The Coaching Habit Book Summary

coaching-habit

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

My Thoughts

Filled with good questions, advice on listening and tips on saying no. I recommend this book for almost everyone including leaders, managers, parents, and employees.

My Favorite Quotes

  • The seemingly simple behavior change of giving a little less advice and asking a few more questions is surprisingly difficult.
  • The essence of coaching lies in helping others and unlocking their potential.
  • Coaching lets you work less hard and have more impact.
  • The moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.
  • We are what we give our attention to.
  • The first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer and it is rarely the best answer.
  • You want people to think that working with you is a place of reward, not risk.
  • Do less good work and more great work.
  • Being busy is no measure of success.
  • The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. -Michael Porter
  • People don’t really learn when you tell them something. Only when they do something, and have a chance to call and reflect on it.
  • We live in the world our questions create.

The Seven 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 are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
  7. What was most useful for you?

Other Key Questions

  • So, what ideas do you have now?
  • That’s a great question, I have some ideas, but before I answer, what are your thoughts? When they answer, I will say that is terrific, what else could you do? After that I will say, those are all good, is there anything else you can try here?
  • Why are you asking me?
  • Whom else have you asked?
  • When you say this is urgent, what do you mean?
  • According to what standard does this need to be completed, by when?
  • If I couldn’t do all of this but could just do part, what part would you have me do?
  • What do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this?
  • What is our winning aspiration?
  • What impact do you want to have in and on the world?
  • Where will we play?
  • How will we win?
  • What capabilities must be in place?
  • What management systems are required?

Outline

  • Question Master Class Part 1: Ask one question at a time
    • One: The Kick-start Question: What’s on your mind?
  • Question Master Class Part 2: Cut the Intro and Ask the Question
    • Two: The AWE Question: And what else?
  • Question Master Class Part 3: Should You Ask Rhetorical Questions?
    • Three: The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you?
  • Question Master Class Part 4: Stick to Questions Starting with “What”
    • Four: The Foundation Question: What do you want?
  • Question Master Class Part 5: Get comfortable with silence.
    • Five: The Lazy Question: How can I help?
  • Question Master Class Part 6: Actually listen to the answer.
    • Six: The Strategic Question:If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
  • Question Master Class Part 7: Acknowledge the answers you get
    • Seven: The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?

Introduction

Coaching is a leadership style.

Three reasons developing a coaching habit does not stick:

  1. The coaching training was probably overly theoretical, too complicated, a little boring, and divorced from the reality of your work life.
  2. You likely didn’t spend much time figuring out how to translate the insights into action.
  3. The seemingly simple behavior change of giving a little less advice and asking a few more questions is surprisingly difficult.

Asking more questions and “losing control” of the conversation is empowering the other person.
You can coach someone in 10 minutes or less.
Coaching should be a daily informal act.
Building and embedding new habits.
The essence of coaching lies in helping others and unlocking their potential.

Why coaching others helps you:
It lets you work less hard and have more impact.

Building a coaching habit helps you break out of three viscous circles that plague our workplaces:

  1. Creating over-dependence.
  2. Getting overwhelmed.
  3. Becoming disconnected.

Reinforcing circle of getting overwhelmed and losing focus and getting more overwhelmed.
Do work that has impact and meaning, not just getting things done. Do great work.

Benefits of coaching:

  1. Fuels courage to step out beyond the familiar.
  2. Helps people learn from their experiences.
  3. Increases and helps fulfill a person’s potential.

The moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.

Five Essential Components to Build and Effective New Habit:

  1. A reason.
  2. A trigger.
  3. A micro habit.
  4. Effective practice.
  5. A plan.

Tiny habits.

Three components of deep practice or practicing well:

  1. Practicing small chunks of the bigger action.
  2. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
  3. Be mindful and notice when it goes well.

Find and commit to building specific habits.

Effective way to kick-start the new habit:

  1. Identify the trigger.
  2. Identify the old habit.
  3. Define the new behavior.

Types of triggers:

  1. Location
  2. Time
  3. Emotional state
  4. Other people
  5. The immediately preceding action

Define the new behavior, one that will take 60 seconds or less.

I will ask “So, what ideas do you have now?”

Tips to counter resistance:

  1. Start somewhere easy, pick someone who might be up for a new way of coaching.
  2. Start small.
  3. Buddy up with a habit app, mastermind group, coach.
  4. Get back on the horse.
  5. Heed the philosopher.

Question Master Class Part 1: Ask one question at a time

Here is the new habit. When this happens after I ask a question, instead of adding a question, I will ask just one question and be quiet while I wait for the answer.

