Concordia professor’s new book explores the fundamentals of professional coaching

James Gavin hopes the volume will serve as a ‘critical resource for those who want to achieve mastery in coaching practice’
September 30, 2021
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By James Gavin

Older smiling man in a blue dress shirt standing in front of a window of glass blocks. James Gavin: “I thought I could make a contribution to the future of coaching by creating a strong foundational text.”

James Gavin is a professor in Concordia’s Department of Applied Human Sciences and director of the Centre for Human Relations and Community Studies.

He directs the LEAD Executive Coaching program for the Executive MBA program at the John Molson School of Business, where he also instructs in an International Coach Federation–Professional Goal-Centric Certified Coach certification program.

The following text is excerpted from his new book, Foundations of Professional Coaching, published by Human Kinetics.

Why did I write this book?

I direct and teach in an International Coaching Federation: an accredited coach training program. Part of our curriculum requires participants to read extensively. As well, I know from former students and my coaching colleagues that the thirst for learning is never quenched.

Fortunately, the literature on coaching is vast. Indeed, there are thousands of books and articles on coaching, yet there are only a few comprehensive texts.

I thought I could make a contribution to the future of coaching by creating a strong foundational text. In my experience, no matter how intriguing and useful new methodologies have been in my career, I have always cycled back to foundational matters — how does change happen? What do my clients really need? What makes help helpful? How can I listen better? What is the quality of my relationships with my clients?

I had lots of other reasons for writing this book. Some were based on concerns and others were more inspirational.

I’ll begin with concerns. I have met magnificent, loving and brilliant people working as coaches and as participants in various coach training programs. In my own coach training program, I have worked with community leaders, corporate officers, psychologists, social workers, human resources professionals, experienced consultants and people with more letters after their names than I could count.

These individuals had deep talent but generally little inherent comprehension of how coaching works. Becoming a coach isn’t as easy as it is sometimes portrayed.

I would hear my new students telling me, “I want to be an executive coach,” “I want to be a life coach,” “I want to empower women,” “I want to coach young entrepreneurs,” “I want to teach leaders all I know,” and so on.

Because of the explosion of coaching in our world, novice coaches can readily find books on almost any coaching topic or approach. If I think about the wonderful writings on narrative coaching, acceptance and commitment coaching, solution-focused coaching or cognitive behavioural coaching, I say, “Wow, look how this amazing field is spreading its wings!” I also say, “I hope anyone reading these advanced books has first embodied the basics, the core essence of what coaching is and what it isn’t.

“Do they appreciate the fundamental skills necessary to truly help people? Do they fully appreciate what partnering implies? Are they able to enter a coaching relationship while fully adhering to ethical guidelines?”

Having made this book available comforts me. I feel good knowing that this resource is out in the world as a critical resource for those who want to achieve mastery in coaching practice.


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