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The Coach’s Coach by Alison Hardingam, Adrian Moorhouse and Mike Brearley is an eclectic blend of executive coaching tips, tools, techniques and examples covering a range of coaching needs, backed up with examples from the executive boardrooms and international playing fields. It is a fantastic book for those who have already embarked on an executive coaching career as it blends such a breadth and diversity of content that is the field of executive coaching. As an experienced & certified executive coach, I find myself frequently delving back into this book for refreshers on habits, tools and techniques.
The book is easy to read, in a conversational style, and essential reading for those wanting to develop their own coaching style. It covers a range of areas within executive coaching from one-to-one coaching through to team coaching. Several times during the book, I can easily imagine it being a coaching conversation between myself and the authors, as I was becoming more aware of how I was coaching and how I wanted to coach. It is essentially in five parts, covering the coachee, the coach, the coaching relationship, the coaching work and the wider context of coaching.
The first part encompasses the first three chapters and is wholly dedicated to the coachee, i.e. the person being coached, as according to the authors, the coachee is “the most important person in the coaching relationship”. The authors start in Chapter One at why the coachee is being coached – are they wanting coaching or are they being prescribed coaching? Are they aware of coaching and the processes involved in coaching? In Chapter Two, they explore the hopes and fears of the coachee when considering executive coaching, such as. The hope of salvation, that the coach will give the coachee an answer, to that they have put on a pedestal. Or the fear of exposure, that the deepest darkest secrets of the coachee they are about to share with their executive coach will be spread around the office like simple gossip like wild fire. The final chapter of this first part, Chapter Three, is “Life Positions” and looks to understand the approach to the coachee’s life, their relationships and their beliefs & values, as they are an active partner in the coaching process. By understanding these elements, they can start to garner their “life position”. The authors outline a number of “life positions” such as depressive neurosis or “baby of the family”, but the chapter becomes readily accessible Harris’ framework of “I’m Ok, You’re OK“.
The second part explores in five chapters the coach, exploring what it is within the coach themselves that makes great coaching possible, and conversely what is part of the coach that makes coaching challenging or even impossible. This part of the book is really an opportunity for executive coaches to reflect & recognise on their individual strengths and weaknesses as a coach, and to look for development based on this. The first chapter in this part explores the beliefs and values of the coach, and why they matter to both the coach & coachee. The second chapter of this part, Chapter Five, looks at the motives for an executive coach in coaching, exploring a range of different motivations including a desire to learn or a desire to help. Chapter Six explores the skills required by an executive coach: active listening, questioning, reframing, and confronting. Chapter Seven explores the habits of executive coaches, self-awareness, storytelling and metaphor making, sense of humour, wondering, structuring and consequences. The final chapter in the second part, Chapter Eight, explores the actions of an executive coach, that is to say the things an executive coach can do that make or mar their relationship with their coachee. These actions are things like building credibility, building reliability, building intimacy and self-orientation.
The third part, covering chapters 9, 10 and 11, looks at the nature of the coaching relationship between the coachee and the coach, looking at the flow between the coach & the coachee. Chapter Nine explores the key dynamics of the relationship, using Schutz’s formulation of what goes on in a relationship outlined in his book The Human Element. The four areas are “need to give and needs to get”, “needs related to belonging”, “needs related to controlling” and ” needs related to closeness”. Chapter Ten, explores the roles played by the executive coach in order to achieve the overall purpose in any coaching relationship. The roles of the coach may be that of a sounding board, a conscience, a challenger, a teacher, or a professional friend. The final chapter in this third part is the shortest chapter in the whole book, that of Danger Points in the relationship, namely the threats of competence, goodness and love.
The fourth part, which is the meatiest part of the book detailed in 9 chapters, describes the different kinds of tools and techniques for approaching the many various and different coaching relationships and coaching opportunities that exist. The first chapter in this part of the book, Chapter Twelve, sets out how to build rapport, by paying attention to physical reactions, understanding the logical or psychological levels of rapport. The second chapter of this part, Chapter Thirteen, looks at setting goals, through a goal-setting process, right brain questions and ideal self exercises. The next chapter, Chapter Fourteen, looks at tools and techniques to help develop self-awareness, including diagnostic tools or simply listening to the coachee’s story. Chapter Fifteen introduces the topic of reflecting, the correct use of pitch, tone and pace of voice; the differentiating question; and the use of modelling to spark a reflective state of mind. Chapter Sixteen explores the tool of mapping systems, including diagrams and doodles, mind maps, force field analysis, commitment charting, and the “why” question. Chapter Seventeen outlines how to explore and understand other people’s positions using techniques such as “what would they say” questions, meta-mirror techniques, and role-plays. Chapter Eighteen looks at Creative Problem Solving by providing safety and humour, linking questions, and by asking the stupid yet obvious questions. Chapter Nineteen outlines how to monitor progress, with techniques such as the 1-10 scale. Chapter Twenty looks at ways to build commitment for change through visualisation techniques, doing homework, and building self-belief through internalisation.
The final part of the book explores a number of business contexts over and above one-to-one executive coaching. The first chapter in this part is Chapter Twenty One and examines the Player- Coach and Chapter Twenty Two explores how to coach teams. Chapter Twenty Three highlights the effective corridor-coaching environment. The final chapter, Chapter Twenty Four, outlines how to build a coaching culture.
The Coach’s Coach covers a wide range of topics under the coaching banner, and the strength of its diversity means that the depth is not always there, but the authors highlight areas where the coach who is looking to develop a particular can go looking for more help and support. This book is one of my steadfast coaching books and has helped me develop my own style of coaching.