An Introduction to Coaching Skills, by Christian van Nieuwerburgh

Why I read it 

I am halfway through a fantastic Coaching Accreditation Program from the good people at Growth Coaching International. One of the course leaders, Christian van Nieuwerburgh, wrote this book and has used it as part of the course materials. It is a coaching bible, not merely ‘an introduction’ as the title suggests. I usually read books within a week, but using this text over 10 weeks of the course (so far) has provided the added benefit of chewing over the ideas, revisiting them, and applying them to my practice.

In summary

A friend of mine, who is a qualified coach, joked that coaching is asking questions that don’t start with ‘why’. While amusing, this book cuts through that notion with layer upon layer of skills and values required to be an effective coach. An Introduction to Coaching Skills provides theory and practical ideas for an array of skills, such as listening, questioning, paraphrasing and summarising, giving and receiving feedback, and how to use a coaching framework such as the GROW model.

In addition to Christian’s own views and experiences, the book is packed with research, activities, key questions, anecdotal examples, and even links to a website to watch some of these skills modelled. This book has taught me so much about both the fundamentals of coaching, and the intricate skills that aren’t immediately obvious. The word I use again is: layers.

Key takeaways

  1.  Listening – this section is called ‘Listening to encourage thinking’, and firstly discourages us from completing sentences for our coachee, guessing at difficult words, or interjecting with an ‘it happened to me’-style comparison. Instead, Christian provides lots of techniques to both demonstrate our listening, but also to help us actively listen so that we are in tune with the coachee and their needs.
  2. Summarising and paraphrasing – I have to admit that when I became a coach I thought it was all about the questioning skills. But this book teaches you the power behind summarising someone’s thoughts, perhaps to clarify your understanding, to help your coachee refocus their attention, or to simply show you are listening. The chapter provides lots of ways of using summary and paraphrasing techniques.
  3.  Coaching way of being – adopting a phrase from Dr Carl Rogers, Christian suggests a variety of ways to fulfil a ‘way of being’ as a coach, from authenticity and positivity in a coaching relationship, to the need for the coachee desiring to make a change. The chapter goes on to explore how our self-reflection, awareness, and skills help us to achieve an effective and authentic ‘way of being’ as a coach.
  4. Ethics of coaching – another aspect of coaching that I had overlooked up to this point was the importance of following an agreed code of ethics as a coach, in order to ensure core principles such as confidentiality and integrity in the relationship. There is a global code of ethics that the major coaching associations adhere to.

Favourite quote

‘If I were king for a day’.

Christian heard this quote from a US conference, and decided to turn it into a coaching question: ‘If you were a king for a day, what………’

He observes that putting the coachee in control of everything allowed them to think through the effect of implementing their idea. Suddenly, their view on something was enactable, and now they would have to think through how it would actually work in practice. They realised that the situation was more complex than first appreciated, and, therefore, had to think through more possible options before deciding on the next steps.

So, try this one out with your coachees!

Favourite moment

During the preface (yes, you should read these!), Christian recalls a story that made me smile. In short, he lent a man £20 near Heathrow Airport, after the man asked for help because he’d spent his own money helping his brother. Christian gave the man his number, with the latter insisting that he would call soon to organise a return of the money. Christian felt that he had done the right thing, and wondered if he would have done the same thing before having become a coach. The man never did call Christian or find a way to return the money, but Christian would like to think that he would help a stranger in need if called upon again; ‘becoming a coach has helped me to be less judgmental and more trusting’.

Read this if…

You are thinking of becoming a coach

You are a coach reflecting on your own practice

Find the book here

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