Book Summary: The Coaching Habit

A terrific and short read on developing others through the power of transformative questions. The following are passages I took away from the book The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.

The book dives into the power of 7 Coaching Questions:

  1. “What’s on Your Mind?”
  2. “And What Else?”
  3. “What’s the Real Challenge Here for You?”
  4. “What Do You Want?”
  5. “How Can I Help?”
  6. “If You’re Saying Yes to This – What Are You Saying No To?”
  7. “What was Most Useful for You?”

Let’s explore…

Why Coaching?

“The essence of coaching lies in helping others and unlocking their potential.”

Why we don’t develop a Coaching Habit:

  • Coaching training is usually theoretical and disconnected from the reality of your work life.
  • We don’t invest the time to translate the insights into actions.
  • It’s surprisingly difficult to change our behaviours and habits.

The Benefits of building a Coaching Habit:

  • “Overcome overdependence. Help your team be more self-sufficient by increasing their autonomy and sense of mastery and by reducing your need to jump in, take over and become the bottleneck.”
  • “Reduce overwhelm. Help you and your team focus on the work that has real impact and the challenges that make a difference.”
  • “Increase connection. Help people do more of the work that has impact and meaning.”

Q1. The Kickstart Question – “What’s on Your Mind?”

Why use this question:

  • “It invites people to get to the heart of the matter and share what’s most important to them.”
  • “It’s a question that says, Let’s talk about the thing that matters most.”
  • “Helps you decide which aspect of a challenge is at the heart of the difficulty.”

Q2. The AWE Question – “And What Else?”

“The first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer.”

Why use this question:

  • Get more options and often better options. Better options lead to better decisions.”
  • Tame the advice monster within you; the habit of slipping into the advice-giver / expert / answer-it / solve-it / fix-it mode.”
  • “Foster higher level thinking, deepen understanding and promote participation.”

Q3. The Focus Question – “What’s the Real Challenge Here for You?”

“Stop spending so much time and effort solving the wrong problem.”

Why use this question:

  • Ground the challenge and connect it to the person you’re talking to. Avoid abstractions and generalizations.”
  • Focus on the real problem at hand, not the first problem mentioned. Avoid the proliferation of challenges.”
  • “Bring the focus back to the person you’re talking to, their struggle and what they need to figure out.”

Q4. The Foundation Question – “What do you Want?”

“An adult-to-adult relationship as one in which you are “able to ask for what you want, knowing that the answer may be No.”

Why use this question:

  • Allow others to ask for what they want; while knowing that the answer may be No.”
  • Increase the quality of exchanges by breaking the illusion that both parties understand what the other wants.”
  • “Give yourself the opportunity to recognize the need alive in the other, in order to better address the want in their request.”

Q5. The Lazy Question – “How Can I Help?”

Why use this question:

  • “Encourage colleagues to make a direct and clear request.”
  • “Prevent yourself from leaping into action without truly understanding how best to help. Avoid Rescuer mode.”
  • “Give yourself the power to accept, refuse, compromise or defer the request.”
    • Accept: “Yes, I’ll help you with that.
    • Refuse: “No, I can’t do that.”
    • Compromise: “I can’t do that… but I could do [insert your counter-offer].”
    • Defer: “Let me think about that and get back to you.”

Q6. The Strategy Question – “What Are You Saying No To?”

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do… A Yes is nothing without the No that gives it boundaries and form.”

Why use this question:

  • “Saying Yes means saying No to options that are automatically eliminated by your Yes. This helps you and others understand the implications of the decision.”
  • “Saying Yes to something requires you to uncover the energy and resources that you will need to truly achieve that Yes.”
  • “Say Yes more slowly. Commit to something only when you understand what you are getting into and why you are being asked.”

Q7. The Learning Question – “What Was Most Useful for You?”

“Create the space for people to have learning moments.”

Why use this question:

  • “Encourage the other to create and share their own connections to new and discussed ideas.”
  • “Drive people to extract value from the conversation.”
  • “Receive feedback and guidance on what to do more of next time.”

Author’s Final Thoughts

“The real secret sauce here is building a habit of curiosity. The change of behaviour that’s going to serve you most powerfully is simply this: a little less advice, a little more curiosity. Find your own questions, find your own voice. And above all, build your own coaching habit.”

A short and great read on the practice and power of Coaching and developing others to unlock their potential.

All content credit goes to the author. I’ve simply shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most.

Cheers ’till next time!


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