The Tao of Coaching – highlights

Tao of Coaching

The Tao of Coaching – highlights

The Tao of Coaching – by Max Landsberg

First published in 1996, The Tao of Coaching is a terrific read. Not often I take notes when reading, but for some reason chose to in this case. And, here they are. Of course, if you think the notes are interesting, buy the book! The book is better than my notes.

Let me be clear, this is not a review. If I were to write a review, it would say “Buy this book if you want to coach anyone in anything”. It’s my notes, and they’re not neccessarily in any logical order.

Tao (pronounced “dow”). Everything is connected and influenced by everything else.

Coaching – aims to enhance the performance and the learning ability of others.

20 Golden Rules of Coaching

  1. You can’t be a leader without having a following.
  2. Ask questions when helping others develop their skills.
  3. Receiving feedback means active listening.
  4. Coaching also benefits the coach.
  5. Guide – don’t judge – when coaching.
  6. Organise your coaching sessions well – start in the correct direction.
  7. Great teams overcome differences in styles of coaching.
  8. Overcome your coaching blocks – or you will never delegate.
  9. Instant payoff coaching can work – though only if delivered well.
  10. Diagnose your coachee’s will – not just skill.
  11. With a reluctant coachee – first build trust.
  12. You can’t motivate others if they can’t see you.
  13. Take the time to anticipate cultural differences.
  14. Know how to set up teams well.
  15. Use the power of questions to reframe.
  16. Coaches work with observable facts, not just gut feel.
  17. Providing upward feedback to the boss can have its benefits.
  18. Become eloquent in the language of setting goals.
  19. Mentor someone, and be mentored.
  20. The effects of your coaching can be even more powerful than you imagine.


  1. Overall, the coach is aiming for the coachee to help themselves.
  2. Ask questions, and paraphrase.
  3. Make suggestions.
  4. Trust and honesty are recurring themes throughout the book.
  5. Should all clients do the Myers-Briggs test?




Desired Outcome

Actions – The things the coachee is doing well, or poorly in the area under review.

Impact – The effect these actions are having.

Desired Outcome – The ways in which the coachee could do things more effectively.

The GROW coaching model


GOAL – Agree on a specific topic and objective.

REALITY – Self-assessment, specific examples.

OPTIONS – Suggestions offered, choices made.

WRAP UP – Commit to Action. Define a timeframe. Identify how to overcome obstacles.

Instant payoff coaching

  1. Problem. Coachee defined.
  2. Ideal Outcome. Coachee to specifically define.
  3. Blocks with coachee, blocks with others, blocks with the situation.
  4. Brainstorm together. Agree on an approach, actions and timing.

Skill / Will Matrix

Skill = Experience, training, understanding.

Will = Desire to achieve, incentives, security, confidence.

High Will / Low Skill – GUIDE

High Will / High Skill – DELEGATE

Low Will / Low Skill – DIRECT

Low Will / High Skill – EXCITE

Reluctant Coachee

“Intrinsic Reluctance”

Unwillingness to admit room for improvement

  • Diagnose barriers
  • Emphasise factual evidence illustrating need to improve (“Push” strategy).
  • Build trust.
  • Postpone to a specific session.
  • Disarm – coaching is “non-evaluative” and “non-judgemental”.

Rules of Motivation

  1. Know where the coachee is in the “Cycle of Motivation” –
    1. Lack of confidence vs. confidence.
    2. Hesitant vs. aspiring.
    3. Poor results vs. Strong results.
    4. Negative feedback vs. praise.
  2. Work on their confidence if they are positive.
  3. Work on praise if they are negative.
  4. Identify needs for support and training.
  5. Learn what motivates the coachee.

Be aware of cultural differences

Directness – “Get to the point”, or “imply”.

Hierarchy – “Follow instructions”, or “debate options”.

Consensus – “Is dissent okay?”, or “unanimity is needed”.

Individualism – “Individual winners”, or “team effectiveness”.

I found The Tao of Coaching very easy to read, and relevant to face to face, online, text and chat coaching. It’s a worthwhile addition to any coaching library.

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