What We Are Reading? - The Book That Changed My (Coaching) Life

We continue our focus on highlighting some of the best coaching resources that have emerged and, stood the test of time, over the last 15 years or so.

It can sometimes be easy for us to be seduced by the new and the shiny thing, relegating the older resources to the back shelf. So we decided to invite those from the GCI team that have been around coaching for time to share their recommendations regarding coaching resources that have influenced their practice and have endured over time.

Coaching for Performance: GROWing People, Performance and Purpose

First published in 1992, this really is the seminal text on coaching, covering such topics as the nature of coaching, skills of coaching, goal setting, coaching for purpose and meaning, team coaching and of course, the GROW model.

At the time I read this book I was working as a Regional Network Leader with the Department of Education in Victoria where I was responsible for the development and performance of a network of school principals, many of whom were much more experienced in the role than I had been. I realised I needed to find out more about coaching to help me in my job and heard about this book from a colleague. It was Whitmore’s definition of coaching that changed my approach to my role: Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.

This definition liberated me in my approach to my work as I realised I didn’t have to be the one with all the answers. The second part of the definition resonated with me the most and remains my favourite definition of coaching. I never fail to mention it in my workshops as it provides a clear and simple differentiation between coaching and mentoring.

In the first chapter of Whitmore’s book he refers to the sporting origins of coaching and traces the development of business coaching. He laments the fact that sports coaching lags behind business coaching in that it is largely instruction based.

I highly recommend you use a search engine to find ‘John Whitmore coaching golf’ to access a five-minute clip of two novice golfers being coached. One by an accomplished golfer who tells the novice how the grip the club, where to place the feet etc. while the other is coached by Whitmore who simply asks questions. A fascinating demonstration of the power of facilitative coaching!

Available from

Coaching Resource Library