Coaching as a Leader (REVIEWED: iCOACH by Thomas D. Zweifel)

Coaching is a hot topic these days. Everyone is trying to become a coach, or trying to become a coach of coaches. It seems like the big money-maker in the genre is selling a comprehensive plan that transforms a normal, moderately-experienced professional into an independent coach, spreading limitless wisdom to others (while working a couple hours a day from a Mediterranean beach or top-rated golf course, obviously).

While that sounds great, I think that most of us recognize it’s an unrealistic goal, and perhaps not truly relevant to our objectives in life. So what is the real value of this kind of book? What do we get, as leaders from where we are, when we understand coaching? And, of course, what’s the one book hits a hole in one – and earns a place on THE LIST? Let’s find out.

In iCoach: The Simple Little Formula for Freeing Yourself, Boosting People Power, and Changing the World, Dr. Thomas D. Zweifel offers a straight-forward introduction to coaching. This isn’t an advanced book, and in fact Dr Zweifel has several others in the series. That might be an indication of the business strategy in play. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value here.

First, let me recognize a like-minded soul when I see one: within the first dozen pages, Zweifel establishes his first “Ground Rule”, which is that “Books rarely accomplish anything. People do, and they may or may not accomplish things from reading a book.” (20) Bravo! This is always important for us to recognize so that we can find and extract the ideas upon which we can act.

From there, the book works through an introduction to coaching, building to a few specific tools. The introduction is useful for someone who is unfamiliar with coaching as an approach or practice. If we’ve worked with a coach, this will be somewhat basic though perhaps explanatory. But the real value here is seeing how we as leaders might take the approach and apply it to our work. Zweifel draws clear lines between the role of manager, friend, executive, and coach. He argues that coaches work without distraction towards the betterment of their “player,” asking questions rather than providing expertise and challenging assumptions even if the revealed truth is uncomfortable.