the comprehensive “go to” book, in my opinion. Gives you all the theory and practical applications you could possibly need. There are also lots of resources in the appendix including scripts which are worth the price alone. I think even if you’re not interested in coaching – everyone should read this book. It will really be an eye opener to a lot of people about doing things differently. One to keep on your book shelf, at hand with lots of items and passages marked. A game changing text.

2.) The Inner Game of Tennis – Timothy Gallwey – The coaching book that pretty much started modern day coaching trends. Don’t be fooled by the title – you don’t need to play tennis to take the general principles. Gallwey has written quite a few texts on other specific areas but this was the book that started it all and also inspired Coaching for Performance. What was really interesting about what Gallwey identified was that the “inner game” is equally, if not more important, than skills. We think of old school coaching as “do what I say” but this opened the door to bringing out the potential in others, as well as looking at the mental side of performance.

3.) The Tao of Coaching – Max Landsberg – A really enjoyable introduction to coaching and principles. The book is laid out with changing work scenarios over the course of a fictional employee’s coaching journey. There’s lots of great information in the book but the use of scenarios provides plenty of specific examples of how to apply coaching or improve methods and communication. It also identifies pitfalls and problems that many encounter when trying to change their approach.

4.) Turn the Ship Around – L David Marquet – Marquet turned the worst performing nuclear submarine in the US fleet into the best performing in a short period of time. Ironically he did this by turning away from his military training and his long held beliefs. Priding himself on always being well clued up – he ended up in the wrong submarine to the one he prepared for – making him change his whole approach. The results were dramatic. He’s written several great books now and highlights the importance of language in leadership, as well as empowering and delegating to others rather than a top down “do what I say” approach. I also recommend “Leadership is Language” that he also authored, which really digs deeper on language in particular and the importance of “how” we ask in as much as “what” we ask.

5.) The Six Conversations of a Brilliant Manager – Alan J Sears – Although not directly a coaching book per se – it’s a fictional story used to highlight different conversations that managers have to encourage or change behaviours and outcomes. By doing so you get great examples and scripts of what to say, how to lay out these conversations and understand the purpose behind them. I find having a structure and mini scripts can be really helpful, particularly for those newer to coaching that might not feel too confident. There is definitely a coaching style theme throughout with lots of scripts laid out with asking for feedback and input from others. The examples do cover the vast majority of conversations in a formal management setting and it highlights encouragement and empathy throughout.

6.) How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk – Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – Now this is actually a parenting book and I’m by no means saying you treat adults like children. But this is probably the best book I’ve found when it comes to advice on improving your listening and getting others to open up and talk. In effect – two key aspects of coaching. There’s also some general good advice that applied correctly can also be very useful in a general work environment. I like to think that principles and good foundations are always useful regardless of the scenario. For example – a couple of tips from the book – “be specific in your praise” and “appreciate work and effort – not traits” – which are tips you’ll usually find in quite a lot of management and leadership books.

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