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Powerful leadership learning and current thinking on coaching

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Take a look at the books that have stood the test of time in leadership and coaching.  

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Bob Hughes, Forton Group CEO & Creator of the Leadership Book Club

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Clueless: coaching people who just don’t get it Mashiri & Nowack; Envisia Learning (2nd ed); 2013

Okay: so the title really drew me to this book; it’s eye-catching and challenging, and I went for it! Actually, there’s another reason: I’m keen to improve my own coaching practice and am a sponge for new approaches and ideas that will help me to provide even better service to clients. About the title, more later!

I’m really pleased that I picked this book up. It is easy to navigate, has a very readable style and – unquestionably – has lasting value. Organised in 4 parts, the reader is led through a simple coaching framework devised and practised by the authors: the framework appears, helpfully, on page 1, and it contains three elements – Enlighten, Encourage and Enable – which are succinctly summarised in the first 7 pages. Thereafter, by way of further introduction, coaching in the context of behavioural change is explained.

The first section lines up the content of the rest of the book by exploring much more deeply the role that coaching can play in effecting sustained behavioural change, and this commences with a review of what makes for a good coach. Thereafter, the role and nature of the coaching client is explored, and the authors make the useful observation that understanding the client’s personality (within the framework of the Big Five personality factors or Core Self-Evaluation) will give some indication of the extent to which coaching will create a behaviour-shift. This also touches on the topic of client-coachability. Finally, the first part discusses the environmental factors that influence behaviour-change, which includes a useful section on the manager-client relationship (useful, because the nature of the relationship between your client and their line manager is likely to be a strong determinant of the sustainability of the changes resulting from the coaching relationship). Some of the contextual factors not discussed in this part of the book include organisational culture, home-work balance, personal circumstances and job-type.

Part 2 comprises 160 pages and discusses the concept of Enlighten in depth. It becomes clear fairly quickly that this topic is definitely in the bullseye of the authors’ interest and expertise. ‘Enlighten’ encompasses the client’s self-awareness and self-understanding: it is the necessary process of becoming more aware of who we are, the impact we may have on others and the degree to which we understand the need for behavioural change. It is also the process by which a coach gathers information that will help shape the coaching approach. A significant part of this is often the use of a 360o feedback tool, to support the gathering of information. The authors provide great levels of detail, analysis and discussion about the collection and management of information that helps both coach and client to become more enlightened, and there are some very useful models (e.g. the Smithers 8-factor approach to determining the likely extent of behavioural change).

Part 3 discusses the element of Encourage – self-awareness may provide useful information about the client, but there is then the challenge to build up the motivation and readiness for personal behavioural change. The authors draw on the work done on organisational change, and I particularly liked the link between the 1983 Prochaska & DiClemente model of change (the transtheoretical model)and their own model for coaching success, the 3 E’s; and the link between the latter and the Lewin framework of forcefield analysis.

The final part deals with the Enable element; moving a client from a willingness to change, to action; and this involves a strong focus on goal-setting and oversight. As the authors assert “Coaches have two primary roles to help their clients with the goal-setting process: 1) helping client set development goals; and 2) providing ongoing feedback regarding progress” (page 287). Interestingly, they caution against the use of the SMART approach, recommending instead the use of ‘practice plans’ which encourages the link between a specific behaviour and a situation offering the opportunity to practise. I found particularly useful the ’12 rules of goal pursuit success’.

This book is a veritable goldmine of tools and techniques: it is essentially a coaching manual for those particularly using 360o feedback tools as an introduction to a coaching engagement. At the end of each section there are several exercises that the reader is encouraged to work through, as an embedding device for learning. Some of these involve following ‘Chris’ an embattled executive in a case-study company who is being subjected to a coaching programme; somewhat unwillingly, it seems. I like the way that the authors have combined a highly practical approach with the bedrock of academic rigour: the book is highly referenced to appropriate academic supporting material.

Finally, back to the title. I have to confess that I actually don’t ‘get’ the title, and particularly the sub-title. I really don’t see how this is specifically about coaching people who just don’t get it: my impression of the book is much more that it is about coaching for performance, supporting greater individual added value and delivering enhanced personal and organisational success. Perhaps the title is merely there to draw people into the book: it certainly did that for me!

The Ovarian Chronicles, By Cat Williford
Female Entrepreneurs: the secrets of their success

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