11 Books Every Coach Should Read

Magda Walczak  •  Sep 11, 2019  •  14 min read

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11 Books Every Coach Should Read

Becoming a coach is a journey, one that takes a lot of training, personal reflection and mentorship. While going through a professional certification course (such as ACTP) is essential, there are many wonderful resources available to coaches on all stages of their journey that will help grow and develop. Here are our essential books on coaching that every aspiring or professional leadership development professional should read.

1. Carl Rogers – On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View Of Psychotherapy

Carl Rogers ought to be known as the Father of Coaching. This is the seminal book on the client centred approach to coaching, a must read for any aspiring coach.

The late Carl Rogers, founder of the humanistic psychology movement, revolutionized psychotherapy with his concept of “client-centered therapy.” His influence has spanned decades, but that influence has become so much a part of mainstream psychology that the ingenious nature of his work has almost been forgotten. A new introduction by Peter Kramer sheds light on the significance of Dr. Rogers’s work today. New discoveries in the field of psychopharmacology, especially that of the antidepressant Prozac, have spawned a quick-fix drug revolution that has obscured the psychotherapeutic relationship. As the pendulum slowly swings back toward an appreciation of the therapeutic encounter, Dr. Rogers’s “client-centered therapy” becomes particularly timely and important.

2. John Whitmore – Coaching For Performance: GROWing Human Potential And Purpose

John Whitmore’s foundation book on the GROW model has a section of the spiritual approach to coaching. He’s a legend who started as a racing car driver helped place coaching where it is now. Coaching for Performance is the bible of the industry and very much the definitive work that all coaches stand on.

This fourth edition explains clearly and in-depth how to unlock people’s potential to maximise their performance. It contains the eponymous GROW model (Goals, Reality, Options, Will), now established as the basis for coaching professionals. Clear, concise, hands-on and reader-friendly, this is a coaching guide written in a coaching style. Coaching for Performance digs deep into the roots of coaching, particularly transpersonal psychology, a useful model for personal development and in-depth coaching. There are new coaching questions and fresh chapters on emotional intelligence and high-performance leadership.

Whitmore also considers the future of coaching and its role in the transformation of learning and workplace relationships, as well as illustrating how coaching can help in a crisis.

Thinking about becoming a coach?

Take a look at our ICF-accredited ACTP program. Get a solid foundation in coaching and develop your unique coaching style. Classes start each quarter.

3. Laura Whitworth – Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives

Laura Whitworth founded CTI, one of the most reputed coaching schools. The Co-active model and her views on communication are inspiring. This is the book that changed the coaching field forever.

Used as the definitive resource in dozens of professional development programs, Co-Active Coaching teaches the transformative communication process that allows individuals from all levels of an organization – from students to teachers, and direct reports to managers – to build strong, collaborative relationships.

With the first edition, the authors of Co-Active Coaching earned their place at the forefront of the coaching profession. Now, this fully revised third edition of their classic work extends the use of their pioneering Co-Active model – which emphasizes a partnership between client and coach – into leadership management throughout an organization.

This new edition has been updates to include fresh coaching examples, the latest in coaching terminology and an expanded, web-based ‘Coach’s Toolkit’.

4. Marshall Goldsmith – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

Marshall Goldsmith’s book should be a reference book to anyone interested in being an executive coach. Marshall’s words of wisdom are highly practical.

America’s most sought-after executive coach shows how to climb the last few rungs of the ladder.
The corporate world is filled with executives, men and women who have worked hard for years to reach the upper levels of management. They’re intelligent, skilled, and even charismatic. But only a handful of them will ever reach the pinnacle — and as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shows in this book, subtle nuances make all the difference. These are small “transactional flaws” performed by one person against another (as simple as not saying thank you enough), which lead to negative perceptions that can hold any executive back. Using Goldsmith’s straightforward, jargon-free advice, it’s amazingly easy behavior to change.

Executives who hire Goldsmith for one-on-one coaching pay $250,000 for the privilege. With this book, his help is available for 1/10,000th of the price.

5. Timothy Gallwey – The Inner Game Of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, And Mobility In The Workplace

Do you think it’s possible to truly enjoy your job? No matter what it is or where you are? Timothy Gallwey does, and in this groundbreaking book he tells you how to overcome the inner obstacles that sabotage your efforts to be your best on the job.

Timothy Gallwey burst upon the scene twenty years ago with his revolutionary approach to excellence in sports. His bestselling books The Inner Game of Tennis and The Inner Game of Golf, with over one million copies in print, changed the way we think about learning and coaching. But the Inner Game that Gallwey discovered on the tennis court is about more than learning a better backhand; it is about learning how to learn, a critical skill that, in this case, separates the productive, satisfied employee from the rest of the pack. For the past twenty years Gallwey has taken his Inner Game expertise to many of America’s top companies, including AT&T, Coca-Cola, Apple, and IBM, to teach their managers and employees how to gain better access to their own internal resources.

What inner obstacles is Gallwey talking about? Fear of failure, resistance to change, procrastination, stagnation, doubt, and boredom, to name a few. Gallwey shows you how to tap into your natural potential for learning, performance, and enjoyment so that any job, no matter how long you’ve been doing it or how little you think there is to learn about it, can become an opportunity to sharpen skills, increase pleasure, and heighten awareness. And if your work environment has been turned on its ear by Internet technology, reorganization, and rapidly accelerating change, this book offers a way to steer a confident course while navigating your way toward personal and professional goals.

