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Book notes: The tao of coaching

Book notes: The tao of coaching


I don’t read book summaries. Neither should you. The following are mostly notes to myself for later reference, and are my interpretations.

  • Create more time for yourself. You can delegate more once you've developed the skills of your people.

  • Achieve better results, as a team, more quickly.

  • Coaching aims to enhance the performance and learning ability of others

  • If you invest just 10-minutes in coaching someone who reports to you, it'll later save you an hour

  • You also help yourself when you help others to perform more strongly

  • Ask questions — don't just tell — when helping others to develop their skills

  • The coach's most important decision is whether to instruct/ suggest, or whether to ask a question - or indeed whether to use a style of interaction somewhere between these two extremes.

  • In providing feedback, address three topics, with the acronym AID to help remembering them:

    • A (Actions) The things that the coachee is doing well, or poortly, in the area under review

    • I (Impact) The effect these actions are having

    • D (Desired outcome) The ways in which the coachee could do things more effectively

Personality explained

'"So", I hear you ask, "what do these letters stand for?" The Indicator is based on four dimensions of how people prefer to operate. The first dimension relates to how they are energised - what turns them on. An Introvert (I) is energised by the inner world of thoughts and ideas, whereas an Extrovert (E) is energised by the outer world of people and things.

'The second dimension describes what the person prefers to pay attention to. A Sensor (S) focuses on facts and the five senses, while, at the other end of the spectrum, an Intuiter (N) tpe focuses on what might be, and the sixth sense.

'The third dimension describes how the person prefers to make decisions. The Thinker (T) tends to use reason and logic, while the Feeler (F) tends to use values and subjective judgement.

'The final dimension describes the person's overall approach to life - with Judgers (J) preferring to be planned and organised, while Perceivers (P) prefer spontaneity and flexibility. If you take all the combinations, you'll find that dimensions define 16 basic types of preference.'

'So, an ISTJ person [who prefers to be an Introvert and Senser and Thinker and Judger might think that an ENFP person [Extrovert, Intuiter, Feeler, Perceiver] was lax and disorganised, while the latter would think of the other as unimaginative and afraid of ever taking a leap into the dark?'

Using the Skill/Will matrix

Dealing with reluctance

Upward feedback tips

  • Would you like to receive feedback? If so, about what in particular, and in what form?

  • If I have any observations which might be helpful to you or your team, how would you like me to communicate them?

  • Is there any specific part of our work together where feedback from me would be particularly helpful?

  • It feels nerve-wracking to give feedback to you because you are so busy/tired/preoccupied/focused. How can I best get through to you in these situations?

  • The first few times, just deliver positive messages that affirm or reinforce. This will allow you to get into the right habits and protocols.

  • Then move on to feedback that may require your boss to change. Make the logic and potential impact clear, eg: 'The team is floundering… they want more direction… perhaps you could lead some weekly communications sessions…'

  • Exercise: At the beginning of your next piece of work, agree with your boss how you will handle upward feedback.

Getting feedback - making it easy for the 'giver'

  • Choose the right 'coach' for the right topic, a coach whom you really trust. E.g., you might want to choose different peers/subordinates/bosses/friends, depending on whether you feel you need feedback on:

    • Management style (choose someone whom you manage)

    • Presentation skills (alert a member of your audience)

  • Give your coach as much notice as possible, so that they can marshal relevant examples

    • Explain at the beginning of major pieces of work what you would like - e.g., feedback topics and the frequency of discussion

    • Remind your coach prior to the meeting - don't just 'turn up'

  • Receive the feedback genuinely

    • Avoid being defensive (unless you never want feedback again!)

    • Follow what the coach says - show your genuine interest, summarise what you are learning, and ask for specific examples and explanations

  • Take the initiative in building a trusting relationship

    • Volunteer your own perspective on areas in which you could improve (don't just try to highlight areas in which you are phenomenally excellent)

    • Explain what motivates you and what demotivates you; disclose other factors that might be relevant

  • Show your appreciation

    • Make real progress, and follow at least some of the advice

    • Let the coach know that they have made a difference; thank the coach

  • Exercise: Identify two people from whom you would value feedback this week, and ask for it.

The five myths of coaching

Coaching is not about being a 'nice guy'. It's about bringing the same structure and creativity to your interactions with colleagues as you bring to solving business problems.

