Why I read it:
During the staff wellbeing research project that I conducted in 2019-20, I read many academic papers pointing towards coaching as a tool to improve staff efficacy, autonomy, and so much more. I was intrigued. My experience of ‘coaching’ over the years had been to misunderstand its principles: when I’d spoken to people about it, they were often talking about mentoring, and therefore I (and they, it seems) had conflated the two. But then I started to read and engage with actual coaching, and it sounded wonderful. I read Coaching for Performance, and, as I was about to enrol on a course, I saw that one of my leadership heroes, Andy Buck, had devised his own coaching model. I devoured the book, completed Andy’s online course, then a subsequent GROW course, and now I coach staff and am about to embark on the GCI Coaching Accreditation Programme. What an 18 months! At this point I’d like to say: the book is brilliant, Andy is an absolute gent, and his online coaching course is a fantastic guide to the book, and for me, the first step in my coaching journey – I’m very grateful.
Andy Buck has created the BASIC model for coaching conversations, which is structured as: Background, Aims, Strategy, Implementation, Commitment. Each letter or section of the coaching conversation has a dedicated chapter, and includes explanations about why it is used, and how we can implement it. Buck also dedicates much of the book to the qualities and traits of a good coach, so that we are informed and empowered beyond the structure of a single conversation.
This is a practical guide that takes you through the whole process of a coaching conversation, but also teaches you enough about coaching in a wider sense, that helps provide flexibility based on your style, and your coachee’s needs. It’s difficult to convey in this post how much advice, and how many examples, Buck includes in the book, but if you are looking to learn more about coaching, you will get plenty from Basic Coaching.
The overall takeaway from this book is your comprehensive knowledge of, and confidence in, an excellent new coaching model! Which I can’t do justice to in this short space. But here are some other key takeaways:
- Get to the root cause first – unlike some coaching models, Buck begins with ‘background’, rather than aims/goals, as a deliberate chance to see what’s going on before the goals are established. He argues that often, someone’s first thought isn’t the real issue, and that’s why the background needs to be probed before setting goals; talking things through can clarify the situation, and often adapts the goal that they came to the session with.
- Strategy vs tactics – quoting Alistair Campbell’s Winners (a great read), Buck outlines the OST model: objective, strategy, tactics. Campbell proposes that we should have an overall strategy to meet our aim, and under that strategy, multiple tactics to execute it. Buck links this to coaching, and how a coach should encourage a strategy, which then implements various tactics.
- Unconscious bias – being a coach requires self awareness, but also an understanding of the biases that we aren’t necessarily in control of – being aware of these helps us steer a coachee away from potentially unproductive thinking, but also means that the coach is less likely to inflict their own bias. Buck outlines some of these, such as the anchor effect, sunk-cost fallacy, and more.
- Empathy not sympathy, and not colluding in negativity – I’d argue that coaches enjoy their work because ultimately they are helping others, yet it takes a lot of restraint and deliberate phrasing to make sure we aren’t sympathising with a difficult situation, which runs into the danger of making the problem seem insurmountable. Rather, we should show empathy, and always stay solution focused. Andy has some great thinking in this area.
At the end of each chapter, Buck includes a list of questions you could ask your coachee at that point of the conversation. I wrote all of these out, and then started adapting the language slightly based on my own style and vocabulary. You don’t want to feel restricted to certain questions, but when becoming a coach, it’s important to feel armed with enough knowledge and material to select at the right moment.
‘And what else?’
Buck references the work of Michael Bungay Stanier, who regards this as one of coaching’s most powerful questions. Prompting your coachee to deliberate further with this question, which lacks judgment or specific direction, can be a brilliant way to diversify strategy, tactics, or aims. This one might test your ability to hold silence, but it can unlock more than you might anticipate.
Read this if…
You are thinking about getting into coaching – this will encourage and inspire you to do it
You have used other coaching models and you want to diversify – I’m trained in the BASIC and GROW models and I find it really useful to adopt principles of both