I’m new to formal coaching, so these may be familiar territory to those of you who are immersed in the subject, but I was inspired by the book to share its insights. Be glad to hear from others who may have read this or other coaching books for comparison.
‘Awareness is curative’. I loved this simple thought. It makes such sense. We all know that sometimes people just aren’t aware of the effects their behaviour has on others, or even themselves. Just having it pointed out is often all that’s needed.
I liked his idea of the coachee being thought of as ‘The Player’. This is an easy concept which helps the coach put the person they are coaching centre stage at all times and stops them trying to muscle in on the action. One only has to imagine an actual game of tennis, or a football match to realise that the coach can’t do the job a player does. Brilliant as Ivan Lendl was in his day, I suspect he’d be mashed by Novak Djokovic, and is much better off standing behind Sir Andy Murray and letting him get on the with job. But Downey takes it one stage further. It’s not that the coach does the thinking and the player puts it into action. As he says, ‘The player does the thinking. The coach’s role is to create an environment where the player can do their best thinking.’ In his view therefore, the coach’s primary function is to understand (the challenge, the opportunity, the situation), not to solve it.
Downey also admits that successful coaching comes from a belief in another’s potential rather than having the right answers yourself and imposing them on someone else. The question the book fairly raises is whether everyone has the potential. Downey believes so. His concept of ‘genius’ residing in everyone makes encouraging reading, and it’s not about doing your prescribed 10,000 hours in order to be expert. For him it’s more about allowing people to take responsibility and choice themselves. 99 times out of 100 they’ll have the right answer somewhere inside them. The coach’s job is to help them find it.
Where that answer comes from is therefore another subject that Downey explores in the book. He is a great believer in ‘flow’, the moment when your brain seems to work independently of active thought and seems to come up with solutions on its own. He calls this ‘Self Two’ and encourages us to find that place as often as possible in coaching sessions, although he admits it takes time and focus to get there. As he says, ‘trust the unfolding’, the process which leads you on to that place. His tip is to help the player work out what allows them to think like that. In one example it’s about the player getting up and walking around in order to think better for instance.
The book also covers some good advice on goal setting (with some useful frameworks for matching individual and corporate goals) and giving feedback (as cleanly as possible, supported by data and examples and keeping personal feelings out of it), with the aim to get the player’s opinion on the observed behaviour rather than giving yours. As I said at the start – awareness is curative.
And finally, there was a great quote about change – which is after all at the heart of what coaching is about – whether organisational change or personal growth. As he points out, the brain is essentially lazy, it choses to do the things that require least energy because energy is hard to come by (that explains teenage sofa surfing then!). His observation is that change uses more brain energy than almost anything else, which is why we shy away from it. So if you thought this stuff was hard, you’d be right. Downey’s book shows that there are some real benefits to making the effort though.
In short the combination of well phrased observations and some really good practical tips makes this a worthwhile read for anyone interested in helping others be great. There’s more information on Myles and his thinking at www.mylesdowney.com
His first book Stuart, A Life Backwards is a sad, funny and strange account that chronicles the life of Stuart, a homeless man and career criminal from Cambridge who spent time in prison. His second book, The Genius in my Basement, is an unusual biography of one of the world’s greatest living mathematicians and public transport addict, who just happened to be Masters’ live-in landlord in Cambridge. So you can imagine that his next book, A Life Discarded, is nothing short of brilliant – a curiously compulsive detective story which reminds us how strange people can be. A Life Discarded is written with Masters’ characteristic warmth, respect and humour and his magpie-like ability to see the jewel-like qualities in the rarest of folk. He focuses on 148 tatty and mouldy notebooks which were found in a skip in Cambridge in 2001. They were a small part of an intimate diary that began in 1952 and ended 50 years later. In A Life Discarded, Masters shares the true, shocking and poignant story of this mysterious diarist, which culminates in an astounding final revelation.
Although there’s nothing innovative about the idea of embracing risk, there is much commercial benefit to be gained from identifying fresh opportunity, and in developing new ways to respond.
This is the premise of Risky Strategy, which blends a rich array of strategic evidence - historic, scientific and sporting; research from the Ashbridge Business School and real world case studies – with the author’s own extensive experience as a management consultant and senior manager, to advance the promise of risk with energy and conviction.
More than asking provocative questions, Risky Strategy opens rewarding lines of enquiry, never more so than when examining the beliefs and behaviours of today’s business elite. And takes a bold perspective to show where and when the most rewarding opportunity might be found.
In addition, the author looks beyond the corporate walls, examining ‘hot topics’ such as data sharing and analysis, and the building of relationships, to advance a shared understanding and common language for identifying and mastering the risks ahead.
The concept of risk may not be new, but in making sense of underlying human behavior, inherent business need and commercial opportunity, Jamie MacAlister shows how critical risk truly is to the long-term decision-making process.
The Crime Writer takes an episode in the life of eccentric American novelist Patricia Highsmith when the thriller writer, in 1964, lived in a remote Suffolk village to concentrate on her writing. True life ends here and fiction begins. What unfolds is a riveting tale of madness, duplicity and murder as Highsmith embarks upon a clandestine romance with a married lover based in London. What follows is a compelling story interwoven with facts such as the touching friendship with her neighbour, the young Ronald Blythe, who was gathering material he later published in Akenfield. Dawson researches her subjects thoroughly to the point of obsession and the result is a nourishing portrait of a complicated and brilliant woman wrapped up in a mighty feast of a novel.
