Jennifer Garvey Berger


Some books are braver than others. Some push delicately at a field or an idea, nudging it gently so that the reader is led to a new idea or two like a comfortable walk down a marked pathway, no big surprises, nothing dangerous ahead. Other books, like this one, barrel past the boundaries of a field, pushing down the fences and scattering the sacred cows. These books might leave readers uncomfortable and even lost sometimes, as the familiar shapes they expect don't materialize and the landscape looks unfamiliar and strange. But really, what’s the point of a book? To leave you comfortable in the way you have been already? Or to shake you up so that new ideas settle in and make what you used to do seem somehow smaller than what you’ll do next?

Nearly twenty years ago, Catherine Fitzgerald asked me to co-edit a book, Executive Coaching: Practices and perspectives. Our book, one of the first of its kind, aimed to offer a very wide view on this emerging field and we sought to make sense of what it was and what the field might become. Nearly 20 years later, the field is massive and books abound, with various practitioners and researchers trying to help coaches progress in this or that aspect of coaching. But few of those books takes as radical and sweeping a look as Coaching in Three Dimensions. This book will go to the very heart of your practice, making you ask questions perhaps you haven’t asked yourself in a while: What is coaching, anyway? What are its boundaries? What are its highest hopes? And who am I, as the coach?

In a world growing more complex for the leaders we coach, it makes sense that our work as coaches should be more complex too. But what does that even mean in our field? Paul and Allen offer us a set of choices we might not have noticed we were making—in our approach, in our practice, and in our own professional development. They offer us three different options in each domain and illustrate those options with stories from their own practice and the practice of others they have researched. Some of the distinctions will make you think, others might make you squirm a little as they push against what has been coaching dogma for the last two decades. You might find things you delight in as well as things you disagree with. But I bet it will be hard to read this book without reaching the ultimate goal that Paul and Allen want more than anything: your increasing sense of curiosity about what’s possible for you and for your clients—and for the entire field of coaching. If you believe, as I do, that coaching is a critical support to the future of our organizations, and that organizations are a critical support to the future of our planet, you need to read this book and understand what the future of coaching might look like. Along the way, you might find a new set of possibilities in yourself.

Jennifer Garvey Berger

Author of ‘Changing on the Job’ and ‘Simple Habits for Complex Times’.