The Extraordinary Leader: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow
Book Review by Bryan Lubic
Zenger, J. H. and Stinnett, K. (2010). The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow. New York: McGraw Hill. (306 pages, including appendix and notes). ISBN-13: 978-0-07-170340-6.
With a solid foundation based on the benefits coaching brings to business, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow draws a clear map for the use of coaching conversations as the route for organizational success.
You might like this book and find it useful if you:
...enjoy, are interested in, or you are curious about the benefits of coaching in organizational settings;
...would like to develop or strengthen your coaching skills through the use of a clear, concise and flexible framework;
...enjoy reading about coaching, especially when the material is written in a lively, conversational style that itself feels like a coaching conversation, complete with reflection questions and practical activities.
Three Key Strengths and Contributions of this Book
The book begins with the benefits of coaching, clearly outlined in a crisp, easy to read tone, format and style. This is notable, appealing and engaging: throughout the book, well-organized chapters flow smoothly with a credible and conversational style, punctuated by interactive activities and worksheets that connected me to the material, and ultimately, to highly effective ways to improve my coaching skills. The experience was valuable, and is one I will repeat: reading and completing the activities is like a self-paced in-service or individualized coaching session.
At the same time, I was energized and excited by the outstanding integration of experiential activities, like self-assessments, reflections, and action planning. I also enjoyed the “personalized” tone Zenger and Stinnett used -- it felt conversational in the best sense, and made reading the book feel like a coaching dialogue itself.
Zenger and Stinnett also offer an excellent framework for holding effective coaching conversations, which they describe with the acronym “FUEL”. It’s explained clearly in a simple and effective Coaching Conversation Guide, neatly laid out over a two page spread in the book. With prompting questions in each category, this job-aid is designed to be readily implemented. I found this method and framework easy to understand, and even more important, easy to share and explain to others interested in learning how to hold coaching conversations.
The FUEL framework is:
Frame the Conversation:
Set the context and focus for the conversation
Understand the Current State:
Explore the individual’s point of view before sharing your own
Explore the Desired State:
Identify the target and generate multiple paths to achieve the end state
Lay Out a Success Plan:
Create the detailed, actionable plan and follow through that will lead to goal attainment
The overview section also includes suggestions for when to use and apply the guide, as well as thoughtful prompts to the reader that encourage adapting and modifying the guide to their own specific situations. Each component is further explained in the following chapters, with sample coaching conversations, more interactive activities, and concise chapter summaries.
Finally, Zenger and Stinnett connect the FUEL framework and the value and impact of coaching to organizational change and employee development through ten outcomes that are based on their long term research and experience implementing coaching in organizations.
Quick sidenote: Although I am discussing this aspect in my third point, Zenger and Stinnett wisely shared these ten outcomes--and the resulting business benefits and impact--as the entire main point of their first chapter. As they quickly explain in Chapter 1, coaching can provide many interconnected benefits, including:
meaning and significance for employees, which creates additional ways for people to connect with their organization;
increased engagement and commitment to the organization, which leads to better productivity and higher levels of customer satisfaction;
stronger and more effective relationships between supervisors and employees;
healthier, more fulfilled, and more resilient employees;
increased creativity, more effective risk taking, and increased ownership.
Notably (and effectively!), Zenger and Stinnett weave the business benefits and impacts of coaching throughout the entire book as well, combining quick examples and illustrations based on their research and experience alongside anecdotes and explanations of the coaching frameworks and processes.
Limitations of this book
There are two key limitations to the current edition of this excellent book.
First, the references to additional online resources have changed slightly since the original publication in 2010. While the resources are still available on the Zenger Folkman website, access requires completing a form that I found a bit too long. Nothing outrageous, but I was frustrated when I had to create (yet another) online account when all I wanted was access to the video examples showcasing specific skills. Despite the relatively small frustration, the videos are very much worthwhile and very useful.
Second, the layout of the worksheets in the book occasionally appear awkward. There were a few page breaks in the middle of worksheet sections, and some worksheets were too small to be truly useful within the book. I would prefer online access to the worksheets and activities from the book--that would make it easier to complete them.
However, these two limitations are by no means a deal-breaker for this excellent book. The rest of the book is laid out very effectively, with great use of quotes, bullets, and clear formatting for easy reading and reference.
Bottom line: Highly recommended
If you like coaching, want to improve your skills, or would like to help someone develop their coaching skills, this book is an excellent choice. Using a well-researched, strengths-based approach, Zenger and Stinnett make a compelling business case for using coaching in organizations to improve the business--and more importantly, the develop people within.
Bryan Lubic, M.A., CCMC, is a Professional Development Advisor at San Diego State University. He is also a law school graduate and a certified career coach. Career Convergence and NCDA appreciate his volunteer work as the Associate Editor of the Organizations Department. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.