Review: Business Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies

business coaching and mentoring

Business Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies, 2nd edition, Marie Taylor and Steve Crabb. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

Summary: A detailed overview of the nature of business coaching and mentoring offering resources for assessing potential client opportunities, working with mind-sets, vision and planning processes, and marketing oneself as a coach.

For those who follow this blog, you may have noted I’ve been reviewing books on coaching periodically, an area I am reading up on. As part of the “Dummies” series, you might think this would be the first I would read, and that it would be fairly elementary. Rather, I found it a fairly comprehensive resource on business coaching. I highlight “business” here because there are different kinds of coaching–life coaching, performance coaching, etc. and this book focuses with working with those in executive positions in the business world, in start-ups, small companies, and larger corporations.

The book is divided into five parts, each consisting of several chapters:

  • Part 1: Getting Started with Business Coaching and Mentoring
  • Part 2: Developing the Business Leader’s Mind-Set
  • Part 3: Coaching and Mentoring to Get a Business on the Right Track
  • Part 4: Creating a Successful Business Identity with the Support of a Coach
  • Part 5: The Part of Tens

I found the material in Part One the most helpful. Particularly key is the distinction drawn between coaching (“the art of co-creation”) and mentoring (“the art of imparting wise counsel”). Both can be valuable but need to be distinguished and often may be confused in the mind of a client. Throughout the book, the authors make a point to maintain the distinction while offering material for both situations. This part also dealt with professional training of coaches, making the case for coaching, assessing the potential needs of clients and contracting (including what goes into a contract). One of the most valuable pieces of advice is to know your limitations and don’t be desperate. Several models of coaching are also introduced including the CLEAR model (Contracting-Listening-Exploring-Action-Review).

Part Two focuses on the business leader’s mind-set. We are introduced here to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a coaching approach one of the authors is trained in. Various exercises are introduced in this and the next two parts that seem to be versions of mindfulness training. One of my friends who has worked in business mentioned the relevance of the Enneagram, a tool used extensively in spiritual formation circles, to the business coaching world. Low and behold, a whole section of one chapter in this part was devoted to the Enneagram, particularly in dealing with the “I did it my way” leader.

Part Three focuses extensively on the vision, mission, values, and planning of a business, beginning with the stories businesses tell of themselves. There are extensive grids, sets of questions and guides for a variety of different clients one works with here.

Part Four was all about branding, both for the client and for the coach. For businesses, the grid offered on managing stakeholder relationships was helpful. For coaches, much of the advice might be summed up in the six-step model they offered:

  1. Identify the desperate needs of your potential clients.
  2. Identify your needs.
  3. Create a coaching solution to the desperate needs of your clients that satisfies both your needs and theirs.
  4. Position yourself as a niche specialist in providing the solution.
  5. Market and sell your services.
  6. Charge appropriately for your services.

Part Five consisted of several chapters of “tens”–online resources, tips for leaders who coach or mentor, tips for hiring a business coach, and ten questions for keeping a business on track.

Like any “Dummies” book, there are icons throughout highlighting particular types of information: Business owners, tip, remember, example, warning (very useful!), and technical stuff. Here’s one good warning:

“Coaches who are new to the profession often go looking for problems to fix. Don’t go looking for what’s not there — that’s making coaching about your own personal needs and not the needs of the client.” (p. 94).

I’ve highlighted some of the resources in each section I found helpful. I found the book chock-full of tools and resources and insights that probably make this a good basic reference for those engaged in business coaching or mentoring. You won’t be able to keep it all in your head. The writers emphasize how good coaches keep growing themselves, keep developing new skills, and access new tools. This book is a good place to start and worth having on the shelf.

 

 

Review: Co-Active Coaching

co-active coaching

Co-Active CoachingHenry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Philip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2011 (3rd edition–link is to 4th edition published in 2018).

