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7 best coaching books for managers and leaders

7 best coaching books for managers and leaders

Coaching is a necessary skill for managers and leaders of all stripes. It’s actually a simple skill – but difficult to integrate into your day to day work. It’s easier – although often not as effective – to give advice rather than ask questions.

There are lots of books on or related to coaching out in the world – and a few are even worth reading. Here’s my take on the best seven (and yes, these are affiliate links). Take a look, and let me know what titles you’d add.

If you were to get a single textbook…

you’d grab David Rock and Linda Page’s Coaching with the Brain in Mind: Foundations for Practice. Page does a fantastic job tracing coaching’s roots and influences while Rock layers in insights about neuroscience. Not a light read, but a profound one.

If you wanted to master asking powerful questions…

you’d pick up Dorothy Strachan’s Making Questions Work. It’s written for facilitators and shows how and when to ask great questions – and what those questions might be. It’s a treasure trove of process and question.

If you wanted to understand how to really motivate those around you…

you’d read Dan Pink‘s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Bottom line: everything science tells us about what motivates people – Purpose, Autonomy & Mastery – is pretty much the opposite of what business does. (And he gives a nod to Do More Great Work in the paperback version – an added bonus.)

If you wanted to know why people resist your well-meaning offers to help…

the place you’d go would be Ed Schein’s Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help. Schein has been a source of wisdom for year about corporate culture and approaches to consulting. This book starts from this startling insight: every time you offer to help someone, you lower their status. So how do you help? This book offers some ways through

If you wanted to coach strong personalities…

Mary Beth O’Neill‘s Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart is the book for you. It’s a classic in the field, and is particularly useful at understanding the dynamic that might be playing out between you and the person you’re coaching – and helping you maintain your own ‘presence’ when in a challenging situation.

If you wanted to give feedback that worked…

you’d explore Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. His insights contribute to our Feedback Workshop, and you might start to understand why your feedback often doesn’t have the impact you hoped it would – and why, even though you know the theory of feedback, you often procrastinate about having those tough conversations

If you wanted to go deep…

then the book for you is Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey’s Immunity to Change. If you’ve found yourself trying to change – but struggling to make progress, even though you were committed (think exercising, losing weight, writing regular blog posts, etc) then this book and the process it describes help you understand how you might have you foot on the accelerator – and the brake at the same time.

And if you were still keen…

you might consider my self-coaching book, Get Unstuck & Get Going for a coach-free coaching experience.

What would you add to the list? And why?

5 Responses to 7 best coaching books for managers and leaders

  • Todd Henry

    They’re not a coaching books, per se, but with regard to leadership I’ve found both “The Halo Effect” and “The Leadership Challenge” to be remarkably effective in helping clarify objectives and establish “buckets” for what great leading looks like.

  • Jeffrey Davis

    Hi, Michael,
    Thanks for this great list. I just bought 3 of them. I’d also recommend Dev Patnaik’s Wired to Care. Patnaik’s emphasis is on how organizations thrive when their leaders cultivate empathy both within the organization and in their relationships to their broader respective communities/customer base.

  • Annemarie Grahl

    For executive coaching, Marshall Goldsmith’s “What got you here won’t get you there” provides great insights.

  • Silvia Gonzalez

    Dr. David Drake, founder of Narrative Coaching, recently led two workshops in Toronto on What is Narrative Coaching? and What are Narrative Design Labs? If you want to learn more about his work, you can go to the Canadian Centre for Narrative Coaching website: You can also purchase his book “The Philosophy and Practice of Coaching” or you can join him in February when he comes back to lead two other workshops!
    Thanks, Mike for this great list! Silvia

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