performance coaching


John Whitmore was a racing driver who then transitioned into sports psychology. Whitmore’s main purpose for writing the book was to ‘define and establish the root principles of coaching’ that went beyond what was understood in the sport coaching and expand the principles to demonstrate and share how coaching can improve performance far beyond the sporting arena.

The book type is listed in ‘Management and Management Skills’ section within Amazon. It’s target audience is managers who want to develop a coaching style approach to management and further develop their people.

I believe that some of the principles that are explored in the book are equally applicable to non managers.

In writing the book, Whitmore sought to provide a deeper psychological understanding of coaching and also to demonstrate how coaching can be used in a broader context with the focus being on businesses and management. It set out to provide a tool to improve team and individual performances within a business environment.

On the whole, I also like the style of writing; key items are highlighted in bold text and there are also key ‘take aways’ documented in the margins.

The book is set out in a logical sequence. I found the first part of the book (Chapters 1 – 10) to be the most useful in terms of interest, information and learning. The second part is quite informative, but it does drag on towards the end and really seems to be a regurgitation of other learning models documented in the author’s own words.


The first part looks at the principles of coaching, where he explores what coaching is, how the manager is a coach. It describes the differences between teaching, traditional management and coaching and documents some of the limitations of teaching and traditional management and why coaching is more effective as an approach.

The key message here is that to be a great coach you do not need to be an expert in any particular field; a great coach builds the coachee’s self-belief so that the coachee develops him or herself.

It explores the nature of change and provides great insight into what stops people in terms of fear and what we could focus on instead. This aspect is written with openness and humility and gives a balanced view ‘for’ and ‘against’ coaching in terms of people and culture.


The nature of coaching emphasises really well the importance of self awareness and how to raise it. This chapter provides great linkage and transitions between theory and applying the principles practically. This aspect of the book works really well on two levels; firstly on you the reader in terms of your own self development and secondly as you the reader as a coach. It’s incredibly well rounded and cleverly written so that it doesn’t point a finger at you, but carefully gets you to explore the topic as an individual and a coach.

The remainder of the first part of the book works through how to question effectively, and what sort of questions to use and then goes on to explore the ‘GROW’ (Goal Setting, What is Reality, What Options do you have and what Will you do) model.

The section provides a great foundation and backdrop for understanding coaching and the GROW model that the author wants the reader to follow.

The second part looks at the practice of coaching and it explores what performance is and how as a manager you can improve performance by understanding more about how people learn and what their motivations could be in terms of learning. I personally found some great information in the ‘What is Performance’ section, where the author links performance, learning and enjoyment intrinsically, and helps the reader to gain more clarity and understanding around performance and what aspects are needed if improvements are to be made.  How you can coach so that is has meaning and it also explores appraisals and feedback all at an individual level. The section then goes on to explore this in a team context.

The third part looks at the leader and explores some of the challenges faced as a leader, and then really goes on to provide the reader with ‘a mirror’ to explore and evaluate their own leadership style. It also provides some key themes for the reader to explore and practice in order to improve their own leadership style.

The final part touches on Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) and provides a brief but useful insight into a follow on stage to the GROW model with some more tools that can be used to further enhance performance. It provides the appetite for those that are ready to seek further learning.

It was interesting to compare aspects of the second part and the final part as the author seemed to have some contradictory views. Within the Chapter ‘What is Reality’ (page 73) he suggests that ‘coaching generally addresses issues directly related tot he workplace, but counselling has other origins’, and then in the final part the author is exploring Emotional Intelligence. I have the view that whilst coaching may start with a workplace related issue, there is often something deeper that is stopping of hindering progress, that may not require counselling, and this aspect requires a higher level of Emotional Intelligence through coaching in order to support the coachee to work through the issue. I do not believe that it is quite as ‘black and white’ as the author suggests in this chapter.

As outlined at the beginning of this review, the target audience is businesses and that was partly the reason that I found the latter part of the book a little tedious. If the book was targeted at a novice manager, or teenagers, then the latter part of the book would provide very useful theory and strategies that could be adopted. Nonetheless,  the author has linked together  well existing theories and demonstrated how they align to the GROW model and to performance coaching.

In general, I do find it difficult to overly criticise the book, but a word of caution, please read the book with an open mind and be prepared to absorb what the author says otherwise the investment would prove fruitless.

Overall I believe on the first section alone, the book is worth the investment.

Book Review: Coaching for Performance 4th Edition

Author: John Whitmore

Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-85788-535-4

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