One: The Kick-start Question: What’s on your mind?
In which you discover the power of an opening question that gets the conversation happening fast and deep.

Breaking the ice.
A good opening line can make all the difference.
If you are bored or not in an effective conversation, one of these situations might be at play:

  1. Small talk tango
  2. Ossified agenda
  3. Default diagnosis

Answers are closed rooms and questions are open doors that invite us in. – Nancy Willard

Two types of coaching:

  1. Coaching for performance.
  2. Coaching for development.

Focus the conversation even further using the 3P model.

  1. Project
  2. Person
  3. Pattern of behavior

Action: “what’s on your mind?” They name the project. You respond, “so there are three different facets of that we can focus on. The project (any challenges), people, or pattern of behavior.” After they pick the first P and discuss, move on to one of the other Ps.

We are what we give our attention to. Anything on our mind literally uses energy.
Your brain uses 20% of your energy.
What you are holding in your mind will unconsciously influence what you can notice and focus on.

Question Master Class Part 2: Cut the Intro and Ask the Question

No James Bond movie starts out slowly.

Your new habit: when I have a question to ask, instead of warming up and taking forever to get to the moment, I will ask the question and stop talking to listen to the answer.

Two: The AWE Question: And what else?
With little effort it creates more.

Three reasons it has the impact that it does:

  1. More options can lead to better decisions.
  2. You reign yourself in.
  3. You buy yourself time.

The first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer and it is rarely the best answer.
Tame the advice monster.
Haiku
Tell less and ask more; your advice is not as good as you think it is.

Four practical tips for asking “And what else?”

  1. Stay curious; stay genuine.
  2. Ask it one more time.
  3. Recognize success.
  4. Move on when it’s time.

Don’t give too many choices. Our brains remember things in chunks of four.
Schedule a weekly check-in meeting.

Ask the right questions if you are going to get the right answers.

Question Master Class Part 3: Should You Ask Rhetorical Questions?

A fake question when you already know the answer or direction. That does not count as asking a question. Wait to give your idea and ask ‘what else?’ first.

New habit: When I have the answer that I want to suggest, instead of asking a fake question such has “have you thought of” or “what about” I will ask one of the seven essential questions, and if I want to present an idea, I will offer it up as an option rather than a question.

Three: The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you?
Stop spending so much time and effort solving the wrong problem.
Eureka!

The focus question cuts through the fog.

“Foggy fires”

  1. The proliferation of challenges.
  2. Coaching the ghost.
  3. Abstractions and generalizations.

I have a sense of the overall challenge. What’s the real challenge here for you?
Focus on development more than performance.

Three strategies to make this question work for you:

  1. Trust that you are being useful.
  2. Remember that there is a place for your advice.
  3. Remember the second question.

New habit: when my team is discussing a problem, instead of focusing on foggy fires, I will ask “what’s the real challenge here for you?”

Training videos at the coaching habit.com/videos

Question Master Class Part 4: Stick to Questions Starting with “What”

Peter Senge book The Fifth Discipline. The 5 levels of why.

New habit: When I am tempted to ask why, instead of beginning the question with “why” I will re-frame the question so it starts with “what.”

Four: The Foundation Question: What do you want?
Give people the responsibility for their own freedom.

Nine self-explanatory universal needs:

  1. Affection
  2. Creation
  3. Recreation
  4. Freedom
  5. Identity
  6. Understanding
  7. Participation
  8. Protection
  9. Subsistence

Ask a question; trade answers.
You want people to think that working with you is a place of reward, not risk.

Four questions the brain asks when evaluating risk vs reward.

Tribe
Expectation
Rank
Autonomy

The TERA quotient.

New habit: when the conversation feels stuck or one of us is procrastinating, instead of thinking I know what they want, I will ask “What do you want?”

A miracle question: suppose that tonight, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens. When you get up in the morning tomorrow, how will you know that things have suddenly gotten better?
A 10x improvement, not a 10% tweak. Focus on the end, not the means.

Question Master Class Part 5: Get comfortable with silence

When you ask someone one of the 7 essential questions, what follows is often silence.

New habit: when I have asked a question and the person doesn’t have an answer ready within the first two seconds, instead of filling up the space with another question or the same question, or a suggestion, or pointless words, I will take a breath, stay open and keep quiet for another 3 seconds.

Five: The Lazy Question: How can I help?
The drama triangle.
Are you playing one of the seven dysfunctional dwarfs?

  1. Sulky
  2. Moan-y
  3. Shout-y
  4. Crabby
  5. Martyr-y
  6. Touchy
  7. Petulant

When doing this we are bouncing between three archetypal roles.

