The Book Club – Brilliant Coaching8 min read

Whether you are new to coaching or experienced you will know that there is an abundance of coaching books ranging from the coverall to specific in-depth coaching skills. As a coaching apprentice, I am reading coaching books regularly to deepen my knowledge. The Book Club at Coaching Apprentice is here to share books I have found beneficial. These are books that have deepened my thinking and led me on a quest to find out more about specific areas and skills within coaching.

* Please note this post includes affiliate links. This means if you click the link and make a purchase I may receive a commission.

The Book Club

Welcome to the latest edition of The Book Club, by the Coaching Apprentice. I’m Brendan. 

In today’s edition of The Book Club, taking around 10 minutes to read, I am discussing Brilliant Coaching. A book that gives an overview of coaching and discusses skills required to be an effective coach.

Coaching is a topic that has become a buzzword in recent years. It is widely recognized as a skill that can empower individuals to develop both on a personal level and within their careers. A study by Deloitte has shown that when leaders coach their teams regularly business results increase by 21 percent.

This is a significant improvement in performance and could make a huge difference to an organization’s bottom line. Imagine the results your company would achieve with a 21 percent increase in results. This is one of the reasons why companies invest in coaching with coaching apprenticeships, one of the viable ways to develop coaching skills.

The benefits of coaching are plentiful. Studies have shown that 80 percent of employees who receive coaching report improved self-confidence, over 7- percent report improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication. What’s more, 86 percent of companies recouped their investment and more.

Effective coaching increases the performance of people. It engages people, by challenging them to think, act and ultimately learn for themselves (Starr, 2017).

Have you ever worked for a manager who has nurtured your skills? They have empowered you to develop without giving direct guidance and instruction. If you have, then you likely appreciate the benefits of this approach. A good coaching manager can assist you to understand and achieve your aspirations. One of the advantages of coaching over ‘telling’ or directing is it increases engagement. A compliant employee may get the job done but are they engaged? A good coach does not usually happen by accident. Anyone can be a good coach however you need training to support you to be a good coach. This can be one of the first barriers to coaching. A manager or leader may have good intentions however if they have not been trained and equipped with the skills to coach it will be an uphill challenge. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training for it, would you?

As an apprentice coach, my curiosity is heightened to learn as much as I can about coaching skills, how to be an effective coach and what I need to do to develop my coaching skills. I have a passion to empower people to find their own solutions. In my role I may need to act as a consultant or even mentor, however, my ultimate desire is to listen, ask good questions, and for people to find answers to their problems. This is hugely satisfying for me. In addition, the more empowered and engaged others are, the more time I have to improve processes in other areas.

Coaching engaging

There are a number of skills that make a good coach. Five of the essential skills of a coach are discussed in Brilliant Coaching by Julie Starr. Julie is a coach with over 20 years of experience and has written The Coaching Manual, too. She is the founder of Starr Coaching and her practices are used around the world. 

The book is 269 pages and free as an eBook if you have Kindle Unlimited. The book is split into four parts: awareness, ability, application and action. One area I like most about this book is how it cements learning and encourages you to understand your current coaching skills and build upon this further. There are questions, exercises, tips, checklists, definitions, and recaps throughout the book. Do not let the length of the book put you off. Do not need to read this book cover to cover to benefit from it. If there is a particular coaching skill you want to focus on you can go straight to that chapter. For example, if you want to improve your listening skills dive straight to that chapter. Or do you want to develop your self-awareness and understand how ego can be a barrier to effective coaching? There is a chapter about this too.

The book starts with an overview of what coaching is and what the benefits are. It also explains how mentoring is different to coaching. What’s great about coaching is anyone can do it. An employee could coach their superior as they do not need to be an expert in what they are coaching. You likely understand that engagement in the workplace is important and leads to improved performance. Brilliant Coaching goes into some detail about how coaching can lead to engagement. Page 39 includes a useful table that demonstrates how coaching behavior links to engagement. For example, active listening and seeking first to understand is a coaching behavior. This links to engagement because it helps people to feel valued and promotes openness and trust. There are a further seven examples of coaching behavior that link to engagement featured within the book. Starr (2017), states that you should coach your own engagement and then coach it in others.

Coach your own engagement and then coach it in others.

Chapter 3 explores the mindset of a coaching manager. Figure 3.2 details the values, beliefs, and behaviors of a coaching manager. If you want to assess your own style of management page 54 includes questions to ask yourself. Questions like this can be really useful in increasing your self-awareness. To be a good coach you need to be self-aware and if you want to be a coaching manager you need to understand your current style of management.

Chapter 4 was one of the most useful chapters for me. This chapter goes into depth about your ego and how it can impact coaching.

Your ego is a false identity that your mind constructed and then you took up residence in. Brand Bays

You may think you already understand ego and what it is. However, this chapter of the book will challenge your perception of what ego is and how you need self-awareness to be a good coach. This is because your ego can limit your thinking. It can lead to your personal values or values rearing up in a coaching conversation. If this happens you are no longer coaching.

The next five chapters cover the five basic skills of coaching:

  • Rapport
  • Focused listening
  • Effective questioning
  • A flexible style of influence
  • Constructive feedback.

I really enjoyed reading these five chapters and I often refer back to them on a regular basis. These five chapters deepened my understanding of skills for coaches. In addition, they have increased my self-awareness of these skills. In particular, I didn’t realize how poor my listening skills were compared to where they needed to be to be a good coach. It’s estimated that in a conversation we only remember 25 to 50 percent of what was said. However, people often think their listening is better than it is. I was one of those people. After all, we all listen every day. The problem is we aren’t doing it very well. We are distracted by a busy and noisy world. The chapter about focused listening helps you to understand your current level of listening and how you can focus your listening. If you want to be a good coach I would recommend this chapter. Focused listening is a crucial skill. People who have focused listening naturally build more quickly and it stands to reason that they can ask better questions too.


Starr (2017) explains how focused listening takes practice, concentration, and awareness. I have started to practice my listening and found how much this benefits me. You may find you are tired when your listening is focused. However, I have found my contribution to conversations is more valuable and my questioning has improved.

Part 3 and part 4 discuss the application of coaching skills and the action you need to take. The application part of the book discusses the different ways that you can use coaching in the workplace. Again, you do not need to read this part from front to back. You can select the scenarios that suit you. The part starts with where and when you can coach. This is the million-dollar question for anyone new to coaching. Figure 10.1 on page 161 shows the coaching path. This is a great format to follow and one I will be using to structure the coaching sessions I lead. The coaching path starts with establishing the conversation, identifying the topic and goal, inquiry, understanding/insight, shape conclusions/agreements, and completion/close. This part of Brilliant Coaching gives some really useful tips on questions for each stage and discusses each stage in more detail.

The book ends with chapter 14 which is part 4 of the book. Chapter 14 discusses taking your learning forward. This chapter of the book encourages you to look at where you are now and gives you questions to ask yourself to dive deeper. The next question is where would you like to get to, how are you getting there, and what might stop you and explore support for your ongoing learning. The book ends with some free-to-download materials.

Click here if you would like to purchase Brilliant Coaching. What coaching books do you recommend? Tell me in the comments.

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