The Coaching Habit - Michael Bungay Stanier

The Coaching Habit - Michael Bungay Stanier

Find out how to use coaching in your day-to-day leadership as a less formal way of helping your employees reach their true potential.

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Have you ever wondered how work relationships are structured today? How do we communicate with coworkers, how do we behave in conversation, or even if we really listen to what others have to say? Michael Bungay Stanier unveiled all the secrets behind communication in the book "The Coaching Habit".

We often talk much more than we hear and feel the constant desire to help others but not really knowing if we are doing it correctly.

Join us in this reading and see another way of acting that could benefit both sides and help people reach their real potential.

Did you become interested in transforming your relationships through small coaching habits? Stay with us in this summary!

The book "The Coaching Habit"

The Wall Street Journal Bestseller "The Coaching Habit" was written in 2016 and published by Box of Crayons Press.

It features 248 pages of content that invites you to change your relationship with employees and coworkers in everyday life by focusing on listening rather than talking.

Who is Michael Bungay Stanier?

An Oxford graduate, Michael Bungay Stanier has been recognized as Canada's top coach of the year.

Author of other works such as "Do More Great Work", "Get Unstuck & Get Going", "Great Work Provocations", and "End Malaria", he is adept at a different style of coaching, more casual, dynamic, and quick to apply on a daily basis.

Who should read this book?

This book is intended for people who are interested in improving relationships and communication in their work environment.

Also suitable for leaders, managers, and the like looking for ways to teach their employees from a known standard to a more interpersonal relationship.

What can I learn from the book "The Coaching Habit"?

  • Listening is more important than talking;
  • Understanding the real issue is crucial to solving it;
  • Let the other state your vision of what they need or want;
  • Control your willingness to give your opinion or advice right away. Instigate the other to reflect and ponder;
  • Just because you suspect what the problem is doesn't mean it is true. Try to see the whole context so as not to solve just part of it.

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[Book Summary] The Coaching Habit PDF


Michael Bungay Stanier begins with a thought that leaders and managers need to train their employees effectively but often do so incorrectly or ineffectively.

Coaching is currently rising but there is an idea that it is a slow, formal process that requires a thousand and one specific techniques.

But people forget that the essence of coaching is simply helping others reach their real potential. This can be done quickly, without formality, to help the other person correctly.

Who never tried to help someone and ended up doing that person's job? Has it created a relationship of dependence on the other with you or simply solved just part of something much bigger?

Hence the importance of learning the right way to help those in need. After all, we don't want dependency relationships, a feeling of being overwhelmed or being disconnected from what really matters, right?

How to form a habit

In the book, the author emphasizes the importance of asking more questions and telling people less about what to do. To do so, understanding how to change is more important than what to change.

Although we are aware of our actions, this is not very true, as we often act by subconscious standards. There are techniques to help us do what we propose. Here are some of them:

  • Make a commitment that involves someone else. It turns out to be less about you and more about each other;
  • Discover your triggers. What makes you act in a certain way?
  • Be specific and succinct. Define your new habit as a micro habit that takes less than 60 seconds to complete;
  • Practice a lot. Do small actions, repeat them, and be aware of your victories.

The formula for a new habit is simple, just note what your trigger is, note what you do when it triggers, and try to define a new behavior. Start with simpler and easier things and don't give up. Whenever we try something new, we will encounter resistance as we will be leaving our comfort zone.

From now on, you will be presented with seven powerful questions that can be used to break your habit of speaking more than listening, advising, and wanting to help right away.

Remember, use one question at a time! We don't want to overwhelm people with endless questions.

The initial question

We will then start with the first question described by the author. It is important to keep in mind that these questions are meant to break your pattern of responding, giving feedback, or doing something immediately.

The goal is always to entice the other, to encourage them to "walk with their own legs" in their professional walk and in decision making.

So when someone comes to tell you a situation and asks you what you think, the first possible question to ask yourself is:

"What are you thinking?"

It is a simple, more open question, but one that allows the person to speak what matters most to them. Also demonstrates confidence by giving them the autonomy to say anything.

Another aspect is that it will give you a bigger picture of the situation as a whole.

The conversation can focus on 3P's: projects, people, or (behavioral) patterns. Depending on the focus of the conversation, there are two types of coaching: performance coaching and development coaching.

Performance coaching is simpler, daily, practical for solving specific problems.

On the other hand, development coaching is more meaningful, self-directed, what they are going through, and how to solve their own issues.

By asking the collaborator what they are thinking, they will give an answer to one of these three P's and you can direct the conversation accordingly. You will have a broad sense of what is going on and can help after you have actually heard it.

The "AWE?" question

Michael Bungay Stanier explains that with this simple question, you make the person wonder if there is anything else, something that they may not even have noticed. Often, unknowingly, we keep to the surface of the issues, to the most apparent, and let the real problem slip away.

As is said in the book, usually the first answer we receive is not the only one and is rarely the best. By asking "And what else?" You control your instinct to speak and, once again, pass the ball to the other.

It is not that you will never be able to advise or answer what you are asked, but you should do it at the right time, in the right way to avoid ineffective answers and sometimes shallower than the question itself.

Upon hearing a little more, both will be able to see beyond what has been noted so far.

As one of the phrases found in the book says:

"Ask the right questions if you want to find the right answers."

The focus question

When you feel that overwhelming urge to respond immediately when you are asked something, here is one more question you can ask and break this habit that will persistently last only in the past:

"What is the real challenge here?"