Summary: A model of coaching in which coach and client actively collaborate to accomplish the clients needs, and the cornerstones, contexts, and core principles to realize those outcomes.

There are a variety of models for coaching and versatile coaches draw upon different models to meet the needs of their clients. In reading this book, what I found, which is described as a model, really seems to be a description of the ethos of coaching, the framework of practice within which a coach teams with his or her clients to accomplish the client’s goals. That’s not surprising since the authors (one now deceased) have been involved in coaching work since the 1980’s. This work was first published in the late 1990’s and is now in its fourth edition (my review is of the third edition).

The “co-active” refers to the kind of relationship that exists between coach and client, in which each actively collaborates to accomplish the client’s goals. Coaches are fully engaged in attentive listening, drawing upon their own curiosity and intuition. Clients are fully engaged in identifying their goals and aspirations, and doing the work that coach and client identify are necessary to pursue those goals. The authors talk about a “coaching power triangle” consisting of the coach, the client and the coaching relationship. It is the coaching relationship that is powerful, not the coach, and the power each grants to the relationship is directed to the empowering of the client. It strikes me that this is what all good coaching strives for, whether under the “co-active” label or not, but the term highlights the shared agency of both parties.

The model works around four cornerstones, five contexts, and three core principles

The four cornerstones provide the structure for the co-active relationship:

  1. People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. The assumption here is that clients are capable of discovering and implementing actions toward their goals.
  2. Focus on the whole person. While there may be a problem to solve or a business goal to attain, the client brings all of who they are, and the most effective coaching relationships address that whole person.
  3. Dance in this moment. This is to be fully present with the client in the moment, to what is happening in the conversation.
  4. Evoke transformation, not just “ahh” but “aha”–deeper awareness and expanded capacity to act in the client.

The five contexts are aspects of the coach’s contact or presence with the client:

  1. Listening: There are three levels of listening. Internal is the coach listening to their own internal dialogue, focused is the coach attentively listening to the client, and global goes beyond what is said, to everything around that, the subtle nuances and the total context of the client. Good listening is at the latter two levels.
  2. Intuition: This synthesizes attentive listening, subtle cues, and our experience, and often presents as a gut sense or hunch.
  3. Curiosity: Asking questions, exploring in open, inviting, playful, and companionable fashion that creates the sense of safety to explore even the dark and unknown spaces.
  4. Forward and deepen: “Forward” refers to moving the client forward in action. “Deepen” emphasizes learning that goes beyond the action to core principles of the client.
  5. Self-management: Mostly this means the ability of the coach to not make it about them but about the client. It’s not about being right about insights and hunches. It is about the client

The three core principles have to do with the whole life of the client:

  1. Fulfillment: what the client values and how they define their purpose in life. In co-active coaching, the “wheel of life” exercise is one tool used to help people identify the degree of fulfillment they are experiencing in different areas of life.
  2. Balance: often clients get stuck being out of balance. Coaching opens up new perspectives, helps clients choose a different perspective, figure out what to say no and yes to, to act out of that new perspective, and commit to that plan.
  3. Process: It is easy to focus only on results in coaching and lose sight of the process occurring in the coaching relationship, celebrating the person the client is, and is becoming along the way.

A chapter of the book is devoted to each of the five contexts and three core principles with coaching dialogues that illustrate each of these as well as many personal examples from the authors’ coaching practice. Additional resources are offered throughout the book in an online Coaches Toolkit that may be accessed for free and used freely at: http://www.coactive.com/toolkit — a huge resource for coaches.

What I liked in this book is the emphasis on coaches bringing their full selves, including their intuitions and curiosity to the coaching relationship. I also appreciated the idea of clients as creative, resourceful, whole people, who often know far more than the coach about the situation in which they are being coached. I also appreciated the focus on the whole person and not just business problems or goals. The generous resources of the online Coaches Toolkit are another asset.

