Guest blog by Najwa Yasmeen
Najwa Yasmeen is a learner, educator, and coach. During her time as a teacher and full-time non-profit professional, she found herself excited to support the professional development of her peers and fellow employees. With this realization, Najwa encountered her love of coaching and course building, which she incorporated with her insatiable desire for the written word.
Najwa is the founder and Chief Wordsmith and Action Taker at Words & Action, LLC, where she encourages women to engage with books that inspire reflection, decision, and action. She does so through Biblio-coaching, creating book-based learning opportunities, and curated booklists.
Using Books As Tools In Your Coaching Practice: Three Steps to Success
Leaning back in the chair, Octavia reflected on her reading of the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted series by Jayne Allen. She pondered how the main character related to her current situation - a black woman rocking her natural hair in the workplace, only to hear it was unprofessional and needed to change. Pairing that with the changes women endure with age, understanding of self, and loss.
Her thoughts deepened as she reflected on the character’s situations and related outcomes. Jayne Allen’s series ended with the main character embracing her desired life. Octavia planned to use her reflections to create a plan for herself. She was excited her coach recommended the text.
Moments into her coaching session, her coach asked, “What aspects of the book resonated with you?” As an answer, Octavia began to list similarities, possible solutions, and small steps she’d like to explore.
Coaching is a partnership between the coach and the client, as the coachee shifts mindsets, bursts through limitations, and makes moves to transform their life. This precise and marvelous art focuses on partnering with whole people on their journeys.
While we as coaches are vehicles to support clients in making these moves and shifts, we must utilize tools that support our work of deep inquiry, listening, and trust-building. One such tool is the written word.
When you read the word “books,” you might think of the assignment you completed in school, the awful text your friend recommended, or the 500-page textbook you never actually got through. You may have visions of the tiny 10-point font on a tablet or that one friend who listens to audiobooks at supersonic speed. (Yes, I’m exaggerating a bit.)
Yet when was the last time you engaged with a book particularly suited to you?
As coaches, it is important we ensure the books we recommend align with the needs, values, and desires of those we coach. They must meet our clients where they are and be a scaffold on the path of learning and growth. And most importantly, our clients must get from books what they need.
Yes, I heard you whisper: How do we use books as coaching tools?
I’m glad you asked.
3 Steps To Success
1: Recognize The Healing Value of Books
Research indicates how books support many aspects of the human experience. And I am not just talking about the satisfying self-help books and magnetic memoirs; I include the fiction that may feel frivolous.
Why is this?
In the journal article, “Reading & Health Benefits” (2018), researchers Kourkouta et al. indicate that reading can protect the brain, reduce stress, support concentration, and even more. When done as an aspect of bibliotherapy, it supports clients in recognizing emotions and exploring interpersonal relationships.
If we use books in the context of coaching, reading paired with appreciative inquiry allows our clients to have similar experiences and understandings, thus helping them to determine the best ways to move forward in their own lives. Kourkouta et al. also posit that a person must engage with texts they find interesting in order to gain health benefits from reading.
Additionally, Kidd and Castano’s article “Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind” (2013) indicates that reading literary fiction enhances one’s ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, most importantly those that differ from our own experiences. Later research by Samur, Tops and Koole (2017) corroborates this finding and notes the need to engage with fiction more than once.
As a coach, knowing the impact books can have on our learning and growth allows you to recognize how they may benefit your clients. Specifically, you may be able to encourage mindset shifts, empathy, and self-understanding by supporting them with a well-placed book.
Now that you’ve sampled some scientific findings, you may be curious to learn about personal experiences with books. And you can! Check out my conversation with fellow Lumia Coach, Johnna Renée, in the video “How Books of All Genres Impact You,” where we discussed how we use books to learn, self-soothe, and empower ourselves.
2: Know Your Coachee’s Needs
As you hold the values of books in mind, think of your client’s specific goals and how they can best engage with the text. It’s essential to remember that people read in varying ways due to preferences, mental and emotional capacity, and accommodations.
Specifically, ask your coachee these questions prior to recommending a text:
- What are your goals? The answer to this question allows you to know what the themes of the book should be.
- What book format do you prefer? Think hardcopy, audiobook, or ebook.
- How long do you like your books to be? This answer will allow you to recognize if your coachee prefers engaging with poems, short stories, novellas, graphic novels, novels, or series.
- What genres do you enjoy reading? What genres are you interested in exploring? Understanding this allows you to select books the coachee will most likely engage with.
These questions will set you on a path to determining the best books to recommend.
If you want to go the extra step, select books with protagonists or main characters that share demographics with your coachee. I suggest presenting 3 books for your client to choose from when you present them with possible texts.
3: Support Engagement
While knowing the value of the books and your coachee’s needs are paramount, you will support your client best when you both engage with the books. Sadly, this is not a space where SparkNotes will be helpful! Your intimate knowledge of the book will support your client the most.
As you read the text with them, you may highlight, underline, sticky note, or jot down quotes that align well with your coachee’s goals. You might form questions to encourage their reflection and application of the learnings from the text.
Follow your client’s lead to support them in reading the complete text - at their pace, of course - or taking a break from the book. Remind them it’s okay to DNF a book; aka Did Not Finish! I’m of the mindset that you will receive what you need from each text, even if you’ve just perused a single page or chapter.
Finally, and most importantly, be open to the interpretations and perspectives each of you has, as it shares more about the lens through which both of you read and, thus, your life experiences. Utilize this information to refocus on your client’s vantage point, and to be aware of any assumptions or judgements you, as the coach, hold.
“Generally, a book seeks nothing, in return, from the reader, as it patiently waits to offer its information, take a person out of a predicament and transport a reader to magical worlds. Let books give the gift of reading to people and their beloved ones; individuals must remember that a book can be a game, treasure, happiness and celebration.” - Kourkouta, et al., 2018
In conclusion, to engage this tool with your coachee, you must understand the value, gain their permission, locate the books that fit, and engage. This may feel like a monumental task, yet I assure you it can be done.
As you explore how you might like to incorporate texts into your coaching practice, I encourage you to recognize the following:
Books are an abundant resource readily available to use as a vehicle for self-exploration and understanding. Like anything else, they work best when we select ones that meet people at the intersection of “where they are” and “where they want to be.”
Ready to Become A Coach?
One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches like Najwa ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.