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Coaching for Performance

5th edition by Sir John Whitmore and Performance Consultants

The principles and practice of coaching and leadership

Sir John Whitmore’s seminal text Coaching for Performance first introduced the world to the GROW Model in 1992. Now, fully updated and in its 5th edition, the book continues to be the must-have book for leaders and coaches who want to practice coaching in organizations. It is the world’s #1 coaching book and has sold over a million copies in more than 20 languages. The English language edition is available now from Amazon and many bookshops around the world.

Sir John Whitmore Coaching for Performance book

Fully revised 25th Anniversary Edition

About the book

Who is it for?

Coaching for Performance 5th Edition is for two audiences; leaders and coaches – and those aspiring to be either or both.   

  • Leaders – people leaders and managers in organizations who are looking to develop their own high performance leadership style.  See also the Transformational Leader Pathway
  • Coaches – people who make a living from coaching by delivering formal coaching sessions as either internal or external coaches to organizations. See also Performance Coach Certification

What are the key learnings?

  • Coaching is defined as “maximizing a person’s potential” 
  • Coaching can be practised by both leaders and professional coaches, the core skills are the same, however, the application differs 
  • Coaching is a facilitative approach that raises awareness and thereby effects sustainable behaviour change and performance improvement 
  • Awareness and responsibility are the foundation stones of coaching – new awareness brings with it new responsibility.   
  • Use the GROW Model to structure coaching.  It is the most used coaching model in the world and follows the questioning sequence of Goal, Reality, Options and Will.   
  • Transformational coaching, which the book describes, is a powerful tool that unites individual and organizational purpose to benefit people, profit and planet 
  • Coaching as a means to improve performance has proven effective in multiple arenas including safety, sales, Lean, performance management and many others. 
  • The first edition of this book in 1992 has long been regarded as the founding text of the coaching industry.  Since then, the coaching industry has grown exponentially and, according to a joint report by PwC and ICF, is the second fastest growing sector in the world and valued at $15 billion. 

What resources go with it?

Performance Consultants have developed a number of resources to support leaders and coaches in using the book. These include:

  • a free tool for coaches to apply our Impact 360 assessment with their clients
  • a quick survey to help identify where you are on the Performance Curve
  • a version of our Coaching for Performance ROI evaluation

Extract from the Foreword

by John McFarlane, Chairman, Barclays plc, and Chairman, TheCityUK

I believe, like Sir John Whitmore himself, that each of us is on this planet to make a contribution to the world in our lifetime. People are searching for meaning and how they can make their own unique contribution. This is an age where humanity and community matter as well as financial returns. Finding this foundation underpins a longer-term philosophy

Our responsibility as leaders is to create an exciting but safe adventure for our people, worthy of them devoting their lives to it. How people feel about working in the organization and how passionate and engaged they are in its agenda are what make the difference between good, great, and outstanding companies. Ultimately, our inner mindset and our outer leadership style determine how alive, energetic, and purposeful our organization is.

In this Fifth Edition of Coaching for Performance, Sir John Whitmore and Performance Consultants shine a light on what it takes to create high performance and unpick the myths around coaching. Leaders and employees the world over are truly fortunate to benefit from their enduring impact on our working lives.

Extract from the Preface

by Tiffany Gaskell, MBA, CPCC, PCC, Global Director of Coaching & Leadership, Performance Consultants

Our intention for this Fifth Edition is for it to be the must-have book for coaches, leaders, and entire organizations who want to create high-performance cultures. Four decades ago, Sir John Whitmore, the father of performance coaching, identified business as a potential force for good and driver of human evolution. He saw an opportunity to unite individual and organizational purpose to benefit people, profit, and planet – the hallowed “triple bottom line” – and this continues to be the driving force behind the work of Performance Consultants International which Sir John co-founded…

The coaching profession owes Sir John Whitmore an enormous debt of gratitude for his extraordinary work. This new edition was completed shortly before his death which has been felt by many. He lived a remarkable life and I thank him personally for lighting the torch and passing it on to us. His vision, philosophy, and methodology have inspired millions of leaders and coaches to bring the best out of themselves and others. This book is an important part of his legacy…

The Fifth Edition will contribute to the continued professionalization of the coaching industry and clarify the huge benefits to leaders of adopting a coaching leadership style. At the same time, it will help to move investments in human capital from being perceived as a cost-center to a profit-center activity generating real value to business.

Extract from the Introduction

by Sir John Whitmore PhD, Co-Founder, Performance Consultants

The demand for change in business practice has never been greater than it is today… This Fifth Edition of Coaching for Performance will set out the reasons why all organizations need to embrace a new way of doing things, how coaching is central to that, and how it is a triple win for people, planet, and profit.

