Effective Coaching, by Myles Downey

Why I read it

Like teaching, it is important as a coach to keep topping up your knowledge and development. I’ve done coaching courses, but also like to read a few books a year to help me both reflect on my practice, and the experiences and wisdom of others. A few people recommended Myles Downey and his work on coaching, particularly non-directive coaching. The book is well reviewed and it’s not hard to see why!

In summary:

Myles Downey, an experienced coach in a variety of settings, wrote Effective Coaching to impart some of his key principles of coaching. There are a variety of chapters that define coaching, explore the key concepts of coaching, and finally a few chapters that apply it to the workplace and teams. Myles’ passion for unlocking the potential of colleagues shines through in how he discusses coaching. Every sentence in the book goes back to how we can help others minimise any interference in their development and performance.

This is a book that defines coaching, explores its benefits, and then provides the reader with many layers of coaching skills.

Key takeaways:

  1. Coaching definitions are wide-ranging but always inspire! Here are a few from Downey: ‘the coach does not need to impart knowledge, advice or even wisdom. What he or she must do is speak, and act, in such a way that others learn and perform at their best.’ ‘Think of all the learning and creativity that has been lost because a manager imposed their own solution on a colleague, rather than asking a simple question such as ‘what could you do?’’ ‘Coaching is the art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another.’
  2. Watching a coaching conversation: when I did a coaching course with Growth Coaching International, each session we did began with watching a video of a coaching conversation. This was so insightful! Downey talks about showing people the power of coaching by modelling it infront of their eyes. Powerful stuff.
  3. Reduce interference to raise performance: Downey provides a list of factors that could be called ‘interference’, in other words something that holds you back from top performance. Coaching can be utilised to help the coachee (or player, as Downey calls them) to overcome the interference and take control. The mantra: potential minus interference is equal to performance
  4. Generating understanding and awareness: Downey defines skills linked to these as: listening to understand; repetition, paraphrasing, summarising; grouping (grouping together themes or ideas you’ve heard and playing them back to the coachee); silence; asking questions that follow interest; asking questions to clarify. He provides an explanation of each in a brilliant chapter about how a coach can use their listening to generate better awareness and understanding from their coachee, which the coach then acknowledges with certain cues to build trust and consolidate the clarity of the understanding of both parties.
  5. Coaching in the work place: The book discusses how coaching can be implemented in the workplace, primarily through line management, and as a manager or leader both in meetings and in day-to-day conversations. Downey urges more of a coaching approach to line management especially, so that there is room for learning and creativity for the person being managed. One area that was particularly interesting was to see how Downey advocates turning appraisals into self-reflection conversations, where the coachee can reflect and the manager can coach them through their own development plan.
  6. Getting started: Downey dedicates a chapter to how to begin, maintain, and review a coaching relationship. He breaks down what to do in the initial sessions, and how the relationship will evolve as sessions progress. This is a very practical, useful part of the book for new coaches.
  7. Teams: I had a keen interest in how coaches can work with teams. Downey discusses how a coach can help reduce interferences for the team, such as: issues with team hierarchy; how members listen to and understand each other; how they give each other feedback and have challenging conversations; how they set and pursue goals; and many other aspects of the team’s work. In simpler terms, a team coach can help the team discover and focus on the who, what, and how of the team’s work. This begins in a hypothetical sense, but by the end of the chapter Downey gives a tangible example of how a coach could facilitate a team meeting with a mock script.

Favourite moment:

Here a series of excerpts from the book that really inspired me as a coach, and reignited my coaching flame!

‘The goal of coaching is to established a firmer connection with an inner authority that can guide vision and urge excellence and discriminate wisdom without being subject to an ‘inner bully’, that has established its certification from external dictates and imposes them on you without your authority to do so.

Coaching has the capacity to bring humanity back into the workplace. We are perhaps on the brink of discovering the extraordinary benefits of letting humanity loose on the workplace and beyond.

People work better, more productively, more effectively, more creatively, when they are cared for. And caring means difficult conversations, too. Coaching can tap into the resources of the whole human being, for the benefit of the employee and the organisation.’

Favourite quote:

Coaching brings achievement, fulfilment and joy, Downey suggests. And I would agree.

‘Effective coaching in the workplace delivers achievement, fulfilment, and joy from which both the individual and the organisation benefit. By achievement I mean the delivery of extraordinary results, organisational and individual goals achieved, strategies, projects and plan executed. Effective coaching delivers sustainable achievement, because of the emphasis on learning and because the confidence of the individual is enhanced. The impact on performance is typically sustained for a longer period and will impact on areas not directly subject of the coaching.

In fulfilment I include learning and development. A business result is one thing, but to achieve it in a way that the individual learns and develops as part of the process has greater value – to the player, the line manager or coach and the organisation, as it is the capacity to learn that ensures an organisation’s survival. Work can be meaningful; individuals through coaching begin to identify goals that are more intrinsically rewarding. With fulfilment comes this increase in motivation.

And joy. When people are achieving their goals, when those goals have some meaning and when learning and development is part of the process, enjoyment ensues.’

Read this if…

You want to become a coach

You are a coach who wants to engage with the wisdom of another fantastic coach

You are a leader who wants to adopt more of a coaching approach

Buy it here

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