Coach to Coach: A book review by Bob Morris

Coach to CoachCoach to Coach: Emotional Intelligence and Leadership for Winning Coaches
Sara C. Smith
Starfish Publishing (2014)

Great coaches have a “green thumb” to “grow” people

I have known Sara Smith for several years and consider her to be among the most effective executive coaches because she has a unique and abundant combination of intelligence, integrity, street smarts, decency, real-world experience, and highly-developed emotional intelligence. She is passionately committed to helping individuals as well as teams to maximize their personal growth and professional intelligence.

What we have in this volume is a wealth of information, insights, and counsel that will be of special interest and value to those who manage business teams, and, to those who aspire to do so. Leadership must not be limited to the inhabitants of the C-suite. Healthy organizations have effective leaders at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Knowledge transfers occur constantly because they must. Everyone knows more than any one person does.

Sharing information (e.g. dos and don’ts) is one issue. Explaining the “how” and “why” is quite another and it is then that coaching is essential. So what I am suggesting is that, yes, Coach to Coach has two very important purposes: To help coaches coach more effectively, and, while doing so, help those they coach to become more effective when sharing – and explaining –knowledge.

Sara immediately establishes a direct, personal, almost conversational rapport with her reader, then presents her material within ten brief but substantial chapters, following a clever “Pre-Game Warm Up” to prepare the reader for what awaits. The details of each chapter are best revealed within the narrative, in context, but I do wish make three points:

1. Not everyone has the temperament needed to be an effective coach either in the sports world or in business. For almost 20 years, I coached varsity football and varsity basketball at two boarding schools in New England and attended dozens of clinics at which Hall of Fame coaches such as Vince Lombardi and John Wooden referred to themselves as teachers and confided that they preferred practices to games. Peter Drucker hated the term “guru” and always referred to himself as a “student” or “observer.” Great coaches love to teach…and to learn.

2. Also, all great coaches care deeply about those entrusted to their care. Like Sara, they have highly developed emotional intelligence and are happiest when helping people “get it” (whatever that may be). In our society today, there is a great deal of pleasure but much less joy. Coaches see learning opportunities as gardens and cherish opportunities to help people grow.

3. Finally, I commend Sara on her superb use of reader-friendly devices such as sports nomenclature (e.g. Pre-Game, Post-Game) and – in each chapter — “Practice Drills” to apply key points covered and “journal pages” on which to record notes as well as dozens of real-world examples that illustrate major insights. I presume to suggest highlighting key passages with an optic yellow (wide) Sharpie.

As indicated earlier, I think Sara’s book will prove invaluable to those who now coach. I also suggest that, after reading and then re-reading this book at least once, they include among their New Year’s resolutions a commitment to helping prepare as many people as they can to become a coach.

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