Book Reviews

Book by Peter R. Taylor
Review by Sandra E. Culver
Director, Business Advisement Center, 
College of Business Administration
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO


As more educational institutions move toward merit-based pay systems rather than traditional across-the-board pay raise systems, advisors are being asked to develop job objectives and measurable outcomes for those goals as a basis for their salaries. Advisors must adjust to this new system and determine ways to measure their advising successes, which can be a challenging task. Advising administrators must adjust by learning effective ways to encourage their advising staff to raise their level of performance. The uncertainty faced when changing pay processes can have a detrimental effect on staff morale and performance levels if the staff members are not motivated to “buy into” the new system.  

Peter R. Taylor’s book is a good starting point for advising administrators to become familiar with employee motivational techniques.  According to Taylor, a key to successful team motivation is whether your organization is a “learning organization” and whether your team feels encouraged to participate in professional development and continuous improvement.  He encourages managers to create a climate where employees will want to grow professionally.

Taylor includes many self-assessment checklists that can be used by advising administrators to determine the current status of their departments and their organizations.  These self-assessments can be very helpful by providing a starting point and determining exactly what goals should be set for the department.  The author also advocates involving all team members in discussions about the direction the organization is moving.  When team members feel empowered and have input in organizational goals, they often become more effective in their everyday tasks and procedures as Taylor illustrates in case analysis in the book.  He also cautions that the process needs to be transparent so that the administration is not suspected of hidden agendas.  Additionally, Taylor indicates that while employee performance should be measured by determining whether the objectives for the year were reached, the process must also be flexible to allow adaptation if unforeseen events arise during the year.  An example would be the loss of a staff member requiring other staff to pick up the slack; therefore, reducing time available to employees to work on their personal job objectives.

Taylor also delineates some of the different methods of coaching which includes either directive or client-centered coaching. I found the differences interesting and believe that most academic advisors would compare the directive coaching to prescriptive advising where advisors tell students what they should do. Client-centered coaching can be compared to developmental advising where the client/student is more involved with the process and learning to make goals and finding ways to meet them.

Expectations for administrators are also discussed in the book. As performance coaches, much of the administrator’s efforts are focused on enhancing performance in staff. However, in order to be successful, coaches must also be aware of ways to enhance their own performance. Coaches must also be open to continually learning and changing their behaviors to provide staff with the best leadership possible. Taylor illustrates how administrators, as coaches, must set a fine line when performing annual appraisals. Leaders must carefully navigate between being a supportive, listening coach, while also ensuring that objectives are met. Also, while administrators are encouraging staff to have input into the goals and measurable outcomes of the organization, administrators are accountable for the results. Therefore, they must always maintain some autonomy over the unit, as Taylor explains. Coaches must know how to push their employees as well as support their efforts as needed. 

Performance coaching can be expected to become more prominent as more universities move toward merit-based pay systems. Peter R. Taylor’s book does provide ways for advisors and administrators to take stock of their organization and begin the process to continually improve the performance of the unit and ensure that goals are met. This book provides a practical approach to improve motivation, but may be considered somewhat elementary for administrators who have studied management theory. Much of the information in the book may not be applicable to an advising department, but the self-assessment material provides good food for thought and may be give your staff a jump-start at developing goals that everyone can support. It also would be a good book for advising administrators to have on the shelf as a reference.


Motivating Your Team:  Coaching for performance in schools. (2007) Book by Peter R. Taylor. Review by Sandra E. Culver. Thounsand Oaks, CA: Paul Chapman Publishing (SAGE Publications) 144 pp., $24.95 (paperback), ISBN # 9781412921602
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