As stated earlier, we end up having a shallow view of the daily rush and focus on the first problem rather than the real problem. The author exemplifies by quoting three questions:

  1. What is the challenge? (Shallow)
  2. What is the real challenge? (General)
  3. What is the real challenge for you? (Focused)

The point is to focus on the person you are talking to, avoiding abstractions and generalizations. When you finish the question with "for you", you direct yourself to the real focus without disrupting it.

It is important to remember that asking the real challenge for the person can take the weight off of doing something that is not your obligation. You can put together the first three questions to have a successful dialogue and help the person find the answer they are looking for.

The basic question

"What do you want?"

At first, it seems like a simple question, but how often have you truly wondered what you want? And when someone else asks you, the answer seems even more complex.

This question is profound because it gives you full responsibility for the answer. Many times, we do not know what we truly want or want but we do not have the courage to ask or when we ask and receive no or endless other possibilities.

The first step then is to make sure that we clearly know the difference between what we want and what we need. A wish can be the surface of a need.

This is important as we pay more attention to what people say beyond words.

For example, when someone asks you to talk to another manager for them, they don't necessarily want someone to simply talk. They need someone with more authority to take risks and be heard.

Our biggest tendency is to stay in our comfort zone. The more comfortable and safer we feel, the more we tend to act. Therefore, there are elements that increase or decrease this coefficient and encourage or make us retreat. These are:

  • "Tribe": Are you with me (↑) or against me (↓)?
  • "Expectation": Do I know what will happen (↑) or not (↓)?
  • "Position": Are you more important than me (↓) or less (↑)?
  • "Autonomy": Will I be heard (↑) or not (↓)?

Try to increase the coefficient so that people feel important, listened to, able, and thus feel more willing to act.

The lazy question

Do you feel proud when someone says you helped them a lot or how helpful you are? If the answer is yes, We want to ask you a question.

Have you ever stopped to think that by helping a person right away, you somehow say better than yourself? Despite your goodwill, your action can create a little monster that causes a cycle of exhaustion, frustration, dependency, and little result.

As Michael Bungay Stanier stated earlier, we think we have total control over our actions but who really dominates is our subconscious. It follows a pattern of behavior depending on the situation.

Let's talk about three patterns here: The victim, the stalker, and the rescuer.

The first two usually delegate the blame to others and abdicate responsibilities. The last one takes all the reins and resolves the issue.

Understand that you are not one of these three profiles, you behave as one of them depending on the situation and the triggers enabled.

The question then is "How can I help you?" And it is great for two factors: First, it forces the other person to ask directly what they want. Second, they hold back their willingness to go out helping without knowing exactly what to do.

That way you only do what you are asked for after it is clearly stated and allows you to decide what and how to do it.

The strategic question

You may have already thought you would like to work for something with more meaning and impact. Doing something you love makes work easier and more productive, but it's not always what we find in everyday life.

Being a busy person is not synonymous with being productive. Being a busy person actually makes you a lazy person - too lazy to think to act indiscriminately.

We must think strategically about how working and strategy means knowing how to say no. For that, "The Coaching Habit gives the following question:"

"If you are saying yes to that, what are you saying no to?"

Yes, it is impactful to think that a "yes" represents a "no" to ALL other options. We have to choose wisely and to do that we return to 3P's (projects, people, and standards). What do you want to change?

Say no seems like an impossible and often even harder mission to people who are less close. Want to learn to say no without doing it directly? Ask, ask, and ask. By saying yes more slowly, you are quietly saying no.

For example, if someone asks you to do something, ask "Why?", "Why is that important?", "When it needs to be done?" And so on. Many times, the person gets tired and goes looking for someone who says yes more quickly.

Another benefit of asking yourself a lot is that you know exactly what is being asked of you, you will have no surprises and you will know if you really can do what you are asked.

The learning question

We come to the last question and keep focusing on "listening to each other". As a leader, you want your colleagues to learn, to evolve, to do their work, to find their true potential. You do not want dependent, insecure, and unproductive people.

But in seeking to help, we must do so consciously to get the best result, which is learning. This question symbolizes this learning:

"What did you think was most important?"

When we only answer questions, we do not stimulate the other's reasoning, which may lead to forgetting what was said.

When we ask, we start a process of remembering, making it easier to assimilate information.

In addition, this question brings a positive outcome to the conversation because it gives the impression that it was productive, that your opinion matters. It makes you think about what is really meaningful, feedback, and many other things.

In conclusion, this summary of the message that has been relentlessly repeated is always positive and brings great results.

More books about habits and leadership

For John C. Maxwell, author of "Leadership Gold", the best leaders are those who know how to listen. In addition, good listeners have the ability to understand what is going on and better see other people's strengths and weaknesses.

Charles Duhigg, in "The Power of Habit", points out that there is no magic formula that will automatically change your habits, but with time and effort habits can be shaped. People can change their habits if they can examine and analyze them to uncover understandable clues, routines, and rewards.

Deepening the question of how to motivate teams and develop leadership, the book "Start with Why" is for anyone who wants to inspire others and succeed at work. In this journey, Simon Sinek highlights the importance of knowing your "why", that is, your purpose and your ultimate mission.

Okay, but how can I be a better leader?

  • Talk less;
  • Listen more;
  • Change Your Leadership;
  • Overcome your willingness to give your opinion, advise and respond immediately;
  • Understand the actual situation before acting.

Did you like this summary of the book "The Coaching Habit"?

After this reading, we can see that our way of communicating with others should be rethought for a better outcome. How do you communicate with your colleagues? Do you have the habit of talking or listening more? Did you find this content useful? Leave your feedback in the comments!.

In addition, if you are interested in the book's full edition, don't hesitate to click on the image below and get it!

Book 'The Coaching Habit'