How We Opened the World’s Eyes to Coaching

At the turn of the 21st Century, the year 2000 to be exact, my friends Laurence S. Lyons and Alyssa Freas and I co-edited a book called Coaching for Leadership: How the World’s Greatest Coaches Help Leaders Learn. It became an instant classic in the field of executive coaching.

We did not write this book alone. Instead, we invited 35 or so of the greatest coaches and thinkers in the world on management and leadership at that time to give us their thoughts on coaching and leadership.

Published a mere 18 years ago, at the time we were at the pinnacle of a radical and pervasive change truly fundamental in nature. “Yesterday’s” management approach was becoming less and less relevant as we struggled to find a better way. We wholeheartedly believed and still do that way was through coaching.

We asked our contributors to write about what was then a burgeoning field, coaching, and how it could help leaders with the massive changes happening in organizations, like the move from the traditional pyramid organization to the flatter, “shamrock” organization typified by Charles Handy. Like the replacement of the factory worker by the “knowledge worker” as described by Peter Drucker as the new stereotypical worker. We asked them to reflect on the emergence of globalization, the disappearance of the “job for life”, and the redefinition of the “office” from “real” to virtual as a common occurrence.

Coaching, what we described as a “behavioral approach of mutual benefit to individuals and the organizations in which they work or network,” was not at the time so widely accepted as it is today. Back then, coaching was considered a sign that the person being coached had a “problem”. That they had issues. This has changed dramatically. Today, having a coach is a positive, prestigious thing. Today, you’re a winner if you have a coach. You are someone the company is investing in because the leadership believes you are and can be an even greater leader.

The book has been revised and updated twice now. In 2006, we published the second edition, Coaching for Leadership: The Practice of Leadership Coaching from the World’s Greatest Leaders. This edition took a direct aim at the large number of retiring leaders who saw coaching as a way of passing on their learning, their legacy. The third, and most recent edition, Coaching for Leadership: Writings on Leadership from the World’s Greatest Coaches has as its focus on the intended recipients of that legacy—the bright young leaders and coaches of the Hi-Po (high-potential) Generation of the 21st Century, who hold high expectations of our distressed world.

In these books you will find many different ideas, thoughts, and practices about coaching. What it is to coach and be coached, how to pick clients, how to be a client, as well as definitions and descriptions of different styles, modes, and areas of coaching. I hope they are helpful to you as you grow in your own coaching experience!

I am so excited about my new book, How Women Rise, with my lead author, Sally Helgesen! Our book was released April 10th and is already Bookscan #1 in for Women in Business and in the Top Ten for all Business Books. Please order it here!