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Review: Coaching with Colleagues

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Title: Coaching with Colleagues
Authors: Erik de Haan & Yvonne Burger
Publisher: Plagrave Macmillan
ISBN: 1403943230
Price: £25.00
Review by: Nigel Harris

Subtitled “An action guide for learning”, this book brings together a rigorous academic approach from traditional therapeutic disciplines and modern, practical applications as developed in contemporary coaching methods. The book was originally published in Dutch, Erik de Haan being a senior consultant with Ashridge Consulting and PhD from the University of Utrecht while Yvonne Burger is dean on Sioo Business School in the Netherlands.

The index and bibliography of any book give you a good idea where the authors are coming from. Here you will find two pages of references to works by Freud and a good number of major academic works listed. What you don’t find are many ‘popular’ psychology and NLP sources, although Sir John Whitmore and Timothy Galwey do get an honourable mention. This book will provide a useful perspective for anyone involved in coaching who has learned a collection of techniques and interventions from a variety of methodologies without fully understanding where they come from and how they fit together.

The authors’ approach to coaching is of ‘helping’ conversations, conversations in which we learn more about ourselves and our circumstances, and more about our ability to cope and overcome. Part I sets the context for coaching, looks at the roles of coach and coachee and the practical aspects of a coaching experience from making an appointment to ending a coaching relationship. Part II examines some approaches to coaching and a variety of coaching methods. These include Whitmore’s GROW method, conselling, psychoanalysis and more the more provocative paradoxical and ironic approaches. While these are summarised well, the examples given are somewhat theoretical and would be easier to understand if more concrete, practical illustrations were used. Of course, in a book of only 185 pages the authors can only devote ten pages to Freud, psychoanalysis and analytic coaching, so this section is at best an outline and resource guide to further reading. Footnotes and references point to relevant source books for follow up.

Part III looks in more detail at the essential ‘individuality’ of the coach and coachee, and underlines the need for the coachee to remain detatched and independent. The coach may be committed and absorbed in the coachee’s story, but he or she must allow the coachee sufficient space to find and develop their own solutions. These final four chapters deal with the capabilities of the coach, learning through coaching, the organisation coach and concludes with a look at the limitations of coaching with colleagues.

Despite the relative brevity of this book, the authors have managed to include some useful appendices, including a personal coaching profile form and Ashridge’s Coaching Behaviours Survey, which could be used as a very useful self-assessment exercise by coachees.

I would not recommend this book for complete beginners to coaching, given the lack of practical guidance and examples. It seems a pity that the authors limited themselves to only 160 pages, excluding appendices and index, when they clearly have a wealth of practical and academic wisdom which might have been used at greater length to create a more practical book on coaching within organisations. However, those with some practical experience of coaching, or business coaches coming from, say, a purely NLP background, will find this a useful source book on other methods and approaches. Overall, it is a useful academic contribution to the body of work on this developing topic.

Nigel Harris is a manager with Burton Sweet, chartered accountants and business advisers, and a trained business coach

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