The Inner Game of Work teaches you the difference between a rote performance and a rewarding one. It teaches you how to stop working in the conformity mode and start working in the mobility mode. It shows how having a great coach can make as much difference in the boardroom as on the basketball court– and Gallwey teaches you how to find that coach and, equally important, how to become one. The Inner Game of Work challenges you to reexamine your fundamental motivations for going to work in the morning and your definitions of work once you’re there. It will ask you to reassess the way you make changes and teach you to look at work in a radically new way.

6. David Rock – Quiet Leadership: Six Steps To Transforming Performance At Work

David Rock’s first book leading to his neurological approach to coaching is still a great read. His dance towards Insight alone makes this book worth reading.

Improving the performance of your employees involves one of the hardest challenges in the known universe: changing the way they think. In constant demand as a coach, speaker, and consultant to companies around the world, David Rock has proven that the secret to leading people (and living and working with them) is found in the space between their ears. “If people are being paid to think,” he writes, “isn’t it time the business world found out what the thing doing the work, the brain, is all about?” Supported by the latest groundbreaking research, Quiet Leadership provides a brain-based approach that will help busy leaders, executives, and managers improve their own and their colleagues’ performance. Rock offers a practical, six-step guide to making permanent workplace performance change by unleashing higher productivity, new levels of morale, and greater job satisfaction.

7. Thomas Leonard – The 28 Laws Of Attraction: Stop Chasing Success And Let It Chase You (Aka The Portable Coach)

Thomas Leonard founded International Coaching Federation and Coach U. His 28 insights on this book help demystify coaching.

For many years a certified financial advisor with a thriving practice, Thomas Leonard came to realise that he was much more than that to his clients; he was their personal coach, a combination of a career counselor, financial advisor, therapist, and big brother, a person who helps people figure out their goals in life and then works with them to achieve them. Blending profound psychological insights with years of hands-on experience helping people to stop grasping for what they want and start attracting it, Leonard has perfected a programme that enables people to transform their lives in remarkable ways. The 28 Laws of Attraction (previously published under the name The Portable Coach) is a vigorous, highly encouraging blueprint for success, filled with inspiring real-life examples as well as Coach University’s patented worksheets and checklists. Leonard offers a deceptively simple strategy to help readers build reservoirs of time and energy to devote to attracting abundance in their lives.

8. Otto Scharmer – Essentials of Theory U

This book offers a concise, accessible guide to the key concepts and applications in Otto Scharmer’s classic Theory U. Scharmer argues that our capacity to pay attention coshapes the world. What prevents us from attending to situations more effectively is that we aren’t fully aware of that interior condition from which our attention and actions originate. Scharmer calls this lack of awareness our blind spot. He illuminates the blind spot in leadership today and offers hands-on methods to help change makers overcome it through the process, principles, and practices of Theory U. And he outlines a framework for updating the “operating systems” of our educational institutions, our economies, and our democracies. This book enables leaders and organizations in all industries and sectors to shift awareness, connect with the highest future possibilities, and strengthen the capacity to co-shape the future.

 

9. Edgar Schein – Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry.

Ed Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In this seminal work, Schein contrasts Humble Inquiry with other kinds of inquiry, shows the benefits Humble Inquiry provides in many different settings, and offers advice on overcoming the cultural, organizational, and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it.

10. Peter Hawkins – Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership

Organizations are most effective when the teams responsible for their success function to the best of their ability. When the relationships within the team work well and all members have a clear focus, the team is able to achieve goals more easily. Leadership Team Coachingis a roadmap for those who have the responsibility of developing a leadership team. It provides a thorough explanation of the key elements of team coaching and is filled with practical tools and techniques to facilitate optimum performance across virtual teams, international teams, executive boards and other teams.

The fully updated 3rd edition of Leadership Team Coaching brings together the latest research in leadership teams and team coaching along with numerous examples to illustrate how to develop people from disparate groups into a high-performing team. With new international case studies throughout as well as a new chapter on systemic coaching, the book covers the five disciplines of team performance, how to select team members, how the relationship of the coach and the team develops through stages, how CEOs can foster effective teams with shared leadership, how to choose the best team coach and more to facilitate effective leadership teams.

11.Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

The Fifth Discipline, is based on fifteen years of experience in putting the book’s ideas into practice. As Senge makes clear, in the long run the only sustainable competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition. The leadership stories in the book demonstrate the many ways that the core ideas in The Fifth Discipline, many of which seemed radical when first published in 1990, have become deeply integrated into people’s ways of seeing the world and their managerial practices.

In The Fifth Discipline, Senge describes how companies can rid themselves of the learning “disabilities” that threaten their productivity and success by adopting the strategies of learning organizations—ones in which new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, collective aspiration is set free, and people are continually learning how to create results they truly desire.

The updated and revised Currency edition of this business classic contains over one hundred pages of new material based on interviews with dozens of practitioners at companies like BP, Unilever, Intel, Ford, HP, Saudi Aramco, and organizations like Roca, Oxfam, and The World Bank. It features a new Foreword about the success Peter Senge has achieved with learning organizations since the book’s inception, as well as new chapters on Impetus (getting started), Strategies, Leaders’ New Work, Systems Citizens, and Frontiers for the Future.

Mastering the disciplines Senge outlines in the book will:

  • Reignite the spark of genuine learning driven by people focused on what truly matters to them
    • Bridge teamwork into macro-creativity
    • Free you of confining assumptions and mindsets
    • Teach you to see the forest and the trees
    • End the struggle between work and personal time

Thinking about becoming a coach?

Take a look at our ICF-accredited ACTP program. Get a solid foundation in coaching and develop your unique coaching style. Classes start each quarter.

Magda Walczak

Magda

Magda Walczak is CEO of Coacharya and looks after strategy, technology, marketing, and customer experience. She's also the author of Saylor's tale, a children's book.