Book Review: The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr

I’ve reviewed several advanced coaching books in the past but I was asked to recommend a good introduction to the topic to support those attending my various coaching training sessions. Coaching is proven to be an effective way to develop and retain your team members. Coaching is an essential leadership skill and a domain of emotional intelligence (Research on leadership and emotional intelligence (EQ) ( As an accredited psychotherapeutic counsellor and a qualified and experienced coach I recommend this book. Book Review: The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr

Overview of The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr

The coaching manual – Your step-by-step guide to becoming a great coach (fifth edition, published 2021) is by Julie Starr. Its subtitle is “the definitive guide to the process, principles and skills of personal coaching”.

This 250-page book (with a further 40 pages of resources) provides an excellent introduction to coaching – whether you are developing your coaching skills to use inhouse or considering qualifying as a professional coach in the future. Early on there is an examination of the attributes of a good (effective) coach.

It’s written in a simple and easy to read style – very down to earth and pragmatic. Each point is well illustrated with examples of coaching dialogue – so the reader can see exactly what is meant and the ideas in action. Throughout the book there are prompts and exercises to pause and reflect which are supplemented with stories and ”at a glance” summaries.

The book contains a lot of implicit psychology knowledge. Many techniques are from the counselling and therapeutic disciplines – there’s evidence of the person-centred Humanistic and Gestalt traditions (especially remaining in the “here and now” and being mindful about how your body reacts to situations).

The author advocates a collaborative approach to coaching – where the coach takes a supportive, non-directive approach through a process of enquiry, learning and action. Those who are interested in more directive approaches should probably explore material on mentoring.

Coaching is really simple to describe. But it takes training and practice to become a good coach. This book should prove a valuable resource to anyone exploring coaching for the first time.

Seven coaching principles

The author’s definition: “Coaching is a conversation, or series of conversations, that one person has with another. What distinguishes the conversation from any other is the impact the conversation has on the person being coached (the coachee)”

The seven coaching principles or beliefs (part of our mindset) are described:

  1. Maintain noticeable commitment to support the individual
    • Non-judgement, objective and neutral
    • A quiet mind can focus more objectively (don’t become a “fixer”)
  2. Build the coaching relationship with integrity, openness and trust
    • Confidentiality – avoid conflicts with what the coachee wants and what the organisation wants
  3. The coachee is responsible for the results they are generating
  4. The coachee is capable of much better results than they are creating
  5. Focus on what the coachee thinks and experiences
  6. Coachees can generate perfect solutions
  7. The conversation is based on equality

Five fundamental coaching skills

  1. Building rapport and relationship
  2. Focused levels of listening You’re not listening – What you’re missing (
  3. Use of intuition
  4. Asking effective questions Coaching skills – the power of questions (
  5. Constructive feedback The art of giving feedback – top tips (

There’s an interesting scale of rapport inspired by Genie Z Laborde. And a categorisation of sameness that supports rapport (physical appearance, body language, voice, language/words used and beliefs/values). And tips about simple matching and mirroring to enhance rapport. There’s also some useful reminders about diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias.

Selfless listening means the coach putting aside anything he or she is thinking about to concentrate entirely on the coachee’s words. Listen to not only what is said, but also what is unsaid. A levels of listening model shows:

  • Cosmetic listening
  • Conversational listening
  • Active/attentive listening
  • Deep listening

Intuition is described as wisdom in action. And I was pleased that the author stresses the need for coaches to be curious. What is curiosity and why is it important in business relationships? (Video) (

There’s an exploration of what makes a good question (simple, purposeful and influences the direction of thought without controlling). The author argues that complex questions confuse people and that when we ask “Why” it can be interpreted as a request to justify. There’s a really helpful table here of the purpose of different questions along with coaching examples. And helpful advice on what a coach can do if they cannot think of their next question (including summarising what was last said, being honest and admitting you are stuck, allowing some silence, sharing an observation). There’s also a view that powerful questions create possibility. Why are questions so important? (Questioning skills) (

Feedback should be given with a positive intention, based on fact or behaviour and constructive/beneficial. There’s advice on knowing when to give feedback (or a more considered message) and when not to give feedback. And advice on how to support their ability to hear a tough message. The art of giving feedback – top tips (

Barriers to coaching

This section explores various barriers to effective coaching – primarily from the perspective of the coach – such as:

  • fatigue
  • environment (physical and situational barriers)
  • emotional states (sympathy and empathy – I love this video which explains the difference Brené Brown on Empathy vs Sympathy (
  • coach’s behaviour (talking too much, taking too much control, playing “fix-it”, strategizing in the conversation, not being authentic
  • Looking for the “amazing moment”
  • Wanting to look good in the conversation
  • Needing to be right or appear infallible
  • Assuming previous knowledge and experience is relevant
  • Focusing on what not to do

There’s a sensitive discussion of the ego in coaching.

The coaching path

Whilst many coaching books use established frameworks (eg John Whitmore’s GROW or Gabriele Oettingen’s WOOP (see Soft skills: Introduction to coaching – Three frameworks ( the author sets out her own path:

  • Establish conversation
  • Identify topic and goal
  • Enquiry understanding/insight
  • Shape agreements/conclusions
  • Completion/close

The author suggests that these are activities, not tasks and shows a worked example of how the path looks during a coaching conversation. There’s useful guidance on when it is helpful (and when it isn’t) to take notes during a coaching conversation. And clarifying the goal for the session as well as distinct from the goal for the coaching. Curiosity and building information are stressed. And the value of frequent summaries. I like her examples of simple yet powerful questions – using precise language – to refine ideas, gain clarity and shape future actions.

