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Book review: Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Coaching Room

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17th Sep 2013
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Title: Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Coaching Room
Authors: Erik de Haan, Ann Baldwin, Nicola Carew, Stephanie Conway
ISBN: 978-1907471773

This book review was written by Nicola Barber, HR Manager Kilwaughter Chemical Company Limited and Regional Ambassador, Engage for Success.

I approached this book with a certain degree of weariness; the cover looked like a standard text book. However, as I am in the process of completing a formal coaching qualification I was keen to explore.  To my surprise and admittedly after flicking through the introduction, I found myself reading the prologue and sitting up and taking notice.  It was nothing like what I had expected. I was hooked by the concept of ‘sitting at the feet of your own experience’. I was surprised at the honesty and bravery of an author prepared to admit that he and his fellow professionals ‘remain clueless’ about certain aspects of coaching practice.

The Introduction and prologue are the only sections of this book with an identifiable author. The remaining chapters have each been written by but not attributed to one of the eleven other contributing authors.  I believe that it is the freedom that this anonymous approach has engendered that has allowed this book to resonate with such powerful personal testimonies.

This is a complex book which explores complex coaching issues. As a resource for coaching professionals it may well be invaluable. It offers a powerful and personal insight into the world of coaching from the perspective of the practicing coach. The book presents that rare offering from academic literature – it translates dry coaching theory into living, breathing and hands on practice. Each chapter presents a new coaching thread which, by book end, weaves a rich tapestry of coaching experience.

Not only should this book be invaluable reading for coaching professionals, it is also a valuable companion piece for students or those with simply a passing interest in the concept of coaching.  Each chapter is clearly and methodically laid out. The headings clearly signpost the reader through each chapter and towards a logical conclusion. Indeed, whilst reading the book I identified many referencing opportunities which I could have used for many previous student dissertations and assignments.

Behind Closed Doors provides its reader with an exploration of complex coaching issues whilst also providing a practical framework upon which existing and prospective coaches can build their own coaching experience. Upon returning to this book after an initial read, I realised just how practical it is for examining coaching from an academic/practitioner point of view. A quick look at the Introduction allows the reader to easily jump between chapters, exploring whichever particular coaching issue they may be most interested in. 

This book will provoke strong feelings within the reader. Many of the authors disclose and explore deep and at times raw emotion.  The fears, trials and tribulations faced by these and other coaches are exposed throughout the book. Equally, the satisfaction, sense of accomplishment and at times sheer joy experienced from the successful conclusion of a challenging coaching relationship is also conveyed and explored throughout the book.

This brave book deserves a place on any coaching professional’s book shelf.  It also deserves inclusion upon the reading list for students of coaching who wish to gain a holistic understanding of and appreciation for the art of coaching. This book will reveal to its reader that ‘habitual reflective inquiry’ or, for the coaching novice, holding a mirror to one self, is the key differentiating characteristic that marks out a great coach.  

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

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