Book Thoughts – The Financial Times Guide to Business Coaching by Anne Scoular

Although the title of The Financial Times Guide to Business Coaching (published 2011) seems to imply this book’s remit is purely related to coaching in the world of business, to my mind it’s a rare gem which gives a comprehensive yet entertaining whistle-stop tour round all things coaching for anyone seriously interested in the subject. Cartoon cogs with handThat’s not to suggest it’s shallow, for shallow it certainly isn’t. It’s to say that if any coach reads this volume carefully, she or he will have more than a thorough introduction to many practical coaching-related subjects, as well as the pleasure of being entertained along the way.

At just over 230 pages, this is not a big read. However, given the amount of ground it covers and the amount of attention many of its sections warrant, it’s not an inconsiderable read either. What sugars the pill is Anne’s authorial voice – one of wit, candour and mischievousness. This is a refreshing combination, and one I think we could do with more of.

Topics covered include:

  • The business of coaching – a quick overview of what coaching is, its limits, and some definitions
  • The coaches – an overview of contexts in which coaches work, covering roles within organisations as well as freelancing in various capacities outside of organisations
  • Do you have what it takes? – a very important reminder of the abilities, personality and commercial nous necessary to be a successful business coach in particular
  • Developing your coaching: first steps – the importance of experiencing great coaching yourself, dipping your toe in with reading or ‘having an informal go’, and considering what kind of training you might require
  • Building basic coaching skills – what Scoular calls ‘The Big 5’ (contracting, the GROW Model, listening, questioning, and being non-directive)
  • Building coaching skills by understanding different approaches – from sport, psychology, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and businessBook cover of The FT Guide to Business Coaching
  • Deepening coaching skills – working with individual difference via simple pen-and paper methods through to psychometrics such as MBTI, FIRO-B, and Strengths Inventories
  • Advanced coaching – bringing context into individual coaching (eg by using ‘360° Feedback’); Team Coaching; looking at career transitions and career coaching tools; understanding motivation and change
  • Why coaching works – looking at simple practical reasons as well as scientific research
  • Building a freelance coaching business – taking the would-be freelancer through GROW (a daunting prospect!) and providing a detailed marketing checklist

To me the book has three key strengths:

1. Its author  Proving that a varied, unconventional career background can pay dividends in stimulating both insight and common sense, Anne Scoular herself is for me central to the book’s effectiveness. She has enjoyed successful incarnations as a diplomat and international banker – before retraining mid-career as an organisational psychologist and business coach. It’s this combination of senior-level career experience and a thorough grounding in psychological disciplines that gives us confidence that Anne’s judgements and recommendations are sound.

2. The comprehensiveness of its coverage  Each section is relatively short, yet a great deal of wisdom and detail is packed in. Coaches can tend to specialise in different areas, and even within areas prefer particular tools and approaches. This book is of value to those who are experienced as well as newbies, because it provides a sound introduction to key concepts and subjects which experienced coaches may not have personally explored.

3. Complete absence of complexity in presentation  Scoular is at pains to make explanations clear and simple. Hence, concepts are demystified and graspable (which can’t always be said as far as many other writers are concerned). This encourages readers to believe that, with practice, it really is possible to become a coach, and to hone one’s skills to increase effectiveness.

In summary, this is a book any coach would do well to keep close by.  Possibly the best recommendation is Nancy Kline’s* comment reproduced on the back cover of the book itself. This is an endorsement with which I completely agree:

“Read this book! It will grab you, and delight you, and enlighten you, and inspire you, and, yes, guide you wisely and well.”

* Nancy Kline is the author of Time to Think, which I have reviewed on this blog in a previous post.

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