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Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore.
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1-Page Summary1-Page Book Summary of Coaching for Performance

In Coaching for Performance, Sir John Whitmore provides strategies to hone leaders’ skills, maximize employees’ potential, and drive performance through coaching. In a work world forever changed by globalization and the ability to exchange information instantly, leaders must shift from a command-and-control management model to a “we’re in it together” mindset that recognizes workers’ value. Performance coaches help leaders step into this new reality by revealing and capitalizing on employees’ greatest talents.

(Shortform note: In this guide, we’ll refer to “you” as the coach. We’ll also follow Whitmore’s lead of using “coach” to refer to internal and external coaches (those employed and contracted by the...

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Coaching for Performance Summary Part I: The Ins and Outs of Performance Coaching

To get started, you need to know what performance coaching is, why it’s more important in the workplace than ever, and some of its key benefits.

What Performance Coaching Is and Isn’t

Whitmore says performance coaching is a strengths-based, non-judgemental partnership in which coaches help business leaders and workers develop goals, strategies, and skills to maximize their potential and drive performance. (We’ll explain how in Parts 2 and 3.) Performance coaches should view their coachee as fully capable, resourceful, and proficient in their thoughts, abilities, and skills—the coach’s role is simply to reveal their best.

(Shortform note: Although performance coaches view coachees as equal partners, the reverse isn’t always true. Experts say that 70% of senior executives are alpha males who believe they’re smarter than everyone else and can be critical and resistant to change—making them difficult to coach.)

Whitmore says a performance coach’s job is not to instruct employees on how or what to do, which can rob your...

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Coaching for Performance Summary Part 2: Create a Coaching Session Structure

In the last section you learned what performance coaching is, why it’s important, and what some of its benefits are. Now we’ll look at how to effectively coach for performance, starting with how to structure sessions so you can make the most of your time with your coachee.

Structure Your Sessions

Whitmore says that whether you work within an organization or have been contracted to provide performance coaching services, you can maximize sessions’ effectiveness by putting a clear structure in place before you begin. This structure should include:

1. The time frame over which coaching will take place. Whitmore recommends a six-month duration, which gives your coachee time to practice building new habits and develop a good working relationship with you.

(Shortform note: A study examining the frequency of coaching conversations found that coachees who had more frequent sessions (every one-to-two weeks) experienced more positive results than those who had them every two-to-three or three-to-four weeks.)

2. The preferred format and number of hours per session. This will vary...

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Coaching for Performance Summary Part 3: Coach to Maximize Potential and Performance

In the last section we discussed how to structure performance coaching sessions from the outset to make the most of them. Now we’ll look at three steps to build trust with, empower, and make the most of your coachee’s potential and performance.

Step 1: Build Trust and Connect

Whitmore says you have to build trust and connect with your coachee so they’ll open up and engage fully in the coaching process, which will help you maximize their potential. To do this, listen actively to show that you care and be aware of your own thoughts and feelings so they don’t interfere with your work.

(Shortform note: In Captivate, Vanessa Van Edwards suggests two different ways to establish trust upon first meeting. First, hold eye contact in 60 to 70 percent of your interactions to show interest. Then, keep your hands visible and gesture with them to demonstrate that you’re not hiding anything.)

Listen Actively

When you listen carefully to your coachee, you show that you care about them, making it more likely that they’ll share...

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Coaching for Performance Summary Part 4: Measure Organizational Culture and Performance

You just learned how to build trust with, empower, and help your coachee set and achieve goals to maximize their performance. In this final section, we’ll discuss how to assess organizational culture and measure the impact of your coaching.

Measure Culture and Performance

Whitmore says that to drive performance, leaders must understand their organization's culture and its impact on performance and, as the performance coach, you must understand the impact of your work on company performance. Whitmore’s Performance Curve enables assessment of the former, and his Return on Investment (ROI) methodology measures the latter.

(Shortform note: Although “performance curve” and “return on investment” are common terms in many industries, here we’re referring to the specific assessment tools Whitmore developed.)

The Performance Curve

The Performance Curve outlines four stages of organizations’ cultural development and corresponding levels of performance that coaches and leaders should assess. Workers' motivating force at each stage in the Performance Curve corresponds to the needs that drive people at each level on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Stage 1: Impulsive....

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Shortform Exercise: Build Trust and Connect

Whitmore says you have to build trust with your coachee so they’ll engage in the coaching process, which will improve results. To do this, he suggests that you listen actively to show that you care, and be aware of your thoughts and feelings so they don’t negatively impact your work.


Whitmore recommends that to listen actively to your coachee, pay attention to their tone of voice, word choice, body language, and emotions. Think about a recent situation in which you were coaching someone or serving in a coaching-type role. Describe the listening techniques you employed and what you feel did and didn’t work.

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Part I: The Ins and Outs of Performance Coaching
  • Part 2: Create a Coaching Session Structure
  • Part 3: Coach to Maximize Potential and Performance
  • Part 4: Measure Organizational Culture and Performance
  • Exercise: Build Trust and Connect