When I wrote the first edition in 1992, it was one of the first books specifically on coaching and the first on coaching in the workplace, and it has served to define coaching globally. Much more than that, it has fueled the adoption of coaching by organizations globally, and it is for this audience, people who want to apply coaching in organizations, whether as leader or coach, that the book is written…

Poor practice in coaching leads to the danger of its being misrepresented, misperceived, and dismissed as not so new and different, or as failing to live up to its promises. My intention for this book is to keep the record straight and eliminate the surrounding weeds by describing and illustrating what coaching really is, including the psychological roots it stands on, what it can be used for, and how it creates the ultimate leadership style for driving thoughtful, performance-enhancing measures.

What is new in this edition?

This Fifth Edition is the product of more years of coaching experience, of course, and more importantly the exploration of evolutionary trends in human attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and in consciousness itself. It reflects the advancement of this knowledge and the maturing of the coaching industry.


The fact that Coaching for Performance focuses on creating high performance might seem obvious to all. What I am keen to underline throughout this edition, though, is that the principles of coaching can be applied to any type of activity and will have the impact of raising performance. What I mean by performance is the result of reducing interference and increasing potential. I have illustrated this by including practical examples and also chapters on specific applications, such as Coaching for Lean Performance and Coaching for Safety Performance.

Additionally, this Fifth Edition launches The Performance Curve, a model that maps the culture of an organization and relates this to the conditions for low, medium, or high performance. The Performance Curve enhances understanding of how coaching creates a high-performance culture and thereby revolutionizes the traditional approach to organizational culture. This is the new frontier for coaching and leadership development.


In this edition, I have sought to make The Practice of Coaching (Part III) even more practical. It includes the original chapters on questioning, listening, and the GROW model, revised and updated with activity boxes containing exercises from our gold standard Coaching for Performance programs that are run globally. These practice activities will help you develop the foundational skills of coaching through experience, which is the learning style that we advocate and which is proven to be most effective. After all, one can be completely versed in the theory of coaching, but not be able to coach in practice at all. Additionally, I share new example workplace dialogues and new case studies to demonstrate how coaching creates high performance and to show the practical application of a coaching style in day-to-day leadership. These sample coaching conversations draw on the extensive experience my colleagues at Performance Consultants and I have had in working with organizations globally and the many thousands of participants of our programs, in the years since the book was first published.


I have completely overhauled the chapter on Will to include feedback, because it is crucial for high performance. So many of our clients are looking to focus on continuous improvement and learning and to move away from traditional approaches to performance management. They are thankful and relieved when we introduce their leaders to our GROW Feedback Framework, which applies a coaching approach to completely transform feedback and performance management. Whether you are already familiar with the GROW model or not, I am certain you will be delighted by the GROW Feedback Framework.


Like education, motivation, and management, coaching needs to keep up with psychological development and understanding of how people bring the best out of themselves. For years I have been banging the drum about the astonishing effects of coaching in the workplace and how coaching leads to optimal performance. There is always a time lag between what is known in some circles and full adoption by the crowd. Performance Consultants is opening the doors to share its Coaching for Performance ROI methodology and examples concerning the evaluation and measurement of coaching. I have completely updated the chapter on the benefits of coaching to share our way of measuring the benefits and return on investment (ROI), which we know is widely seen to be the holy grail of coaching in organizations.


A Glossary of Coaching Terms has been included so that readers can explore and test the universe of coaching skills. The glossary is taken from the highly esteemed Coaching for Performance workshop, which is accredited by the ICF and considered the gold standard for those who wish to develop leadership ability.


Finally, there is a section of Question Bags at the back of the book. This is a useful resource for dipping into as you find your way with coaching. Having questions (rather than answers!) at the ready is the fastest way to learn the new skill and rewire your neural networks. After a while, your questions will trip off the tongue.

About the Coaching for Performance training programmes

For those who wish to go further with Coaching for Performance, we offer e-learning and in-house programmes, public workshops and certification pathways for coaches, leaders, managers and the wider organization. Coaching for Performance is the industry gold-standard executive coaching training, available publicly or can be ordered in-house, straight off the shelf or tailored to meet your organization’s exact needs.

We also offer a Train the Trainer option to develop in-house groups of coach trainers to spread the benefits of Coaching for Performance across the organization.

Why Choose Performance Consultants?

The most recommended professional coach training company by clients worldwide.

Original pioneers and global leaders in performance coaching training and certification.

High-impact, transformational and strategic approach – achieving proven results.

Coaching skills training created by the pioneers in workplace coaching