The most unexpectedly useful books about coaching

Michael Bungay Stanier Author Of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
By Michael Bungay Stanier

Who am I?

Coaching is a wonderful technology that can help people be a force for change… and is often wrapped up in mystic and woo-woo and privilege that makes it inaccessible and/or unattractive to too many. I want being more coach-like—by which I mean staying curious a little longer, and rushing to action and advice-giving—to be an everyday way of being with one another. Driven by this, I’ve written the best-selling book on coaching this century (The Coaching Habit) and have created training that’s been used around the world by more than a quarter of a million people. I’m on a mission to unweird coaching.


I wrote...

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

What is my book about?

The Coaching Habit is this century’s best-selling book on coaching, with over a million copies sold and thousands of five-star reviews online. It makes being more coach-like—staying curious a little bit longer, rushing to action, and advice-giving a little more slowly—something anyone can do, even (especially) if you're skeptical about all this “soft skills” stuff.

Based on seven essential questions and the tools to make using them an everyday habit, The Coaching Habit is helpful for managers, leaders, parents, children, and anyone who interacts with other human beings.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams

By Deborah Ford,

Book cover of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams

Why this book?

Carl Jung has two quotes that I love. First, “the gold is in the dark.” And second, “I’d rather be whole than good.” Both recognize that we’re complicated, contradictory, and gloriously messy beings. Debbie Ford’s book was the first time I felt I could actually do something with the profound wisdom of Jung. One particular exercise pretty much “cured” me immediately of some long-standing resentment I had with a former boss. Even though the language is sometimes a bit too woo-woo Californian hippy for me, it’s a book with some deeply useful exercises to help you become more whole, kinder to yourself, and ultimately more wholly you.


The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

By W. Timothy Gallwey,

Book cover of The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

Why this book?

Like Debbie Ford, Gallwey’s work was big in the early years of the century, but his influence has faded a little—which is a real shame. Gallwey rose to fame by through a 60 Minutes clip where he taught a woman to play tennis in under an hour. (It’s amazing to see.) But this book is not about tennis. It’s filled with evergreen and universal insight and tools on how to learn, what to learn, and what gets in the way of you performing at your best. It’s a bit like Zen meets Wimbledon.


Coaching A to Z: The Extraordinary Use of Ordinary Words

By Haesun Moon,

Book cover of Coaching A to Z: The Extraordinary Use of Ordinary Words

Why this book?

Moon realizes that certain words are particularly helpful and powerful in making conversations better (all conversations, not just coaching ones). It’s one short word per letter (“Difference”, “Might”, and “Yet” are three of my favourites), and this feels like a collection of twenty-six precise tools that can help any type of discussion more elegant, more curious, more filled with potential and more useful.


The 48 Laws of Power

By Robert Greene,

Book cover of The 48 Laws of Power

Why this book?

A good coaching conversation should generate not only insight (about yourself, about the situation at hand, about the world) but also action. If nothing changes, well, what’s the point? This is the best of Greene’s books, and it combines a ridiculously wide range of scholarship with some realpolitik lessons on how stuff gets done. When you feel there’s only one way forward, this book will show you the other 47 you might consider.


Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking

By Jennifer Riel, Roger L. Martin,

Book cover of Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking

Why this book?

My mentor Peter Block taught me that the ultimate act of being an adult, the ultimate act of taking responsibility for your own freedom, was making choices. Some choices of course are easyI’ll have a double espresso, pleasebut plenty are difficult. You don’t have all the data, it’s too close to call, and you can feel the combination of anxiety and guilt that can come with committing. This book adds some structure and discipline to how to make the best possible choice, and by doing so makes it easier to be more courageous and bold.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in communication, decision making, and power?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about communication, decision making, and power.

Communication Explore 25 books about communication
Decision Making Explore 42 books about decision making
Power Explore 27 books about power

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Nonviolent Communication, A New Earth, and All the Castles Burned if you like this list.