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Coaching for Performance

Coaching For Performance : By Sir John Whitmore


This is the first book I have ever read on Coaching. Among the list of over 30 books shared with us during the ICF Coaching course, this one immediately caught my attention because of its by-line ‘Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership’. 


I was keen to use my Coaching Skills especially in a Corporate and Professional environment. Coaching leaders (everyone is a Leader) at work to support them to raise their bar, set new benchmarks and disrupt old thinking so that the leaders can be more Future Focused and responsive to changes. So I was very excited to start reading it. 


This is a book for coaches, leaders, and entire organizations who want to create high-performance cultures. 


The essence of the book : 3 Highlights

  • Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping people to learn rather than teaching them. 

  • Coaching is an enabler and a coaching culture within organization creates the conditions for high performance. 

  • Coaching For Performance is a means of obtaining optimum performance, one that demands change in attitude, leadership behaviours and even organizational structures if need be. 

Relevance of the book : 

As the book shares : ‘Coaching is a way of managing, a way of treating people, a way of thinking, a way of being. Good coaching is a skill that requires a depth of understanding and plenty of practice if it is to deliver its astonishing potential.’ Towards this end the book clarifies the process and practice of coaching by describing what coaching really is, what it can be used for, when and how much it can be used, and who can use it well. 

Companies are seeking to improve performance and are looking for a process of fundamental change. They have recognized that, if they are to achieve real performance improvement, their leaders must adopt a coaching style.


Extract from the book that explains it best :

Companies have already identified that coaching is the leadership style of a transformed culture, and that as the style changes from directing to coaching, the culture of the organization will begin to change. Hierarchy gives way to partnership and collaboration, blame gives way to honest evaluation and learning, external motivators are replaced by self-motivation, protective barriers fall as teams build, change is no longer feared but welcomed, satisfying the boss becomes pleasing the customer. Secrecy and censorship are replaced by openness and honesty, pressure of work becomes challenging work, and short-term fire-fighting reactions give way to longer-term strategic thinking.


What I enjoyed most about the Book : 


I loved the easy and quick read style of writing. The chapters on questioning, listening, and the GROW model are a gold standard for Coaching and they are shared in a very easy to comprehend and easy to apply manner. There are activities, question bank, skill builders at every step for us to not just read the theory to also practice them ourselves. There are loads of examples from work places, case stories to make the theories come alive. There are also examples of practical application of a coaching style in day-to-day leadership. Finally, there is a section of Question Bags at the back of the book. This is a useful resource for dipping into. 


Key Learning : 


  1. Coaching is a way of being : Whitmore in the book says, Coaching is not merely a technique it is a way of leading and managing, a way of treating people, a way of thinking, a way of being. He introduces : Transformational coaching is the practice of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to relate to others from a paradigm of trust. 

  2.  Coaching builds leaders : Helping others to build their awareness, their responsibility, and consequently their self-belief. Author believes that, Leaders by definition have to make choices and decisions every day. Coaching helps Leaders to make the right choices. 

  3. Coaching ethos : Is a belief in the capability, resourcefulness, and potential of yourself and others which allows one to focus on strengths, solutions, and future success, not weakness, problems, or past performance as advocated by Whitmore. 

  4. Belief in potential : The expressions “to get the best out of someone” and “your hidden potential” imply that more lies within the person waiting to be released. Unless as a Coach one believes that people possess more capability than they are currently expressing, one will not be able to help Clients express it. 

  5. A coaching mindset : Whitmore in the book, says – ‘To coach successfully you have to adopt a far more optimistic view. Pretending you are optimistic is insufficient, because you convey your genuine beliefs in many subtle ways. Building others’ self-belief demands that you change the way you think about them and, in doing so, release the desire to control them.’

  6. Get curious, not critical : The Author says - The antidote to criticism is curiosity. By getting curious rather than getting critical. By getting curious about what has happened, one can enable oneself to enter a whole new perspective, that of the person one is working with.

  7. Being Aware :  It is knowing what is happening around. Self-awareness is knowing what you are experiencing. By becoming aware of something, you can change it. A Coach can help do that for clients. 

  8. Powerful questions: Ask questions that invite a response and generate a pull factor. Avoid questions that sound interrogative and make the client feel defensive. The book highlights with great examples of such questions to use and those to avoid. 

  9. Listen : Words and tone of voice. What do you listen to and for?  A person can communicate one thing in words and yet betray something very different in tone of voice, body language, or facial expression. As a Coach actively listen to someone, you can feel “in tune” with them, as if you understand them at several levels at once, and even physically sense what they are sensing. 

  10. GROW Model: Set Goals for the session as well as the short and long term. Reality checking to explore the current situation. Options and alternative strategies or courses of action. What is to be done, When, by Whom, and the Will to do it.

  11. The book was a great supplement to my Coaching course and helped deepen my learning of Concepts and ideas shared in the class through theory and during Peer Coaching. 


Am excited and looking forward to applying the above learning in my live Coaching demonstrations.

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