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Book Review: The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

Ever wondered how you could “work less hard and have more impact?” The answer is simple, change the way you work. We recently read Michael Bungay Stanier’s, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, and loved it so much that we want to shout it from the rooftops!

In this book, Stanier identifies seven outstanding questions to incorporate into your daily life, along with tips and tools to help you build positive habits, ask powerful questions, innovative ways to solve problems, and so much more.

We strongly recommend that everyone picks up a copy to read for themselves, but to entice you, we’re going to share some of our key takeaways.

According to Stanier, “Your job as a manager and a leader is to help create the space for people to have those learning moments.” The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, focuses on determining what the right leadership act is at each moment, when to give advice, and when to hold space for them to figure it out on their own, allowing them to create their own solutions. How, you might ask? The seven questions.

Recently featured on Brene Brown’s podcast, Dare to Lead, Stanier and Brown discuss the power of the seven questions. The following breakdown is pulled from both Dare to Lead and The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.

The Seven Questions:

1. What’s on your mind?

Cut down on the chit-chat and get into the good stuff, fast. What’s on your mind is an excellent way for the person you’re talking to directly address what’s occupying their thoughts.

2. The A.W.E. question — And what else?

According to Stanier, this is the best coaching question because, “And what else recognizes that their first answer is not going to be their only answer, and it’s rarely their best answer.” So practice staying curious a bit longer and not jumping the gun with your thoughts and ideas, as great as they might be.

3. What’s the real challenge here for you?

Set the stage to solve the correct problem. Of course, you can simply ask, “what’s the problem or what are you being challenged by?” But often, the first challenge that someone brings you is rarely the real challenge. Thus, adding “here for you” adds a bit of heat to the question to help someone pinpoint the origin of the challenge.

You are simply guiding them along the way and creating space for them to create a solution independently with your support.

4. What do you want?

A compelling and foundational question that often creates silence. Lean into it; introspection is taking place. Eventually, when people are clear on what they want to do, things will open up, and they will see the pathway unfold ahead of them.

5. So, how can I help? What do you want from me?

Here comes the hard part, not for them, but for you. You might know how you can help them or have a great resource or advice to offer, but now is the time to dive into the lazy part of yourself and “tame your advice monster,” as Stanier says. When you pose this question, it’s crucial to emphasize empathy and validation.

Other ways to phrase this are, “so tell me what you need right now?” or “how can I best support you at this moment?” Even if the response isn’t a specific action item, recognize that having the space to talk challenges aloud can be very helpful.

6. If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying ‘no’ to...?

A strategic question that forces choice by zooming out to see all aspects of the equation. It also gives you the courage to say ‘no’ to the things you want to say ‘yes’ to, or even understanding what’s at stake and still being willing to say ‘yes.’

This is also an excellent reflective prompt when making complex decisions or at times when you need a bit more clarity in your life.

7. What was most useful or valuable for you here?

As a leader, your role is to help people through guidance and understanding how they learn. Remember, people don’t always learn when you give them advice. Often, it’s in one ear and out the other. Therefore, if you want to make a substantial impact, change must come from the person, not top-down.

This is a great question to ask at the end of anything, whether it’s a workshop, meeting, etc., because it creates a moment of space for someone to reflect, extract, rephrase their own words, and absorb. Not only do they do the work, but you get excellent feedback about what stuck out to them.

Now that you’ve read these questions, here’s what you can do next:

  • Buy the book from your local bookstore or download the audiobook online.

  • It’s incredible if you can hold on to all of the questions, but to start, work to absorb just one or two to keep in your back pocket.

  • Pass it on! Share this blog post with your friend, coworker, or anyone else who you think might take something away from The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.

  • Bring these questions into your daily routine to see if it changes the way you lead and positively impact your team.

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