She notes that coaching conversations can be just a few minutes but are typically somewhere between 30 minutes and two to three hours. Although I would suggest that 90 minutes is really the maximum amount of time to maintain both the coach and coachee’s attention and energy.

Coaching assignments: in three stages

The three stages are outlined (and there is a helpful diagram) as:

  1. Create the context for the coaching
  2. Increase awareness, purpose and action
  3. Completion and possibility

The author talks about the need to balance structure and flexibility. And offers practical guidance on: the extent to which the coaching process needs to be described, involvement of the stakeholders, choosing an environment, chemistry meetings, logistics, administration and information.

The author outlines the benefits of clear goals and expected outcomes, building a sense of engagement and commitment. She advises to avoid “policing” their actions

Various support activities and tools are described including:

  • Personality or behaviour profiling
  • Feedback from third parties
  • Encourage self-study
  • Written reflections
  • Regular practice that encourages awareness

Coaches should increase focus on how change happens and help turn insight into action. There’s guidance on methods to review coaching progress as well as taking proper care of personal information. There are helpful tips on preparing Personal Development Plans (PDPs) and an outline on final coaching sessions.

Emotional maturity – a key to coaching

One of the key benefits of effective coaching over time is the overall development of a coachee’s emotional maturity (our capacity to deal with our emotions – others call it emotional intelligence What is emotional intelligence and why is it important? ( There’s a helpful table of the indicators of maturity compared to immaturity.

Become a coach

The author explores what we mean by becoming a coach and explores the things to consider and routes to become an unpaid or paid coach. She refers to the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). Interestingly, she also mentions studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) – see  What is NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)? – Kim Tasso and The patterns of NLP applied to business interactions by Daryll Scott (

(Coaching qualification routes are also explored here: Coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop (November 2021) (

The final section on “Consolidate your learning” helpfully summarises the entire book contents to provide an “at a glance” reminder of the key concepts. The final section provides a series of free resources (both in the book and online).

Key quotes:

“An effective coaching conversation influences someone’s understanding, learning, behaviour and progress”.

“Coaching is more defined by the impact of your conversation than the duration of it”

“The coach facilitates a process of enquiry and discussion”

“Coaches use effective listening and questioning: they offer constructive challenge or observations and give helpful feedback”.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear” (Ram Dass)

“The foundation for all coaching conversations is the warmth and trust felt between the coach and coachee”

“Client perception of the relationship may be the key active ingredient in coaching effectiveness” (Erik de Haan, Ashridge Centre for Coaching

We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour” Stephen M R Covey

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do” Steve Jobs

“The ego’s greatest enemy of all is the present moment” Eckhart Tolle

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves” William Shakespeare

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” Dr Wayne Dyer

Book contents: The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr

  1. Introduction
  2. Collaborative coaching
  3. Seven coaching principles or beliefs
  4. Five fundamental skills of coaching
  5. Barriers to coaching
  6. Coaching conversations: The coaching path
  7. Coaching assignment: in three stages
  8. Emotional maturity – a key to coaching
  9. Become a coach
  10. Consolidate your learning
  11. Free resources

Coaching Skills Academy

The Managing Partners’ Forum and PM Forum have a Coaching Skills Academy offering a range of training workshops for leaders and marketing and business development professionals Coaching Skills Academy – PM Forum during the latter half of 2024

  • Coaching and Consulting Skills for marketing and business development (18th July)
  • Coaching teams – a practical toolkit (1st October – Jamie Butler)
  • Meaningful mentoring (15th October – Andy Lopata)
  • Introduction to coaching and mentoring skills (5th November)
  • Developing people’s resilience (25th November)
  • Advanced coaching skills (19th December)

Other Coaching Book Reviews

The following coaching books are for more experienced/advanced coaches:

Neuroscience for learning and development by Stella Collins ( September 2023

Book review: Coaching skills: A handbook by Jenny Rogers ( June 2022

Helping people change: Coaching with compassion ( October 2019

Coaching models – book review of Stephen Gribben’s book ( August 2017

Other books and some coaching qualifications are listed here: Coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop (November 2021) (

Related Coaching Skills Articles

You’re not listening – What you’re missing ( June 2024

Change Management – Ted Lasso leadership lessons, emotions ( May 2024

Coaching and Consulting – People and Problem-Solving skills ( February 2024

Why are questions so important? (Questioning skills) ( February 2024

What is Socratic questioning? (Questioning skills) ( February 2024

Learning & Development Update: Lean Learning ( October 2023

Coaching and Consulting skills – Limiting beliefs, approaches to helping ( February 2023

Don’t jump to conclusions – Coaching and Consulting skills ( February 2022

Coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop (November 2021) ( November 2021

Active Listening (Video) ( November 2020

Book launch: Essential soft skills for lawyers – some research findings ( July 2020

Soft skills: Introduction to coaching – Three frameworks ( June 2020

Boost business development success with coaching ( February 2020

12 thoughts on delegation, coaching and team management ( January 2020

The art of giving feedback – top tips ( June 2018

Emotional contagion, delegation, coaching and team meetings ( January 2018

Delegation for leaders – a how to guide ( August 2017

Coaching skills – the power of questions ( May 2017

coaching and mentoring skills ( December 2015

Before your set your goals – check your limiting assumptions ( January 2015

Coaching skills – the importance of active listening – Kim Tasso November 2014

Seven takeaways from a coaching skills course (2014) – Kim Tasso November 2014

Personality assessment as part of the coaching and development process ( June 2013

Coaching and Mentoring services from Kim Tasso