I absolutely love this book. It’s a unique combination of solid research, relevant and illustrative examples, with lots of practical how-to applications. I don’t know Kathleen but I’ve worked with Jack on and off since 1981. You can read more about our relationship from my blog post “Reconnecting with Jack Zenger as Guest Blogger: ‘The Motivation Myth That Won’t Go Away’.” Clearly they’ve co-authored this book because of the strong alignment of their style, approaches, and experience. I was delighted to read the manuscript Jack sent me earlier this year and provide a supportive “jacket blurb” for it.

Like Jack’s previous book, The Extraordinary Leader, (click title to read my review of that book) The Extraordinary Coach is written in a warm and conversational style. Reading this how-to guidebook feels like a personal coaching session with two highly effective leadership development coaches. The book brims with practical and timely advice distilled from Jack and Kathleen’s decades of successful leadership development experience. It is an absolute must-read for anyone wanting to strengthen their leadership and development skills.

This book is chockfull of so many useful observations and advice on coaching it’s really tough to highlight just a few. Here are some that particularly stand out:

Coaching Definition
“Interactions that help the individual being coached to expand awareness, discover superior solutions, and make and implement better decisions.” They go on to explain, “Coaching helps individuals discover answers within themselves and helps them feel more personally empowered. The coach is also dedicated to helping to ensure the implementation and long-term follow-through of planned actions.”

What Gets in the Way of Coaching?
The authors find that most managers claim “time,” “my boss doesn’t coach me,” and “my employees don’t need it” as the main reasons they aren’t coaching as much as they’d like to. This certainly squares with The CLEMMER Group’s experiences and common leadership discussions in our workshops.

Jack and Kathleen believe the real reasons are:
•    “Avoiding Potentially Uncomfortable Discussions”
•    “Insecure about the True Value of One’s Own Coaching”
•    “Misunderstanding the True Nature of Good Coaching”
•    “Direct Reports Seldom Ask for It”

No-Time-for-Coaching Doesn’t Hold Water
“When asked what gets in the way of coaching employees, managers invariably mention the pressure of time. The reality is that managers are working long hours. Their ranks have been thinned. They are stretched. Their schedules are packed. We are reminded, however, of the two men who are mopping up water from a floor. After working feverishly for hours, one of them finally says, ‘Let’s stop mopping and go find what is leaking water.’

Managers spend a good deal of time mopping up problems. Coaching is a way to turn off the spigot. It takes only a short leap of faith to say, ‘I’ll take time to develop and coach my people because in the long run it will pay off more than virtually anything else I can do’.”

Mindset and Skill Set
“Coaching represents both a mindset and a skill set. The mindset comes into play for leaders who have a choice in how they guide conversations with employees. Leaders can either direct their employees’ actions – in a fairly autocratic mode –or instead coach their employees to discover the best actions to take to move forward. A manager’s mindset might be, ‘I can get more done by controlling and directing,’ whereas a coach’s mindset might be, ‘I can get more done by growing my employees and gaining their commitment.’

The mindset must precede the skill set. Unless a leader consciously chooses to coach – and chooses ‘growth’ as a worthy objective of the coaching process and conversations – he will be less likely to fully employ the array of skills that support coaching.”

The book provides an extensive number of frameworks, checklists, guidelines, examples, and how-to steps. Practical job aids like pocket or purse-sized “Action Planners” and “key action cards” have proven to be extremely useful. We continually meet workshop participants from years ago who still reference these tools or ask to replace them. Jack and Kathleen cite the surgeon, Atul Gawande’s, book, The Checklist Manifesto, on the overwhelming evidence that checklists, frameworks, steps, and guidelines are dramatically reducing medical errors. Just as they’ve done with aviation pilots for decades now.

Here are three useful coaching examples provided in The Extraordinary Coach:

FUEL: A Framework, Not a Cage
Frame the Conversation Set the context for the conversation by agreeing to the purpose, process, and desired outcomes of the discussion.
Understand the Current State Explore the current state from the coachee’s point of view; expand the coachee’s awareness of the situation to determine the real coaching issue.
Explore the Desired State Articulate the vision of success in this scenario, and explore multiple alternative paths before prioritizing methods of achieving this vision.
Lay Out a Success Plan Identify the specific, time-bounded action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results, and determine milestones for follow-up and accountability.

The three steps of Framing the Conversation are:
•    Identify the behavior or issue to discuss.
•    Determine the purpose or outcomes of the conversation.
•    Agree on the process for the conversation.

Three Guidelines for Providing Personalized Feedback
Reinforcing feedback is a wonderful tool for creating greater engagement, it is completely within your control, and it does not require a great deal of planning…here are three guidelines, and we will devote the rest of this chapter to diving into these and offering examples of their application.

  1. Reinforce the behaviors and actions that you want the employee to continue and extend (not just the end results that were achieved.)
  2. Be specific, focusing on what the individual did or said and its impact on you, on others, and on results.
  3. Provide at least three times as much positive, reinforcing feedback as redirecting feedback. This 3-to-1 ratio seems to be the secret to creating good feelings and improved results.

There are so many more gems to be mined from The Extraordinary Coach. These include letting the people being coached drive much of the coaching agenda, not confusing updates with coaching conversations (a common problem), listening or drawing out versus telling or advising, how the coach owns the process but the person being coached should own the content of the coaching conversation, and how to “let silence do the heavy lifting.” Each chapter concludes with a very useful Chapter Summary of the main points just covered.

A boss manages and a leader coaches. We need to do both. But most people in supervisory, manager, or executive roles over-boss and under-lead. The results are lower performance, weaker people, disengaged frontline staff, and stressed out managers. Developing people is at the heart of strong leadership. The Extraordinary Coach is an extraordinary guide to developing this critical skill set.