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...

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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.

By Deborah Ford,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Dark Side of the Light Chasers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this enlightening guide, Debbie Ford explains that the dark side of our personality should not be hidden. By denying our dark side, we reject these aspects of our true natures rather than giving ourselves the freedom to live authentically. Here she shows that it is possible to acknowledge and accept our so-called weaknesses, proving that these qualities may be important, hidden strengths. For example, perhaps some 'selfishness' can save us from exhaustion and resentment.

Full of illuminating stories and practical exercises, Debbie Ford shows us how to reconcile our darker impulses and find the gifts they offer. Your life…

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

Why did I love 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.

By W. Timothy Gallwey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Inner Game of Tennis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Improve your game and discover your true potential by increasing your concentration, willpower and confidence.

Described by Billie Jean King as her 'tennis bible', Timothy Gallwey's multi-million bestseller, including an introduction from acclaimed sports psychologist Geoff Beattie, has been a phenomenon for players of all abilities since it was first published in 1972.

Instead of concentrating on how to improve your technique, it starts from the understanding that 'every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game'. The former is played against opponents on the court, but the latter is a battle within ourselves as…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Haesun Moon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Coaching A to Z as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Your indispensable guide for coaching mastery.

Language is a powerful tool that can unite, engage, and move people to action. It's all in what you choose to say, and how you say it.

In this practical, accessible guide to having more powerful conversations, leading evidence-based coaching expert Haesun Moon offers a set of powerful words or phrases-one for every letter of the alphabet-to help you move others toward greater purpose and accomplishment. Based on her extensive research with the University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School, Moon shows you how to apply each of these concepts to transform the way…

The 48 Laws of Power

By Robert Greene,

Book cover of The 48 Laws of Power

Why did I love 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.

By Robert Greene,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The 48 Laws of Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive, this multi-million-copy New York Times bestseller is the definitive manual for anyone interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control – from the author of The Laws of Human Nature.

In the book that People magazine proclaimed “beguiling” and “fascinating,” Robert Greene and Joost Elffers have distilled three thousand years of the history of power into 48 essential laws by drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz and also from the lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.
Some laws teach the need for prudence (“Law…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Jennifer Riel, Roger L. Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Creating Great Choices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Move Beyond Trade-Off Thinking

When it comes to our hardest choices, it can seem as though making trade-offs is inevitable. But what about those crucial times when accepting the obvious trade-off just isn't good enough? What do we do when the choices in front of us don't get us what we need? In those cases, rather than choosing the least worst option, we can use the models in front of us to create a new and superior answer. This is integrative thinking.

First introduced by world-renowned strategic thinker Roger Martin in The Opposable Mind, integrative thinking is an approach to…

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