A few weeks ago one of our coaching students asked a very good question: “What are the books every coach really needs to read?”
Now let’s face it, you’re not going to become a fantastic coach merely by reading about coaching. That said, you’re also not going to become a fantastic coach if you never read about coaching. Through their writing, coaching authors offer helpful insights, stretch you to consider challenging new practices and approaches, and bring some order to chaotic aspects of coaching.
There are a lot of coaching books, so how do you sort through the Amazon recommendations and land on the few that will offer the best return for the investment of time and money? Here are three criteria I use:
- I like books that fit my context but don’t just echo what I already know to be true. I do mostly leadership coaching for people in businesses and non-profits, so I’m less interested in writing aimed life coaches. On the other hand, I don’t want a book to tell me what every other leadership coaching book has to say.
- I prefer books that are more practical than theoretical. Don’t get me wrong, I love theory – and that’s the problem. I can get stuck in the super big picture, so a book that fleshes out the theory with practical examples, tools, and insights is especially helpful.
- I like books that put my clients first, not me or the author. Some coaching books make it seem like clients are my enemy (someone I have to defeat) or my project (someone less than me that I need to fix). Other coaching books seem like a sales pitch for the author’s training, certification, or program.
So what are some great coaching books? Here are a few I recommend. Some of these might be a good fit for you, while others don’t match what you need as a coach, but I think they are all worth considering. (BTW, full disclosure, if you follow a link and buy from Amazon, a small percentage will go to support CAM.)
- Co-Active Coaching. Now in its fourth edition, this is a classic coaching book from authors who helped establish many of the foundational aspects of the International Coach Federation. It has some hippie new-age flavor to it, but if you can spit out the seeds, the fruit is very good.
- Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart. Originally published in 2000 with a second edition published in 2007, this book has some years on it, but the distinct thing I love about this book is how it applies a systems approach to executive coaching.
- The Next Level. One of my first coaches is the author of this book, which is not technically a coaching book (it’s on leadership). But because it’s written by a coach, it’s an incredible resource for any coach who works with leaders.
- Coaching for Performance. At CAM we teach the Hourglass model and just as often we reference the GROW model. This is the book that lays out the GROW model and is one of the cornerstone books of coaching, IMO.
- Professional Coaching Competencies. For any coach who is developing toward PCC-level competence or preparing to apply for PCC and wondering what distinguishes professional-level coaching, this book is a great resource.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Okay, not exactly a coaching book, but the principles in this book apply to so many coaching issues that I can’t help but recommend it.
- Coachbook. Another book aimed primarily at coaching execs, this book is worth the price for the description of four types of issues leaders face: puzzles, problems, dilemmas, and mysteries.
I’m sure there are other great coaching books that I should include but I’ll stop my list with just seven titles. If you’ve got a must-read coaching book to recommend, please tell everyone about it in the comments section (and be sure to let us know what you found most valuable from it).