The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

| Author : Michael Bungay Stanier, 2016

What’s It All About?

My favorite books are the kind I can return to again and again, always learning something new with each read! This was exactly my experience with Michael Bungay Stainer (MBS)’s The Coaching Habit. I first read this book shortly after it came out, when I heard about it from colleagues at the Center of Executive Coaching certification. I’ve been recommending it to others ever since, and giving it a re-read proved why it’s become one of my favorite books to recommend!

In The Coaching Habit, MBS takes a practical approach to coaching, with a focus on deep questions coaches can use to strengthen their techniques and really make coaching a habit. He offers seven essential 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 (really) want (from me)?”
  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?”

During this recent re-read, I found myself interested in the third question: “what’s the real challenge here for you?” Before my career as a coach, I would find myself jumping in to try to solve a problem when I should be looking at the deeper issues. This question was a great reminder of why it’s important to always ask questions and look for the root cause. By asking questions like “what’s the real challenge here for you?” we can shift their focus toward adding value and preventing future issues, rather than just quickly solving a surface problem.

Favorite Quote

“This is why, in a nutshell, advice is overrated. I can tell you something, and it’s got a limited chance of making its way into your brain’s hippocampus, the region that encodes memory. If I can ask you a question and you generate the answer yourself, the odds increase substantially.”

Biggest Takeaway

While recently looking at all my coaching data, I was struck with a common theme: people getting frustrated when they can’t get others to do what they tell them to do. In The Coaching Habit, MBS breaks down the science behind why it can be so hard to get others to simply do what we ask them to do. Like so many other challenges in coaching, bridging the gap between your expectations and the behavior of others all comes down to asking questions and staying curious.

Bonus information

When recommending MBS’s book to friends and colleagues in the past, I’ve often handed out hard copies, but recently started giving out copies over Audible as well. The audiobook is just over three hours long, but the time can be reduced by listening it to with increased speed, which I often do.

The short length is a lesson in itself—through he has many stories and insight to share, MBS was able to tighten his lessons down into a three-hour audiobook. As coaches, we can do the same. To “tighten” you own work, invest in your own skills and commit to making coaching a true habit. You’ll see the payback, and the people who work with you will thank you!

Reviewed by: Trevor Blondeel,  March 27, 2023

At Manufacturing Greatness, Trevor Blondeel works with manufacturers to connect the top to the shop floor. If you’re ready to improve your own organization, contact Trevor to learn how Manufacturing Greatness can help you build stronger leaders and develop a dynamic, high-performing workplace.