Victim
Core belief: my life is so hard and unfair, poor me!
Dynamic: it’s not my fault, it’s theirs.
Benefits: no responsibility for fixing anything.
Price Paid: no sense of being able to change anything.

Persecutor
Core belief: I’m surrounded by people less good than me.
Dynamic: it’s not my fault, it’s yours.
Benefits: feel superior, have a sense of power and control.
Price Paid: end up being responsible for everything, you create victims and are a micro-manager.

Rescuer
Core belief: don’t fight, don’t worry, let me fix it.
Dynamic: it’s my fault and responsibility, not yours.
Benefits: feel morally superior, believe you are indispensable.
Price Paid: People reject your help, you create victims and perpetuate the drama triangle.
Rescuers create victims.

New habit: when someone asks “how do I?” instead of giving the answer, I will say “that’s a great question, I have some ideas, but before I answer, what are your thoughts?”. When they answer, I will say that is terrific, what else could you do? After that I will say, those are all good, is there anything else you can try here? Then and only then, I will add my own idea.

Question Master Class Part 6: Actually listen to the answer

New habit: when I ask a question, instead of going through the motions looking like I am listening, I will actually listen. When I get distracted, I will come back and start listening again.

Six: The Strategic Question: If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
More work, more meaning.
Distinction between good work and great work. Work with more meaning and more impact.
Do less good work and more great work.
Being busy is no measure of success.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Michael Porter

Good reasons and bad reasons to say yes or no.

Bad reasons to say yes:

  1. I will do anything to have you get off the phone or leave the office, I’m not actually going to do it.
  2. I think this will make people really like me.
  3. Habit.

Bad reasons to say no:

  1. I don’t like the person.
  2. I am comfortable and I don’t want things to change.
  3. Attack is the best form of defense.
  4. Habit.

Good reasons to say yes:

  1. I was curious about the request, asked questions, and the person gave me good answers.
  2. I am clear on what I am going to stop doing so I can start doing this.
  3. It’s great work for me, work that will have an impact and it means something.
  4. My boss has made it clear that it’s not negotiable.

Good reasons to say no:

  1. I was curious about the request, asked questions, and the person gave me good answers so I now I know it’s not a good fit.
  2. I have thought about what my core priorities are and I am willing to hold the line.
  3. I am trying to build a reputation as someone who is strategic and thoughtful.

How to say no when you can’t say no: part one.
Shift the focus and learn how to say yes more slowly. Ask more questions.
Why are you asking me?
Whom else have you asked?
When you say this is urgent, what do you mean?
According to what standard does this need to be completed, by when?
If I couldn’t do all of this but could just do a part, what part would you have me do?
What do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this?

Will provoke one of four responses:

  1. Will get annoyed and tell you to just do the task.
  2. Good answers to all of your questions.
  3. Does not have the answers but might be willing to find them for you.
  4. You are too much like hard work, I will find someone who says yes more quickly than you.

How to say no when you can’t say no: part two.
Create an object such as the task written down and say no to what is written down.

To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions. Sam Keen

The other five strategic questions.
Playing to Win is a good book on strategy and core questions.
Plans are useless but planning is indispensable. President Eisenhower.

  1. What is our winning aspiration?
  2. What impact do you want to have in and on the world?
  3. Where will we play?
  4. How will we win?
  5. What capabilities must be in place?
  6. What management systems are required?

New habit: When I see someone is about to move from overwhelmed to really overwhelmed, by adding more to their list or saying yes to everything. Instead of thinking we can defy the laws of physics and do everything, I will stop the rush to action and ask “what will you say no to, to make this yes rock solid and real?”

Question Master Class Part 7: Acknowledge the answers you get

New habit: When the person gives an answer to the question I’ve asked, instead of rushing on to the next question, I will acknowledge the reply by saying “yes, that’s good!”

Seven: The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?
Discover how to finish any conversation in a way that makes you look like a genius.

How people learn.
People don’t really learn when you tell them something. Only when they do something, and have a chance to call and reflect on it.

AGES model of neurological drivers of long term learning and memory.
Attention
Generation
Emotion
Spacing

To learn, retrieve.
Try app called “I done this.”

We live in the world our questions create.

Tell people what you found to be most useful.

New habit: when I get an email that triggers the advice monster, instead of writing out a long thorough answer or short terse answer, I will decide which one of the seven questions would be most appropriate and ask that question by email.

The author has a list of recommended books here.

My Action Steps After Reading

  • Asking more questions.
  • Concentrated effort on listening more.
  • Taming the advice monster. Giving less advise and asking for solutions or suggestions first.

Related Book Summaries

Hope you enjoyed this and got value from my notes.
This is the 48th book read in my 2017 reading list.
Here is a list of my book summaries.

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