by Leonardo Ravier, Ph.D
Although, lately, there has been a perceptible increase in the publication of books aimed at the coaching profession (both nationally and internationally), the truth is that there are few, very few, that reflect an understanding of the importance of the methodological approach adopted by the coach. By this, I mean that the great majority of books focus on “resources”, “tools”, or “practices”, yet fail to carefully define the essential essence of this helper activity. This focus on tips and tools and absence a comprehensive framework for what we are doing has resulted in tremendous confusion and impeded the development of the field.
Given the proliferation of this type of book, I would like to highlight, at this year’s end, a book that I think is as essential to understanding the nature of coaching as was John Whitmore’s, PerformanceTraining for Business Performance, published in1995 (later reissued under the name, Coaching: the method to improve people’s performance (2003)).
Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: An introduction to non-directive coaching” by Bob Thomson, published by Chandos Publishing in January 2009, is a book that should undoubtedly occupy a prominent place in the library of those with an interest in coaching methodology and who appreciate the value of the non-directive approach.
Thomson’s intention with the publication of this book, is to explain the importance of practicing non-directive coaching.
“My own preference is to be primarily non-directive, and this stance significantly shapes the ideas offered in the book. I am, as someone once said to me, directive about the importance of being non-directive.” B. Thomson (Preface, xix)
“My personal preference is to be fundamentally non-directive, and this position takes a significant form in the ideas offered in this book. I am, as someone once told me, directive about the importance of being non-directive” B. Thomson (Preface, xix – translated by Dr. Leonardo Ravier)
As it should be, and it could not be otherwise, Bob refers to the fundamentals of non-directive coaching, especially mentioning Carl Rogers and Timothy Gallwey. The simplicity, clarity and depth of the book is characteristic of those written by non-managerial coaches. Recognizes that there is a spectrum between directive (managerial) and non-directive approaches, the author mentions the importance of awareness and responsibility, and dedicates a chapter to each of the 3 fundamental skills of the coach: Listen, Ask and “Playing Back” (synthesize, paraphrase or reflect). He also mentions the use of “clear language” (Clean Language), a focus normally absent in the many of the coaching solutions on the market and essential to best practice in the profession.
I leave my criticism for the end, given that the virtues of this book, as I have already mentioned, place it well beyond the scope and quality of more recent publications in the field.
In a conversation with Bob (and as he expresses in his book) he acknowledges that while he practices predominantly non-directive coaching, he believes there is room for the coach to move along the managerial spectrum. However, in my favor I must add, that at least, it also recognizes that this “leap across the spectrum” must be done with awareness and clarity regarding the client, and recognizing that this fluid positioning will impact the coaching relationship.
Personally, I believe that these concessions are not worth it, and that such an impact can render the coaching relationship less effective. Despite this, and without a doubt, Mr Thomas is clearly a coach who has understood the value of non-directive coaching and who through his book invites us to reflect on this approach, what it is and how to use it in the exercise of our profession.
(Original review by Dr Ravier Leonardo – Translation, Leslie Taylor)