Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore Book Review

For anyone who wants to pursue a career in leadership coaching, there is no dearth of resource materials. There are numerous books and guides available online and offline that claim to have super-rich content to bring out the coach in everyone. However, there are only a few books that have gone through the test of time and still considered to be a must-read before you start your career as a coach. The book ‘Coaching for Performance – The Principles and Practice of Coaching & Leadership’ belong to that category of books which you cannot deny if you want a career in the coaching industry.

Written by Sir John Whitmore, a coaching veteran and a market leader in performance coaching, the book Coaching for Performance is an international bestseller. The author has been a pioneer in coaching and the co-founder of Performance Consultants International, the market leader in coaching globally. Renowned as the founder of the GROW model, Whitmore has inspired millions of professional coaches around the world.

The book Coaching for Performance is considered as the foundation text for the coaching profession. The highlight of this book is the GROW framework which was later widely acclaimed by the coaching industry globally. In short, the book includes the essential principles of coaching for anyone who wants to embark on a journey of becoming a coach.

Essentials of coaching

The book Coaching for Performance starts by defining what coaching is and focuses on the key principles of coaching. Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance says Whitmore. According to Whitmore, coaching is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. The initial chapters of the book describe how the concept of coaching evolved and the various applications of coaching. Whitmore considers how managers can act as good coaches and the benefits of it.

The author says change has become a norm now, when compared with past as the society was more stable those days. He explains why coaching can be a boon during times when change is constant. Coaching helps people in coping up with the change around. One of the initial chapters in the book is dedicated to discussing how coaching can help leaders cope up with the change.

In the chapter named as ‘The Nature of Coaching,’ Whitmore explains the two pillars of coaching – Awareness and Responsibility. The two aspects – raising awareness and generating responsibility – are well-explained in the book along with relevant examples and useful questions which works as an essential toolkit for any coach. He explains how both the principles are linked to the human mind. The major take away from the chapter is ‘building awareness and responsibility is the essence of good coaching.

Another chapter discusses the practical aspects of coaching in which he explains the effectiveness of questions and covers aspects such as functions of questions, open questions, body language, self-awareness, etc. The author also shares why it is important to ask questions with what, who, when and how but not why. Questions help to raise awareness while maintaining the client’s responsibility. It helps the client to pay attention to their actions, think at multiple levels and provide feedback to the coach.

The GROW framework

As mentioned above, the book Coaching for Performance puts forward the world-famous GROW framework. It is defined as a sequence for asking questions on coaching and various aspects of the framework are discussed in an elaborative manner. The book discusses the influential GROW (Goal, Reality, Option, Will) model of coaching extensively which is now broadly followed by coaching experts in the world.

Goal setting is the first aspect of the GROW framework in which setting goals is given the prime focus. The author explains the different questions to ask when setting the goals. The next chapter focuses on Reality which helps to figure out the reality of the situation followed by recognizing the various options. The last aspect of the coaching cycle is W which stands for what is to be done, when, by whom and the will to do it.

Coaching for a meaningful life

In the chapter Performance, Whitmore defines it as going beyond what is expected or setting high standards and how to achieve them. He explains the ways by which coaching can help to achieve such standards. The author takes the reader through the four steps of the learning cycle – unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence.

The final chapters of the book enhance how coaching becomes an effective way to develop people and help them in leading a successful life. The book substantiates coaching can enhance motivation and help the person lead a meaningful life. In one of the ending chapters, the author explains coaching for the corporation and says how coaching can be made relevant to businesses. It also includes the ways by which a business can use coaching for team development. Furthermore, the role of feedback and assessment in coaching is also discussed in the book.

The author concludes the book by explaining the various benefits of coaching and why is it essential for the development of people. On a final note, the book stresses the fact that coaching is not about merely motivating clients but enabling them to think and live in a different way leading to overall well-being.

Concluding notes

Since it was first published in 1992, the book has been one of the international bestsellers and now the fifth edition of the book is out. It is undoubtedly a reliable guide for the coaching profession. The book touches all aspects of coaching hence becomes a must-read for anyone who aims to build a successful career around coaching others.

The latest edition of the book is enriched with brand-new practical exercises, corporate examples, coaching conversations, various learning process. It also extends a critical study on the benefits of coaching as a return on investment. The book is undoubtedly an essential resource guide for anyone working in the professional coaching and leadership development industry.