John Whitmore is well known for the framework he created, GROW, which is one of the most well known coaching frameworks. And the framework is discussed in-depth in this book. In 182 pages John Whitmore covers a lot of ground, he starts the book with an introductory section arguing for what coaching should be and how it should be applied. In the first chapter he moves on to define what coaching is, certainly a good foundation for the rest of the book which in the next 21 chapters covers topics such as The Manager as Coach, The Nature of Coaching, Goal Setting, What is Performance, and Motivation.
In reviewing this book I would have loved to do it chapter by chapter but I didn’t. Instead I grouped the chapters into reviews of 4 to 5 chapters.
Chapters 1 to 5
The first chapter titled, What is Coaching? , will give you a good grounding on what coaching is, and the author defines it this way – Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. The chapter touches on where coaching came from and potential applications of coaching. Chapter 2 is about the manager as coach. The author starts off the chapter by looking at the dichotomy of a manger acting as coach because on one hand they are responsible for results from their reports, but they also want to develop them in the most effective way. These two aims can sometimes be at conflict with each other. Whitmore believes managers can be good coaches and he explains why this should be the case. Chapter 3 looks at the nature of change touching on why change has now become the norm as opposed to the past when society was much more stable. This chapter sets up a foundation for discussing how coaching can help us cope with change. In chapter 4 titled, the nature of coaching, the two pillars of coaching, awareness and responsibility are discussed. Whitmore quotes that, “building awareness and responsibility is the essence of good coaching.” These two principles are discussed in depth with accompanying examples. Also the connection of both principles to our mind is explained and there is also a section on the qualities of a coach. Chapter 5 starts looking at practical aspects of coaching. It discusses effective questions, covering the function of questions, open questions, body language, self-awareness and examples of helpful questions. The importance of asking questions with what, when, who and how is emphasized while using why questions is discouraged.
Chapters 6 to 10
Chapter 6 titled Sequence of Questioning introduces the GROW framework, which is referred to as a sequence for asking coaching questions. The next four chapters 7 to 10 explain the GROW framework in much more detail. A chapter is used to explain each part of the framework. Chapter 7 starts of with G which stands for Goal Setting. The importance of starting a coaching session with setting goals is the focus, there is also an example of a session showing the kind of questions to ask in order to set goals. The R part dealt with in chapter 8 stands for Reality, all about finding out what the reality of the situation being raised in coaching currently is. Next chapter is the O which is for options. Questions are used to generate possible options that might help to move the person being coached towards achieving set goals. The final aspect of GROW is W for WHAT is to be done, WHEN, by WHOM and the WILL to do it. This concludes the coaching cycle.
Chapters 11 to 15
What is Performance? , is the title of chapter 11 and by performance Whitmore means, going beyond what is expected. In other words setting high standards and going for them. Whitmore believes coaching can help to achieve such high standards. Chapter 12 is all about learning and enjoyment. The learning cycle in four steps is discussed – unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence. The intention of this chapter from my perspective is identifying how coaching can help someone through that learning process when they are trying to learn something. Chapter 13 is about how coaching can enhance motivation. Coaching for purpose is the title of chapter 14. It’s about how coaching can help people to discover a much meaningful life. A number of sample questions for this are listed. Chapter 15 I believe is really an extension of the previous chapter, titled Coaching for Meaning.
Chapters 16 – 22
Chapter 16 looks at coaching for the corporation. It looks at how coaching can be made relevant to businesses. Feedback and assessment is what is discussed in chapter 17. How do you use coaching for feedback and assessment? That is the question answered in this chapter. Chapters 18 and 19 discuss how to use coaching for team development, while chapter 20 focuses on how to overcome barriers to coaching. The benefits of coaching is discussed in chapter 21 and the book is concluded in chapter 22 with a short conclusive chapter about why the author believes coaching is one of the most effective ways to develop people and it is also a better way of doing business.