Blog Post: Great Recent Coaching Reads

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When Chad asked if I could think back and reflect on a couple of the books about coaching that I enjoyed this past year, I quickly realized that I didn’t need to think all of the way back to the beginning of the year.  I am very excited and engaged with some things that are happening right now in the international coaching community.

If you haven’t yet read the new ICF (International Coaching Federation) Core Competencies, here’s the link to catch you up:   Just click on “Updated Core Competencies.”   It’s not all new and different from what we were trained to do and have been practicing, but there are some important nuances such as making it clear that “Evoking Awareness” is job one and encompasses some competencies previously presented separately such as Powerful Questions and Direct Communication.  Last week ICF sent out news to all of its members about a new series of short video clips that explore each of the new competencies.  A different member of the task force who developed the new competencies is interviewed about each one.  I watched all of them once and am now starting to view them again, stopping to take notes and take in new information.  What I find particularly helpful is that each is asked what they would be listening for as mentor coaches to determine whether that coach is meeting that competency at different certification levels.  Do check them out:

As I study the updated Core Competencies, I am even more deeply appreciating the book Coach the Person Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry by Marcia Reynolds, MCC (not to be confused with the e-book Coach the Person Not the Problem  published several years ago by Chad Hall).  Marcia’s new book was published in June 2020.  A psychologist and one of the first Presidents of ICF, Marcia is a coaching thought leader whom I have met and learned from at ICF conferences and who I try to follow.  What I find especially valuable in this book are the many case studies and examples that accompany a clear and helpful exploration of how coaches can listen deeply and reflect back when they are hearing and intuiting.  For instance, utilizing brain science, she advises “Listen for the word ‘but.’  The word ‘but’ signals that their brain is conjuring up excuses for not acting.  Bring the conversation back to the statement made before the ‘but’ to see if, bottom line, that action is what they want to take, if it is worth the risk.” (p. 74) Reynolds notes, ‘When you actively replay an expressed emotion, you open the door to discuss dilemmas in a way your clients would or could not do in conversations outside of coaching.  For example, you might notice when they do the following:  Look down or away as they change their tone of voice, hesitate or become silent, get louder or more animated, stress the words ‘always’ or ‘never’ when describing how they interpret another person’s intentions or behavior, use the word ‘really’ accompanied by a heightened tone that accentuates a declaration such as, ‘What I really want’ or ‘What I really can’t stand.’ Then coming from a place of not knowing, you use compassionate curiosity to explore what might be the beliefs, fears, doubts or conflicts that triggered the expression. (p. 80)  And advises, “Trying to make them feel better, even running to get a tissue for a crier, will negatively affect the coaching no matter the value of your intention.  They might feel less understood or enfeebled when you interrupt to save them.  The response you believe is ’being supportive’ could damage their willingness to fully express themselves to you.”

To both more fully understand and be supportive in a helpful way to our clients who are engaged in church work, I would highly recommend a book just published on November 10:  Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change by Tod Bolsinger (whom you may know as the author of the book on adaptive change for churches and church leaders, Canoeing the Mountains).  A former church pastor and currently a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, Bolsinger recommends coaching as a helpful strategy for church leaders beset by the stresses inherent in church leadership and reveals that he himself works with an Executive Coach! (p. 220, et. al.)  Throughout the book Bolsinger asks provocative coaching-type questions that I found myself wanting to write down.  A few that particularly caught my attention as ones that might be helpful for some of my clients:  “If you weren’t the leader but a student, what would you need to learn about this situation?”  “What would you need to learn to be an effective leader?”  “An innovative leader?”  “A collaborative leader?”  “What are the losses people might be associating with this change/new program?”  “What will it take for you to both stay connected and stay the course?”

I will end with a prediction:  I think that we will see new books written about team coaching in 2021.  I had noticed that team coaching was receiving greater emphasis as I participated in CCEU offerings in 2020.  And then last month the ICF published the first ever Team Coaching Core Competencies:   A surprise for me is the strong recommendation that anyone doing Team Coaching should have a Coach Supervisor because of the complexity of the work and the multiplicity of relationships that arise not only for the team members but also for the coach.  Not sure what coaching supervision entails?  You can start exploring that on the ICF website, too:

The science behind coaching and best practices for professional coaches keep evolving.  What a privilege to be part of a profession that isn’t stuck on “We’ve never done it this way before” or “We’ve always done it that way before.”

The Rev. Dr. Janice Lee Fitzgerald, PCC is a Leadership and Ministry Coach based in Rochester, NY.  She also enjoys being a Transitional Ministry Specialist who has served churches in transition in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America.  You can contact her at

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