Myth #1: We coach primarily to help others. Reality:

  • More time for yourself.

  • Better customer relations skills.

  • Stronger organisation.

  • More fun.

  • Stronger following.

Myth #2: Focus on the coachee. Reality: Know thyself. Coaches don't focus exclusively on the coachee. We all have the basic skills to coach. Great coaches know how to overcome their own blocks.

Myth #3: Coaching equals feedback. Reality: There are many other important coaching tools and habits. E.g. good coaches typically master the art of effective questioning.

Myth #4: Coaching requires a lot of time. Reality: The best coaching comes in small doses. Small investments of time - as little as five minutes - can yield tangible increases in performance.

Myth #5: Coaching is about work. Reality: Good coaching will spread to other areas of life. Those who develop their coaching skills at work usually find they are better able to help their friends, partners and children.

Example of a grooming conversation

'What's the most extreme statement you would feel comfortable making about this ice cream market?' she asked.

'Well, I'm not yet sure that we should enter the market, but it does look attractive', he replied.

'And why does it look attractive?'

'Well, demand is rising, profit margins look sustainable, competition does not seem to be very intense, and prices have held up over the last five years.'

'I see,' she replied, 'and are any of these four points really different sides of the same coin?'

'I guess the point about pricing is really part of the statement about profit margins… Hey…/' he continued excitedly, 'I think I've got something on costs, too. So, I could say that the market is attractive because: (1) demand is rising; (2) profit margins are sustainable on both the price and cost side; and (3) competitors look likely to remain weak.'

'Anything else?' asked Sarah.

Alex chewed on his pen. As he had now developed a clearer structure for his report, he could more easily spot the gaps. 'The retailers,' he mumbled, 'I need to add something about their buying power…'

'Thanks, Sarah. I think I can work on this structure. By the way, is this a grouping of reasons or a flow of argument? It looks like a grouping of reasons to me…'

Coaching (self-) assessment form

How many times in the last week did I…

  1. Provide unconditional praise

  2. Give constructive feedback

  3. Check a colleague's level of motivation

  4. Inspire a colleague

  5. Ask for feedback

  6. Consciously delegate a task

  7. Hold a really effective team meeting

  8. Provide upward feedback

  9. Check a team's morale

  10. Mentor a more junior person


  • 1-3: If you are not a recluse, you need to study and apply this book carefully

  • 4-6: You can significantly increase your effectiveness at work by applying just a few tips from this books

  • 7-8: You are nearly a master coach

  • 9-10: Give this book to someone who needs it

Priority areas for me to work on:

________Fill this_______

Examples of useful questions when using 'GROW'


  • What is it you would like to discuss?

  • What would you like to achieve?

  • What woudl you like from (to achieve in) this session?

  • What would need to happen for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?

  • If I could grand you a wish for this session, what would it be?

  • What would you like to be different when you leave this session?

  • What would you like to happen that is not happening now, or what would you like not to happen that happening now?

  • What outcome would you like from this session/discussion interaction?

  • Is that realistic?

  • Can we do that in the time we have available?

  • Will that be of real value to you?


  • What is happening at the moment?

  • How do you know that this is accurate?

  • When does this happen?

  • How often does this happen? Be precise if possible.

  • What effect does this have?

  • How have you verified, or would you verify, that that is so?

  • What other factors are relevant?

  • Who else is relevant?

  • What is their perception of the situation?

  • What have you tried so far?


  • What could you do to change the situation?

  • What alternatives are there to that approach?

  • Tell me what possibilities for action you see. Do not worry about whether they are realistic at this stage.

  • What approach/actions have you seen used, or used yourself, in similar cicumstances?

  • Who might be able to help?

  • Would you like suggestions from me?

  • Which options do you like the most?

  • What are the benefits and pitfalls of these options?

  • Which options are of interest to you?

  • Rate from 1-10 your interest level in/the practicality of each of these options.

  • Would you like to choose an option to act on?

Wrap up

  • What are the next steps?

  • Precisely when will you take them?

  • What might get in the way?

  • Do you need to log the steps in your diary?

  • What support do you need?

  • How and when will you enlist that support?

Team performance appraisal form

© Copyright 2023, I guess.

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