Book Review: Coaching for Performance

I read Sir John Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance sometime ago. It caught my eye again recently as I was rearranging my book shelf so I flicked through it and considered how valuable it had been to me.

The book is focused on how you can effectively coach people in order to get the best out of them. It explains clearly the difference between teaching, traditional management and coaching. Furthermore it describes what the limitations of teaching and traditional management are and why coaching is often a more effective approach.

Two key messages from the book are that:

  • To coach someone you don’t have to know more than them about the subject concerned (in fact, this can be a disadvantage).
  • The effectiveness of coaching is founded on the principle that people can improve themselves as long as they know what they should work on and remove any internal obstacles (i.e. fear of failure).

I benefited from reading the book in the following ways:

  • It gave me new tools for developing and helping people on my team (and in my personal life as well).
  • It improved my ability to “self coach” which has involved pursuing greater self awareness and removing internal barriers that could have prevented success.

The single best piece of advice in the book (in my opinion) relates to goal setting. It introduces the idea of an “end goal” (like “win 100m sprint” or “become market leader”) and a performance goal (like “do track training 3 times per week” or “meet at least 1 new customer per week”). The crucial point is that an end goal is there to give you inspiration and it reminds you why you are doing something. However you may not achieve an end goal due to circumstances outside of your control. A performance goal gives you something concrete to aim for that is totally within your control and will support your end goal. I actually now like to refer to them as “dream goals” and “concrete goals”.

In general it is hard to find much negative to say about this book but I must mention some cautionary points:

  • You will need an open mind when reading it and be prepared to take on board what it has to say. If you don’t then it will not be worth the time investment required.
  • The book does drag on a bit towards the end. The most useful information is contained in chapters 1 to 10 which provide a full foundation for successful coaching. Additionally I found the chapters on Learning and Enjoyment and Coaching for Meaning very worthwhile too.

If you currently have a limited understanding of coaching and you either:

  • Occupy any management or leadership position
  • Feel that you are not totally living up to your full potential

Then I would thoroughly recommend this book. Not only will it allow you to achieve your full potential but it will also enable you to get the best out of those around you and, as I touched on in my post on Management and Leadership, that will be the key differentiator for leaders of the future.

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1 comment so far

  1. biz book man on

    This is just the kind of management book that we need our countries’ CEOs to read. Management is much more effective if employee’s are “coached” rather then “managed.” Thanks for sharing.


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