Coach the Person, Not the Problem – Book Review

When you’re standing, book in hand, trying to decide whether this book or that book should make its way to your personal library, do you first crack it open and read bits and pieces? I do that. Only then do I decide yes because it’s relevant and readable or no because it would become another shelf ornament. Coach the Person Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry by Marcia Reynolds is a firm yes.

She had me at: When coaches use reflective statements, people hear their words, see how their beliefs form their perceptions, and face the emotions they are expressing. Then, when coaches follow up with a confirming question or exploratory question clients are prompted to stop and examine their thinking. We use reflective statements plus questions to trigger people to reflect on how they think.

The mind is a powerful tool. Someone once said, “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. This book teaches coaches how to harvest the best in people. Reynolds said, “If you are following a formula or model, you aren’t really coaching.” Every individual is a unique mix of talent, experience, and background. Because of this, coaching can’t be effective when the basis is standardized questions and formulas.

What you learn in this book will change the trajectory of your coaching practice. What I described above is barely scratching the surface of a deeply powerful guide for coaches to partner with clients and lead them through the process of self-discovery and potential.

The book is built around five essential practices and three mental habits. Here’s the thing. These practices and habits are valuable in building relationships, improving the quality of life, developing a new skill, or enhancing hidden talent. I think it’s essential that you have a bird’s eye view of these as you make your book choices. I will crack open the book and reveal a few bits and pieces for you. I know you will identify with (and maybe laugh a little) at the chapter ‘Crazy Coaching Beliefs’.


  1. Focus: Coaching the Person, Not the Problem
  2. Active Replay: Playing back the Pivotal Pieces for Review
  3. Brain Hacking: Finding the Treasures in the Box
  4. Goaltending: Staying the Course
  5. New and Next: Coaching Insights and Commitments


  1. Align Your Brain
  2. Receive (Don’t Just Listen)
  3. Catch and Release Judgment

My personal favorites are the essential practices of active replay and goaltending. If you buy the book there are three other practices. As a person who recognizes the signs of aging, the chapter on the habit of aligning your brain is especially helpful. What you learn from this book has so many factors that are relevant and central to simply being human. It’s going to help you, even if you aren’t coaching anyone other than yourself or someone who wants to experience progress in their development.

Author, Marcia Reynolds, PsyD has a passion for discovering and sharing how the brain works, especially the brains of high-achieving women. She speaks globally on the needs and challenges of today’s smart, strong women and provides customized programs on creating workplaces that inspire high-performers. Her books been quoted in many publications including Harvard Communications Newsletter, U.S. Business Review, and The New York Times and has appeared on ABC World News and National Public Radio.”

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