on 17 July 2012
I bought the third edition (which concentrated entirely on coaching) about eight years ago and thought it was excellent.
However, for me, this new fourth edition, which is subtitled "The principles and practice of coaching and leadership", over-promises and fails to deliver on the "leadership" bit.
John Whitmore has added three new chapters on the subject of leadership. The first is largely a re-presentation of an old chapter ("Coaching the Corporation") under a new chapter heading ("The Challenge to Leaders"). The second stresses the need for leaders to get beyond their old conditioning and free themselves from fear (which I am all for) but it does not say much about its practice other than, "It can be achieved by coaching." The third lists the author's views on the ideal leader's qualities: (1) values-driven (2) vision (3) authenticity (4) agility - that is, flexibility, ability to get beyond old conditioning, and creativity (5) inner psychological alignment (6) selfless purpose. And that's largely it.
Admittedly, he does suggest that the way for leaders to develop these qualities is through transpersonal coaching and he offers a new "Tools of Transpersonal Coaching" chapter. However, some of its content is a re-presentation of what was in the old "Coaching for Meaning" chapter. The rest is interesting in that it introduces (with little detail) the idea of sub-personalities and a transpersonal model of the psyche. However, I just do not think this all adds up to the "principles and practice of leadership". The principles and practice of modern coaching, yes, but not leadership per se.
In summary, if you are looking for a good book on coaching, this is one. But if you are looking for something to guide you in developing others as leaders (or developing yourself as a leader), for me, this isn't it. What would I recommend instead? If you want something that does address the principles and practice of leadership and gets into the leader's underlying psychology in more depth than Whitmore does, try James Scouller's "The Three Levels of Leadership". If you want just the principles and practice of leadership without the psychology, you cannot go far wrong with John Adair's classic, "Effective Leadership" although he puts less emphasis on values, vision, authenticity and servant leadership than Whitmore and Scouller.
This is the fourth edition of this seminal text on coaching (primarily) in the business environment, although it's the first that I, a coaching novice, have read. I have to rely on the author's explanation of the differences to the previous edition, which will be of interest to those many who have already read it - some 500,000 copies have already been sold, published in over 20 languages. He has added chapters on the relationship between coaching and leadership, explored the significance of emotional and spiritual intelligence and their relationship to coaching, and has added material on values in work, in particular their importance to Generation Y. The book is certainly up to date at the superficial level, with multiple references to the credit crunch and growing concerns for the environment. He concludes with a new chapter on the future of coaching; he thinks (unsurprisingly) it has a very significant one, with an expansion into new areas, for example, the use of coaching rather than purely instructional techniques when training, or perhaps that should be developing, people to become car drivers.
Whitmore, a racing car driver in the 1960s, was trained by Tim Gallwey, of "Inner Game" fame (see, e.g., The Inner Game of Tennis, published originally in 1975) and then set up Inner Game Ltd in the UK. He clearly regards Gallwey as one of his own great inspirations, and that brand of psychology, the transpersonal, which underlies the Inner Game, as being the most important for coaches. Whitmore is best known for the GROW model, standing for Goal, Reality, Options and What/Will. He spends some time explaining why setting goals should precede checking reality, and I do wonder, sometimes, whether the use of this sort of catchy acronyms hinders as much as it helps. Notwithstanding this slight caveat, Part 1 of the book, ten chapters, is devoted to the principles of coaching and a detailed explanation of the GROW model, and it is presented in a clear, simple and understandable way.
Part 2 of the book, a further nine chapters, covers the practice of coaching, and this sections does go a long way to explaining how to be a coach. I don't think that Sir John intends this book as a "teach yourself coaching", however, and it is probably better seen as a textbook for a coaching course or as additional material for already experienced coaches. In Part 3 Whitmore explores leadership in three chapters, and in the final three chapters of Part 4 he focuses on transpersonal coaching and the future of coaching.
I am sure that this is a must-have book for those involved in coaching, including, although it is not my interest, sports coaches. It is well written and easy to read, and I know, having read it through once, that it will bear much re-reading and further analysis. It is a well published and printed book, too, in a large paperback format with plenty of space for marginal notes. (I don't like it when publishers use glossy paper for textbooks, because it makes it harder to write marginal notes without them smudging. I do wonder, however, whether a slightly higher quality of paper might have been used for this one.) If I have any criticism of what Sir John has written, and as someone studying coaching for the first time it is rather presumptuous of me, I know, it is that he implies that coaching can and should entirely replace mere teaching or instruction. While I agree that taught classes, especially in business skill areas, often fail to effect much change, let alone improvement, when people return to the day job, there are nevertheless many areas in which "conventional" training still has a place. It is, where it works, for example with a class of eager and already motivated students, a much less expensive proposition, for a start. Perhaps I am simply betraying the limitations of my own background, and shall overcome these in due course!
on 19 April 2012
I first read this book over ten years ago and it inspired me to explore coaching first as a style of leadership and more recently as a vocation. Since then I have purchased over three hundred copies for use with business clients who lap up its practical, accessible tools and techniques as well as its inspirational vision as to the future of leadership and the maximising of performance. The impact of the GROW model documented in the book is clear in that it shaped the early years of business coaching and is now a mainstream leadership tool. However, John tempers reliance on the GROW model (or any other coaching model for that matter) by emphasising that coaching is an art as well as a science. The chapter on team coaching anticipated the growing use of coaching as a style to work with teams as well as individuals yet it is the chapters on 'coaching for meaning' and 'coaching for purpose' where we see the full extent of John's vision as to how a coaching style can impact 'bigger picture' issues and challenges. This is where John excels and the chapters pointed the way to his current work on sustainability and leadership. For anyone who treasures these chapters in particular, I would recommend that you check out John's lesser known works, both 'Need, Greed or Freedom' and 'The Only Planet of Choice'. Both make for challenging, inspirational reading and explore the roots of John's philosophical/political principles and his spiritual faith. A true classic!