Lisa J. Koss – Leading for Learning

Organizational change expert Lisa J. Koss, in Leading for Learning, syntheizes decades of her leadership development research working with organizations across the globe. She introduces her Development Coaching Model (DCM) outlined over the chapters with many accompany resources. In the book, she highlights the role of manager-coach which she describes as having both a skillset and a mindset that embraces development as a strategy for growth and scalability. Her knowledge and expertise come together in 137 pages of instruction and insight that have the potential to reframe an organization’s leadership and development practice.

Lisa has lived abroad on several occasions and brings to her work a unique cross-cultural view which supports the diverse and global workplace. The DCM program is already translated in 9 languages and has been adopted by organizations in 16 different countries, both evidence of the program’s multinational appeal.     


An important section that comes early in the book discusses the necessity of a coaching mindset. Here, Lisa describes the fundamental concept that a manager-coach should recognize in their employee, “the whole person, their expertise and dedication along with their dreams and potential for development.” She calls on manager-coaches to be mindful that “they can only be helpful in this endeavor to the extent that they appreciate other’s aspirations as they do their own” and that “leadership entails an orientation to service.” This section establishes clear expectations for the manager-coach training that follows in the book. Lisa is clearly an advocate for the individual contributor employee.  

Lisa begins her discussion of the DCM program with a high-level view of three main phases, “Build Trust,” “Contracting,” and “Work the Idea/Issue.”  She expands the three main phases into seven phases in later chapters breaking down the latter two into more detail. In the chapters that cover the different phases, readers benefit from both the rationale and a detailed “how-to” discussion.

The chapter on Building Trust, for example, is 20 pages of insights on developing trust and ideas for addressing challenges in this area. The Contracting chapter provides valuable structure to a discussion about the development dilemma at the center of the coaching discussion. The last section is about moving the discussion agreements into an action plan and closing in a thoughtful and reflective way to capture learning and progress. Depending on the phase, the coach and employee may sometimes rotate into the leading role. 


The final chapter discussing DCM covers the process of becoming a manager-coach through experimentation and practice. The chapter outlines practical steps to improve on the tactics and tools in the DCM program, and ways to make people development part of who you are. In fact, Lisa encourages readers to think of the manager-coach partnership beyond just manager and employee, but also peer to peer and in other influencing relationships.

In Lisa’s concluding remarks, she reminds readers to remember that management will rarely prioritize employee development and learning without leadership that advocates for the opportunity. She challenges readers to lead this change by making their own workplaces “more meaningful and learningful.”  

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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