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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How took me from coachee to coach and back again…

There and back again
There and back again


Like most of you I’m on a constant self improvement journey.

Over 435 days ago I downloaded with a goal of building habits – such as lose weight, be more productive and other lifestyle goals. The benefit I saw in was the constant reinforcement and feedback which perhaps other efforts had previously lacked.

A subsequent reading of Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” has further reinforced that is on the right track.

Formerly Lift, is an online app and website that is your personal one on one coach, going  everywhere with you, helping you achieve any goal, change any habit, or build any expertise.

The concept is cleverly simple: Choose a habit, do it, check in. Build a streak, resist breaking the streak and keep doing whatever you want to do. The app is free to use, and there’s a great online community of people who are a step ahead of you and are willing to share their experience and advice.

It’s also possible to follow other members and give and receive “props” (thumbs up) from people. Great additional positive reinforcement.

I joined up and activated a couple of goals that seemed important to me at the time – daily cold showers, something about weights and measurements and a couple of random habits. I started checking in, building streaks.

Over time I mixed up my habits. There doesn’t appear to be a limit but with too many I found the actual process of checking in became onerous so I’ve stayed at around 6.

I also built up the confidence to answer questions in the Q&A and realised

“hey, I actually do know this stuff”.

It’s an interesting change in mindset to move from being good at something to the realisation that, for whatever reason and in whatever capacity, I’m some sort of expert.


Late in 2014 I received an email from asking whether I was interesting in “Accountability Coaching”. For $15 a week, an Accountability Coach takes to the next level by giving you one on one direct access to a person whose job is to help keep you on track. Through asynchronous chat, your Accountability Coach provides tips, direction and feedback when things are going well and also helps get you restarted if you start to stray.

“Well”, I thought “why not?” provided a webinar with training plus additional resources, plus, of course, an “Accountability Coaching” habit to track along with support from other Accountability Coaches. If you’re starting to get the impression that the people are pretty awesome, you’re on the right track.

I started coaching and a couple of clients found me and I started working with them. They seemed to enjoy the experience.

I was then approached by to be a “featured coach” in their weekly newsletter. I’m not really sure why they picked me, but I’m grateful.

“Well”, I thought “why not?”

Erin at suggested I create a plan – so I did (it’s here), featured me and about 50 people signed up in the first week. has a permanent free 1st week code – COACHME – and, as expected, some people were just trying it out, but amazingly about 40 stayed past the first week.

So far I’ve helped about 50 people on “Inbox Zero” and “Slow Carb Diet by Tim Ferriss“. I’ve discovered that my style doesn’t suit everyone and not everyone who says they want to fix something actually has the time, energy or focus to fix it. It’s good fun and I feel I’m adding real value. Some of the comments are private, but I can share this testimonial:

“INBOX ZERO. OMG It’s actually empty. Not just “empty of newish stuff and junk” but EMPTY, for the first time since 2001. I had gotten my Inbox down to a couple hundred saved messages earlier but now it’s EMPTY. I went through some of those couple hundred saved messages and some are clearly out-of-date (now deleted). The rest got group-glumped into “archive” where they are searchable if needed and will probably never be seen or wanted again. Computer memory is cheap (and virtually limitless). Open loops in my own brain are neither.” – Lee.


This is all pretty cool and generously shares the client fee 50/50. That’s handy pocket money to offset the time investment, but coaching isn’t about the money.

An unexpected benefit of all this coaching is that I am learning from my clients. As they ask questions and probe my knowledge I’ve found I’ve clarified my own thinking around my habits. It’s one thing to be able to do something, but how do I explain to someone else what my thought processes are. Are they even my thought processes or do I just think they are?

I’ve also had to become more effective at dealing with the coaching workload outside of business hours. I’ve got a full time job so I need to be strict – coaching does not occur during daylight hours Monday to Friday.

To get up at 540am I need to go to bed on time at 10pm. (And, yes, there’s a habit for that too!). And if I’m getting up at 540am I’m not going to muck around before getting down to business, so I’m better prepared first thing.

Quite obviously I’m also getting better at my habits so I can stay ahead of my awesome clients! I need to be teaching them and working with them and helping them over the obstacles. This is all much easier to do if I’m in the position I should be.

So has taken me from ‘coachee’ to ‘coach’ and back again. I’m a better person for the experience.

Joining is a no lose proposition. I highly recommend giving it a try

Action steps:

1) Go to or download the mobile app. It’s free.

2) Find something you should be doing, sign up to the habit, and start coaching yourself.

3) Contribute. Follow your friends and help out with the Questions and Answers. Be part of the community.

4) If you think you have some coaching in you, sign up.

Good luck.

For more information about what I coach, my coaching link is below:

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