I am often asked what books I would recommend for someone who is just starting on their coaching journey.
Because I am always refining my list, I asked a select group of coaches their picks for the best books for coaches—books not only about coaching but also about leadership and coaching in organizations.
Below is the first group of nine recommended books in no particular order.
You’ll see my comments along with those of each coach who submitted a suggested title. We would like you to add to the conversation by including your recommended additions to this list in the comments. I’m hoping that this will be the first in a series of posts on the topic.
The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey, recommended by Suzi Pomerantz MT, MCC, executive coach, author, and CEO of Innovative Leadership International LLC. Suzi is also the co-steward and curator of the Library for Professional Coaching, an extraordinary free resource for coaches.
Suzi says, “This book does a great job of speaking about the mindsets and mental shifts that a good coach helps clients achieve. I don’t play tennis, but coaching mastery is all about the inner game.”
I heard Tim speak at the first International Coach Federation Conference in Switzerland and he really was one of the original coaches in terms of helping people get out of their own way.
Next, Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore, suggested by Tony Klingmeyer, MCC, executive coach and past president of the International Coach Federation, Georgia.
Tony says, “This is an oldie but a goodie. Almost all of my coaching income has been earned using the GROW model. It’s the basic structure of a coaching dialogue—a catalyst for helping others grow, expand, and tap into and express their depth and greatness.”
I agree that the GROW model is the best problem solving model I have ever encountered. It’s especially useful for new coaches who don’t have enough experience to build their own sense of how best to structure coaching conversations.
Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others by James Flaherty is the pick of Renée Freedman, PCC executive leadership, cultural change, and social impact coach and cultivator, former director of the SupporTED Coaching Program.
Renee says: “I am not a graduate of New Ventures West, but this book helped me pull all of my training together and truly understand the big picture and process of coaching.”
New Ventures West is highly regarded among the proliferating coach training schools and I can personally attest that some of the best coaches we have hired at The Ken Blanchard Companies have received their training at New Ventures West.
Joanne Maynard, PCC, The Ken Blanchard Companies, recommends Co-Active Coaching by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth.
Joanne says, “First off, the descriptive writing in this book is wonderful. Every time I crack it open I read gems that are helpful. The concept of the Designed Alliance—where power is granted to the coaching relationship, not the coach—is always a great reminder. The Coach’s Toolkit in the back is helpful as well.”
Whitworth and the Kimsey-Houses were the original founders of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), another of the well established and respected coach training institutions. CTI is especially good for coaches coming from the corporate world who understand business and organizational dynamics but might need to deepen their intuition and ability to be fully present.
The recommendation from Greta Cowan, PCC, leadership coach, is On Becoming a Leadership Coach: A Holistic Approach to Coaching Excellence by Christine Wahl, Clarice Scriber, and Beth Bloomfield.
Greta says: “This book has a lot of different and helpful perspectives. My favorite is the chapter on the Thinking Path—I use that model all the time.”
This book focuses on coaching leaders in the context of the organizational systems within which they lead, drawing on the curriculum of the Georgetown University Leadership Coaching Certificate Program.
My personal choices are next. I have purchased and loaned out more copies of these books than I can count!
Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart: A Systems Approach to Engaging Leaders with Their Challenges by Mary Beth O’Neill. This book is not for novices, but is excellent for coaches who are ready to up their game and coach at the highest levels. Ms. O’Neill is no nonsense and her ideas are utterly usable.
Masterful Coaching by Robert Hargrove. Hargrove was an early entry and key thinker in the coaching revolution. His focus is on teaching business owners, managers, and leaders to coach, but the techniques are applicable to anyone. The book also has a companion field book which is superb as well.
The Handbook of Knowledge-Based Coaching by Leni Wildflower and Diane Brennan. This book is an encyclopedia of everything you need to know as coach—but didn’t know you didn’t know. Wildflower has been the coaching program expert with the Fielding Graduate School and has written extensively on the topic of coaching. Both authors have made valuable contributions to the coaching profession.
Coach U’s Essential Coaching Tools by Coach Inc. Coach University was the brainchild of Thomas Leonard and this massive doorstop of a book is the contents of his extraordinary brain. To be fair, it is also the contribution of the early teachers at Coach U who collected and cataloged what worked in coaching. Any form, checklist, or possible approach for a coach to work with anyone is in this book, as well as extensive support for those who are building a coaching practice. Leonard also wrote The Portable Coach, which is sadly out of print but still a terrific resource.
That’s a good starting list—what would you add? What books have influenced you along your journey as a coach? Please leave your book suggestions in the Comment section.
About the Author
Madeleine Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.