What I would have liked more help with is how one negotiates the focus on the whole person with the business goals, particularly if it is an organization, and not the individual who has hired you. This book also seems to play down the role of fluency in the types of organizational or business situations one is coaching in (start-up versus large organization, local business versus global, etc.). It focuses on the “soft” versus “hard” skills of coaching, it seems, and I wonder if some caveats here might be helpful.

As I commented above, I think, of the several books I’ve read (I’m by no means an expert in this area), I thought this book did the best job describing the ethos or fundamental nature of coaching. The authors provide a helpful description of the environment of a good coaching relationship, the nature of coaching and what transformation looks like for the client. It left me more excited about the coaching aspects of my own work.

 

 

Review: The Coaching Habit

The Coaching Habit

The Coaching Habit, Michael Bungay Stanier. Toronto: Box of Crayons Press, 2016.

Summary: Kicking the advice habit, asking questions well, and using variations of seven key questions can lead to more effective leadership coaching.

Over the next few weeks, I will be mixing in reviews of books on coaching, part of some reading I am doing for my own development. I’ll take the risk of reviewing these because all of us influence others in some way, and it is never a loss to learn how we might do that with greater effectiveness that helps others flourish.

One of the key ideas of this delightfully straightforward and easy to read book is that many leaders tend to give directions, answers, and advice far more than ask questions. This thwarts effectiveness by promoting dependency rather than autonomy in those we lead. It leads to more time being absorbed in this unproductive activity, and at worst, leaders become bottlenecks in their organizations.

Another critical insight is that deciding to ask more and better questions is not enough if the leader doesn’t recognize what triggers the advice-giving habit. With each of the seven questions that follow, the author asks us to identify the triggers that activate habits that derail us from good coaching and to identify a new practice that will be come a new habit.

The core of the book is seven great coaching questions:

  1. The Kickstart Question: “What’s on your mind?” Ask this early, with a minimum of chit-chat and this gets to the reason for the conversation. Often this will be about one of the 3Ps: Projects, People, and Patterns, all linked to each other.
  2. The AWE Question: “And what else?” This question draws out more information, often identifies more options, buys time, and keeps the “Advice Monster” at bay.
  3. The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you? Often what is on one’s mind is nebulous, or there are many challenges mentioned. This question gets concrete and personal and prevents “coaching the ghost” of discussing someone not in the room rather than what is facing the person in front of you.
  4. The Foundation Question: “What do you want?” Often the coachee is not clear on this and it is not clear in the situation. Once clear, it is possible to have an adult conversation where it is possible to answer “yes,” “no,” “give me time to think about that,” or perhaps, “not this, but that.” Also, it is critical to recognize the difference between wants and needs, the latter often being the reasons behind the wants. The question can also be a mutual one, particularly in a management situation where two people can get clear on what each wants in a situation and then get on with figuring out how to respond to that.
  5. The Lazy Question: “How can I help?” It question calls upon the person to make a direct request, and it delivers you from being the perpetual rescuer. A blunter way to ask this question is “What do you want from me?” Instead of deciding for a person how one can be helpful, it allows them to say what really would be helpful, and it allows you to decide whether you can offer that help. It is lazy because it saves us from providing all sorts of unwanted and counterproductive help.
  6. The Strategic Question: “If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” This chapter offers some great help in figuring out how to say “no” when it is very hard to do. It also helps us figure out what we will be saying “no” to if we choose a strategic direction, and what else we may need to say “no” to in order to fully embrace the “yes” rather than over-commit.
  7. The Learning Question: “What was most useful to you?” This recognizes that debriefing is where learning really takes place, and clarifies the most important outcomes to your discussion. It also has the side benefit of increasing the perception that the coach as useful!

Stanier includes psychological research at the end of each chapter explaining why the questions are effective. He also sandwiches a “Question Masterclass” between each question that explores how one asks questions as well as what questions we ask–things like cutting the intro and asking the question, sticking to “what” questions, getting comfortable with silence, listening to answers, and acknowledging them.

