Book Review – Co-Active Coaching By Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House and Phil Sandahl

Co-Active CoachingIntroduction

Co-Active Coaching is a book that provide coaches with some solid tools around coaching. Co-Active coaching itself is an approach that places the client solidly at the centre of the coaching process, making the coach less visible. The book deals with three aspects of coaching – coaching fundamentals, coaching skills and coaching practices. Each of these topics is dealt with in much depth and forms a part in the book. A lot of example cases are used to explain the concepts. At times the book does seem like heavy reading, but it does give good guidance on how to go about the coaching process, at least from a co-active perspective. There are a good number of models in the book used for illustrations and from reading it you can see that the authors seem to have some solid experience in the subject. The foreword to the book was written by John Whitmore of GROW  fame.

The reading content in the book is just 176 pages spanning 12 chapters. But the book also contains 23 pages of tools known as The Coach’s Toolkit, 14 pages of additional forms, 21 pages of coaching exercises, 15 pages of additional coaching resources and a glossary. There is no doubt that this book will be very resourceful to those starting out in coaching. And I believe it has something for experienced coaches too.

Following is a quick review each chapter.

Part One – Co-Active Coaching Fundamentals

Chapter One – The Co-Active Coaching Model: In this chapter we are introduced to the four cornerstones that form the foundation of co-active coaching which are:

  1. The client is naturally creative, resourceful, and whole
  2. Co-active coaching addresses the clients whole life
  3. The agenda comes from the client
  4. The relationship is a designed alliance

Also discussed is the fact that the aim of coaching is to combine action and learning. In detail the Co-Active coaching model is explained. At the heart of the model is the clients agenda which looks at fulfillment, balance and process from the clients point of view. The model also highlights the five contexts that the coach brings to the coaching. They are listening, intuition, action/learning, self-management and curiosity.

Chapter Two – The Co-Active Coaching Relationship: The coaching relationship is discussed in this chapter starting with, The Designed Alliance. This refers to the process of designing the coaching relationship which must be customized to meet the needs of the client. The relationship is described as a triangle with the client at one end and the coach at the other end, and the relationship at the tip of the triangle. Both coach and client create the relationship and it is the relationship that empowers the client not the coach. The coaching environment and it’s components are covered, and these components include, confidentiality, trust, veracity, and spaciousness. Also the intake session and it’s five aspect are touched upon. There is also information on the “Gremlin Effect” and outcomes from the intake session.

Part Two – Co-Active Skills

This part of the book covers each of the five co-active coaching skills. It consists of five chapters each covering a skill. All the chapters have scenarios to illustrate the skills and they also end with a practical exercise for practicing the skill

Chapter Three – Listening: Looks at listening skills in detail.

Chapter Four – Intuition: Discusses the coaching skill of intuition in detail.

Chapter Five – Curiosity: Deals with the coaching skill of curiosity in detail.

Chapter Six – Action/Learning: Concentrates on the coaching skill of action/learning in detail.

Chapter Seven – Self-Management: Covers the coaching skill of self-management in detail.

Part Three – Co-Active Coaching Practices

This is the third part of the book with five chapters. The chapters emphasize mostly how co-active coaching focuses on the clients agenda.

Chapter Eight – Client Fulfillment: Clients comes to coaching looking for some kind of fulfillment in various areas of their life, but it is not always clear what fulfillment for a client actually means. How the coach helps the client define fulfillment is discussed in this chapter. So areas such as fulfillment and purpose, fulfillment and life purpose and fulfillment and the gremlin are touched on. Tools such as the Wheel of Life which can help the client define what fulfillment means to them are explained. Overall this chapter is about understanding what fulfillment means to the client and how the coach works with the client to work towards fulfillment.

Chapter Nine – Client Balance: A key area in the client’s life that coaching helps with is trying to discover balance. The chapter defines a seven-step approach designed to lead clients from powerlessness to possibility and finally into action to create a more balanced life.

Chapter Ten – Process: In co-active coaching, process coaching focuses on where the client is now and how they want to be. Process is compared to the river of life which is constantly in flow and changes in motion. The coach’s role is to be with the client in the process. Process coaching as expressed in this chapter is needed when clients need to go a bit deeper into their experience, so how process coaching works and it’s pitfalls are explained. There is also a section on process coaching and accountability.

Chapter Eleven – Tips and Traps: This chapter discusses some key issues that will affect the coach and client relationship. Some of the topics discussed are the time frame of coaching, nature of the relationship so it can empower the client, the flow of coaching, ways coaches can re-energize themselves when they’ve gone blank, skills such as telling and demanding, schedules and structures and coaching styles.

Chapter Twelve – A Vision For The Future: This is the last chapter which takes a departure from the previous one by focusing on coaching as a profession. A sub-section titled, The Making of a Profession dealing with ethics and standards for coaching. The closing paragraphs challenge the reader to imagine how beneficial coaching can be.

While the content in this book is just 167 pages, for me it did feel like a heavy read because it contain too much jargon and what I would personally call touchy-feely coaching language. To sum it up, this is a coach’s book, probably best for those already coaching or those training to be a coach. If I were to choose my key learning points from the book it would be the second part of the book which covers the skills of co-active coaching.

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