The Coaching Habit – A must-read practical guide for leadership, executive or career coach

‘Giving advice’ and ‘providing coaching’ are two different things. Coaching is an art and it is an essential skill that a leader needs to develop in order to lead their team to its optimum efficiency. For leaders, coaching should be a regular and informal part of their job to unlock the people’s potential.

The book ‘The Coaching Habit – Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever’ is for leaders and managers who wants to build more engaging, resilient and purposeful teams. It is a wonderful book for budding coaches to pick up some essential tips and build a successful career in the coaching industry.

The book ‘The Coaching Habit’ is written by Michael Bungay Stanier who is a well-known leadership coach. He has written for numerous publications and one of the frequently-read authors in the coaching industry. His articles have been published in Business Insider, Fast Company, Forbes, The Huffington Post, etc.

7 essential coaching questions

In this book ‘The Coaching Habit’, the author discusses seven essential questions that are sure to develop great and powerful coaching methods that derive great results. Each question is discussed in a separate chapter and well-explained to make the reader understand the importance of asking it. While concluding each chapter, the author adds a scientific explanation that makes the question powerful and relevant to the context of coaching. All these questions are backed by neuroscience and behavioural economics. Listed below are the seven questions that are discussed in the book.

1. What’s on your mind?

The author starts with this kick-starter question which will lead to a deeper exploration of the challenges and goals. During challenging times, it is a question that helps to shift the focus from the challenges to the person dealing with the challenges.

While explaining the concept, the author says, “So there are three different facets of that we can look at: the project side – any challenges around the actual content. The people side — any issues with the team members/colleagues/clients. And patterns — if there’s a way that you’re getting in your own way, and not showing up in the best possible way. Where should we start?”

2. And what else?

The first question is not enough to dig deeper into the problems and challenges. In a coach-client relationship, the first question is hardly enough for the client to give the right answers. Hence the next question is very important, as per the author. This question helps to dig deeper and help the person set a pattern of inquiry. It also lets the coach have some time to figure out the situation.

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

Within the first three questions, the focus of the coach/leader will shift on the real challenge than the first challenge that comes up. This question helps to bring the focus back to the person and encourages them to focus on one thing and figure out the effect it has on them.

4. What do you want?

Here is a question from the author asks in the book while he explains the fourth question -‘Suppose that tonight, while you’re sleeping, a miracle happens. When you get up in the morning tomorrow, how will you know that things have suddenly got better?’

Wondering why he asks such a question? According to the author, this question will help to clarify the outcome that the client is seeking. The fourth question helps to understand what they are truly expecting from a coach or manager. Furthermore, it reminds the person that you are with them as a coach and cares about what they expect out of the situation.

5. How can I help?

This may sound like a lazy question. The coach should understand how to best help the client from the person itself. This is a clear question that encourages the person to make a direct request about how you can help them. Also, it helps to negate the chance of helping someone in an unhelpful way. The author further explains that the coach need not have to say ‘yes’ to the request made by the client. There are various acceptable responses such as ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that’, ‘I might be able to do that’, ‘I can’t do that, but here’s what I can do’, etc.

6. If you’re saying “Yes” to this, what are you saying “No” to?

The author agrees that every ‘yes’ option has an opportunity cost. Hence the impact can be best captured by revisiting the project, people and patterns. Therefore the coach needs to ask various other questions like: ‘Why are you asking me’, ‘Who else have you asked’, ‘According to what standard does this needs to be completed? By when?’, ‘If I couldn’t do all of this, but could do just a part, what part would you have me do?’, ‘What do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this?’ etc.

7. What was most useful to you?

The final question is aimed to understand whether the conversation was useful and helps the client to reflect on the value they got out of the conversation. The coach will get valuable feedback on the process and tips to refine the process of coaching.

Concluding thoughts

The ‘The Coaching Habit’ is a fresh intake on the traditional how-to manuals to turn advice-giving into practical steps. Given the brevity in which the book is written, it won’t take much of your time to read. However, the tips that you will learn from the book will help you throughout your career in the coaching industry. It clearly describes why it is important to say less and ask more. Also, it details the right questions to ask to improve the effectiveness of coaching. Not only for coaches, but this book is also ideal for managers and leaders to change the way they lead people and ensure peak performance in their job roles.