The questions ring true with my own leadership and coaching experience–these are good questions. The insight on the “advice monster” is one most leaders need to heed. There is a refreshing contempt for truisms like “work smarter, not harder.” I do wonder about the author’s claim that “Coaching is simple” and that this book will “give you most of what you need.” Is this hype, or simply an author with a lot of chutzpah? What I can say is that this was a quick read, offered good questions and reasons for using them, and didn’t bury its message in a ton of verbiage. That’s worth something.

Review: How to Break Growth Barriers

How to Break Growth Barriers

How to Break Growth Barriers (Updated edition), Carl F. George and Warren Bird. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017.

Summary: A work on church growth that focuses on the vision of church leaders, how they conceive their role, and key issues in breaking through specific numerical barriers.

This is an updated version of a classic work on church growth. Ultimately, this book boils down to one simple idea–we are the greatest barrier to the growth of the church and our thinking about our vision of what we are doing, and how we conceive our role often is the most significant factor hampering the growth of a church or ministry.

First of all, the authors focus on vision. They consider the ways we limit vision to fixing what breaks, keeping pace with other churches, making budget, wagons, and other limiters to a harvest vision that cannot be outgrown. Vision is birthed out of prayer and motivates by giving clear direction, a “party line” of what we are and are not about, and “hero making. Systems thinking that understands how an outsider sees one’s church and the factors that have contributed to its growth and life is vital. Finally, it is critical to assess how strong our growth bias is, and in particular, our “holy imagination of what God can lead a person to become,” both for ourselves, and those apprentices we coach into leadership.

This leads into the second part of the book. One of the greatest barriers pastors face is conceiving of their role as primary caregiver rather than caregiving coach. We are helped to see the characteristics of one who is a primary caregiver and how differently ministry coaches behave. These include emphasizing  the big picture, setting expectations that develop ministry competence in others including expectations that people in the church will minister to each other in a context of groups and teams, giving flexible supervision and fostering nondependency.  They also focus on the multiple leadership styles needed to be a caregiving coach with different groups within a church. The concluding chapter in this section is perhaps the most challenging because it faces the vital underlying question, “is our addiction to workaholism or other addictive behaviors preventing us from embracing a ministry that grows by releasing the leadership of others?”

Part Three focuses on breaking through specific numerical barriers. In separate chapters, the authors look at the shifts of thinking and structures that need to take place in breaking the 200, 400, and 800 barriers. Then they look at breaking the barriers beyond 800, which comes down to breaking the “Care Barrier” and focuses around developing cell-based ministry, including ministry around the specific demographics of one’s church.

There was much I found with which I resonated. I’ve been involved in some growth coaching work and found that the insight that our own vision for growth and our own patterns of ministry are the most significant barriers we face to growth. We may say we want growth and yet we engage in patterns of ministry that undermine growth. As the authors observe, in many cases these are wonderful things like a deep and genuine care for people. Yet we limit how many people can experience that kind of care by controlling it rather than coaching others to engage in that work. I also appreciate how the authors diagnose this as a key factor in the workaholism that characterizes the pastorate, that may lead to moral failures, undermined health, and family breakdowns.

I would be curious how much the authors have consulted in non-Western contexts. At points, they describe buildings and finances and paid church staffs in ways that I suspect might not be applicable in some situations. Yet the focus on multiplying leadership, including lay leadership, centering ministering in effective cell groups led by this leadership, and coaching caregivers seemed to have high cross-cultural applicability.

This can be a useful resource for pastors and church leadership teams ready to take a hard look at themselves, and the ways of seeing and doing things that erect barriers to growth. It doesn’t answer all the questions of how one develops caregivers, beyond the importance of taking apprentices along in all the things you do, or how you build networks of effective cell groups. But it helps identify the ways in which we need to change to foster a culture of growth as well as giving some very specific structural help around key numerical barriers.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.