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Book Reviews


The Fire Starter Sessions. A Soulful and Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms

Danielle LaPorte

Hay House, 2012

Review by Nicky Torode

This is a book that is as useful to coaches as it is to the general reader, no doubt, as the pages are packed with powerful questions and provocative prose to get you to recognise where you are on the path to satisfaction and success. More importantly, it helps you to create a blazing path to that life you love and do well in.

The fire starter in the book’s title refers to the key ingredient for success, which is to locate your fire, your passion. For the author, fire starting is as much about shaking up your own life as it is about debunking commonly-held myths about life and human behaviour. Whilst the book is a bit on the long side, its style is punchy, concise and to-the-point. The short, wake-up call-type sentences provoke deep thought. It is easy to dip into as it is peppered with motivational quotes that leap off the page at you in large font.

The author writes with conviction. After several false starts in a number of jobs, from chief executive of a think tank to partner in an image consultancy company, Danielle LaPorte has clearly discovered her passion. Her book is based not only on her transition from working the 9-to-5 drudgery to creating her dream job, but also on that of others who have transformed their lives. This gives the book the magic ingredient which we should, according to LaPorte, be striving for – authenticity.

At the heart of the book is the key message that you can only be true to yourself. Love what you do (and if you don’t know what that is, it is time for reflection). Don’t be afraid to want what it is you want. The power of being in tune with your ‘message’ and getting rid of those things and people that don’t serve it will yield results. ‘The moment you say yes to acting on your desire is the real beginning.’ Hear your own story, she advises the reader, literally – by videoing yourself. She claims it will generate invaluable content and can get you to your breakthrough.

She places weight on feelings as a diagnostic tool to understand your interests and strengths that in turn give us focus and success. The chapter that explores money and our relationship to it is helpful, and would presumably be useful for coaches who may not like ‘selling.’

LaPorte's book is refreshing, as it debunks commonly-held myths. Notably, the myth of competence that emphasises the employee to be well-rounded is false. She advises us to get better at what you're best at. Furthermore, the myth of endurance, which portrays the principle that hard work pays, is challenged by her question 'what would your life be like if you only did what was easy?' For her, less friction = greater velocity. She claims that balance in life doesn't exist, but proportion and harmony do. Comparing life to a symphony, she claims we achieve harmonisation by letting each part of it have centre stage when it feels most urgent and ripe.

The book’s themed worksheets are excellent tools that can be used in coaching a client, or oneself. For example, have a look at:

  • Deconstructing Fear
  • Comfort Zoning
  • What Business Are You Really.

If I had to make one criticism of the book it is only its size – it’s a bit clunky to carry around in your bag. Overall, though, it is a book that will be difficult to put down or to forget.

Review by Nicky Torode

Nicky has worked in education, training and community development for over twenty years in the UK and overseas. She coaches young people experiencing difficulties at school, runs personal development workshops for women and offers life coach training.

The Leadership Coaching Alligator Handbook

Kevin Oubridge & Sue Burnell

Blue Chip Coaching 2013

Review by Jonathan Wilson

At the very least, the “Alligator” makes the title of this book more memorable than most leadership coaching literature (in the writers’ mind, Alligator implies a coaching business with “real bite”), and after working through some whimsical ‘poetry’ at the start, the book settles into offering sound advice about how to sell, deliver and develop more coaching of senior managers.

The book is aimed at experienced people who are confident coaching senior managers on strategic management and leadership issues and who want to learn how to promote their coaching and grow their business more effectively. It talks repeatedly about “Blue Chips”, but its message applies to coaching anybody in a senior management role, whether business or not-for-profit, who is trying to add value in a complex world with scarce resources.

Nowadays, leadership coaching generally covers a host of different topics and has become psychological, often psycho-therapeutic, systemic and academic in its approach. This book focuses on coaching about strategic organisational management issues more than psycho-dynamic ones, making it refreshingly practical.

It also encourages an authentic behavioural selling approach that uses coaching and listening skills to help clients buy appropriately. It astutely highlights the value of regular performance reviews with the coachee and their manager, which remind the client organisation of the progress they have made and the value that the coach has added. This is useful when people tend to think they achieved their success all by themselves, and it is very helpful for winning profitable referrals.

It reminds the reader of the essential basics of good business development that less successful sellers forget; such as recognising and following a process, focusing, staying in people’s minds without always being in their face, always following up and following through, creating measurable value, measuring it and telling people about it.

The book is well laid out for a self-published volume; with numerous diagrams and cartoons that were probably fun to draw. It finishes with eight practical and useful summary action guides for implementing the learning in the main text.

Worth reading for its practical selling tips, despite its apparent obsession with “Blue Chips”.

Review by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is a businessman, executive coach and strategic mentor who, over a period of forty years, has helped more than eighty public and private sector firms, government agencies and charities on three continents to flourish in turbulent times.