Jill Dawson is the best-selling author of nine novels, including Fred & Edie (short-listed for The Whitbread and Orange Prize) and Watch Me Disappear (long-listed for the Orange Prize). Her novel The Great Lover, about the poet Rupert Brooke, published in 2009, was a best-seller and a Richard and Judy Summer Read. Lucky Bunny, which tells the life of Queenie Dove, East End thief and good time girl, won a Fiction Uncovered Award. Her novel The Tell-Tale Heart, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘an uncanny and atmospheric novel by a skilful storyteller’ was long-listed for the Folio prize. All her novels are published by Sceptre.
Chernobyl Prayer was written by Belarusian journalist as her response to this disaster. To mark thirty years since this catastrophe a new translation of this masterpiece has just been published.
Over a number of years and despite risks to her own health from high levels of radiation Svetlana Alexievich interviewed over 500 eyewitnesses in the region, many now dead: the young widowed and pregnant wife of a firefighter who went to tackle the blaze in his shirtsleeves; those who stood on balconies watching the crimson blaze; the chemical engineer who describes digging diseased soil every day for six months after the accident; the clean-up workers. The result is a powerful, devastating and absorbing documentary account. Chernobyl Prayer gives a voice to the human experiences and emotions which resulted from the worst nuclear reactor accident in history and makes compelling reading.
Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine in 1948 and has spent most of her life in the Soviet Union and present day Belarus, with prolonged periods of exile in Western Europe. Starting out as a journalist, she developed her own non-fiction genre which brings together a chorus of voices to describe a specific historical moment. She has won many international awards including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015.
In the month of the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death it seems appropriate to reference something Bard related. Jacobson talked eloquently about his love for Shakespeare, the ridiculous notion of asking GSCE students to answer the question ‘Was Shakespeare anti-Semitic’ and his loathing of Portia. Should be a good read.
The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. The world has mostly depleted its fossil fuels, and climate change has irreversibly damaged the world. What little is left is being fought over by the world’s most powerful nations. Crime is at an all time high, and chaos reigns. So who can blame Wade, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS provides daily escapism, and it's free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game within the OASIS, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate.....
I really did love this book. It’s a game I could see myself playing, and a puzzle I could see myself be solving. The huge rush of 1980s nostalgia brought back memories of my childhood. Very interesting insight in how technology such a Virtual Reality can affect the Human kind.
Murphy is a tax specialist, professor and adviser (it would seem) to both sides of the UK political spectrum – having advised David Cameron and credited with inspiring Corbynomics. He’s an outspoken, fast talking challenger of most of the myths about money and tax that you will ever have heard. Above all he stands up for the idea that tax has the ability to change society for the better. He blogs athttp://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/ It’s not for the fainthearted.
This book was brought to my attention by our Creative Director, Chris Butterworth, on the back of an extremely good article in the FT. It provoked Chris to do a highly provocative presentation to all of us in the agency about whether digital had driven us all down a rabbit hole - so I thought it had to be worth a read.
Byron Sharp's premise is based on aggregating a whole number of studies of brand growth and, as the book suggests, trying to identify what the defining factors are. There are 3 in his view and they are not quite all as you think.
1. Brands don't grow by selling more to existing customers but by being more likely to be bought by occasional users than their competitors.
2. Brands aren't as differentiated as marketers might like to think. The values people ascribe to their preferred brand are pretty similar to the values someone else ascribes to the (different) brand that they prefer. Salience, in Sharp's view, is therefore more valuable than differentiation because it is more likely to result in 1.
3. The bigger the brand the more likely you are to get bought.
This is based on a study of consumer brands, but I like it as a business marketer for 2 reasons.
First he writes clearly and debunks some long held beliefs, as well as some more recent myths (Lovemarks being one of them). I always enjoy an opposing point of view!
Secondly it's one of the few books you read which forces you to actively challenge your own beliefs and see whether they still hold up. I found myself taking notes about how and whether this would apply in the B2B context, a subject that I got so wound up about that I contacted him to ask.
I will post his response on this site, but in the meantime it's a recommended read here because it forces us to actually think which, if any, of those old marketing home truths really do apply in the B2B world.
Once in a rare while you find a writer whose command of language takes your breath away. Colm Tóibín is such a writer and his craft is faultlessly displayed in Nora Webster, his brilliant portrait of widowhood and grief. Set against a backdrop of political turmoil in Ireland in the late 1960’s it tells the story of the recently widowed Nora Webster living in a small town, looking after her four children and trying to rebuild her life. In Nora Webster Tóibín creates one of the most memorable heroines in contemporary fiction and one of his great triumphs is the skill and quiet restraint he uses to depict what is a deeply personal story. Colm Tóibín is one of Ireland’s contemporary masters and his understanding of the universal truths of humanity, compassion and joy shine off every page. To read Nora Webster is to take a journey of pace and place, a journey that revisits the Ireland ofBrooklyn, an earlier novel which has recently been adapted for film by Nick Hornby, and a journey that will leave you wanting to read everything else that this master has written. An appropriate book to read in a year when Ireland marks the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising .
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